These days running a business in a way that is environmentally sustainable can bring with it a number of financial and social benefits. But to some businesses, it can mean more than just saving a buck. There is a slow snowballing movement among corporations and business owners to accept social responsibility and operate in an energy-efficient and environmentally responsible way. The City of Albuquerque has also been getting in on the action with the Mayor’s Energy Challenge, an initiative that began in the pre-pandemic months of 2020.

The goal of the Mayor’s Energy Challenge, a completely voluntary program, is to raise awareness around the energy performance of private sector businesses and ultimately help reduce their carbon footprint by 20 percent within a five-year period. The Challenge provides participating businesses with education on energy usage as well as a tailored plan on ways to reduce their consumption.

The Energy Challenge encourages businesses to work toward better efficiencies in three areas: building efficiency, site efficiency and transportation efficiency. Building efficiency, the primary focus of the Mayor’s Energy Challenge, refers to wasted energy which drives up a building’s utility bills and contributes to climate change. Site efficiency encourages well-designed outdoor landscapes, which can potentially reduce heating and cooling costs and encourage water conservation. Efficiency improvements around transportation, which is seen as one of the top three contributors to climate change in New Mexico, asks businesses to encourage employees to use public transportation and carpools or to install electric vehicle chargers and bike racks.

A handful of local companies and nonprofits have already taken up the Mayor’s Challenge. “It is important to us to support the city’s initiatives, and we are happy for the mayor’s initiatives and wanted to be a part of that,” said Jonathan Siegel, of Siegel Design Architects LLC. “It is a matter of ethical pride for us with respect to a global problem. Each new project offers new opportunities to move forward, and clients generally understand and appreciate our leadership in these realms.”

While the Mayor’s Energy Challenge is designed to help businesses move toward more sustainable energy practices, businesses don’t have to officially be a part of the Challenge in order to take those steps. The Painted Lady Bed and Brew, an 1800s brothel-turned-B&B, has taken on efficiency steps of their own. “I hired a fantastic landscape architect that incorporated drought-tolerant plants and xeriscaping while providing for a lush landscape. And it is very easy on the water bill,” said Painted Lady owner Jesse Herron. During a previous renovation, Herron also took advantage of LED lighting and ensured that all appliances were upgraded to Energy Star standards but admits that the 140-year-old adobe walls help with heating and cooling.

Energy efficiency upgrades such as those implemented by Siegel Design Architects LLC and The Painted Lady were gradual but necessary. “We’ve integrated sustainable concepts into our work since the early ’80s,” said Jonathan Siegel, “including sustainable landscaping, water harvesting and solar principles.” For any business that might like guidance on sustainability and energy-efficiency improvements, the Mayor’s Energy Challenge may be a good place to start. The Mayor’s Office is asking businesses interested in learning more to complete the online registration form. As for the simple steps that a business can take today, The Painted Lady’s Jesse Herron offers some sagely wisdom there: “At the very least, switch to LED bulbs! Nobody likes the look of those awful fluorescents!”