The UW Credit Union has achieved the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Leadership Club designation for 2013.
The company received the Leadership Club designation due to its 100 percent usage of renewable energy for lighting.
It is Wisconsin’s eighth business, as well as the nation’s first credit union, to receive this achievement, according to the company’s press release.
The UW Credit Union has joined the likes of Microsoft, the University of Pennsylvania and the U.S. Air Force, to name a few. There are more than 1,400 partners in this effort, according to the EPA.
Paul Kundert, UW Credit Union president and CEO, realizes the importance of this recognition.
“We’re committed to doing what is right for our members and our environment,” Kundert said in a press release. “As an organization that continues to grow, we are dedicated to reducing our carbon footprint just as we are dedicated to our members’ best interest.”
This honor was no surprise to Brad McClain, executive vice president and chief financial officer of the UW Credit Union.
“We’ve had more enhanced efforts in buying renewable energy,” McClain said. “Relative to that, one of the qualifications is you have a stronger percentage of green power for operations.”
In order to accomplish that, McClain said the credit union purchased green power for its headquarters, which is its largest building. After that, it made the decision in January to expand its purchase to all of the facilities it operates, including the one on the UW-Green Bay campus.
The most important criteria to be met in order to gain Leadership status is the percentage of green power based on the annual wattage needed for a facility, according to the EPA.
A full 100 percent rating was needed for facilities using 1 to 10 million kilowatt-hours per year.
EPA guidelines also mandated that these requirements had to be met with power from new renewable facilities — that is, facilities installed within the last 15 years.
The credit union purchases a little more than 2 million kilowatt hours per year for its facilities, McClain said. As a result, this eliminates about 5.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide.
“When it’s all said and done, that’s the critical element to what this is all about,” McClain said.
McClain recognizes the importance of this designation as an eco-friendly establishment, as well as the sole financial institution to receive this designation so far.
“It’s a confirmation of what we’re doing and the recognition we receive as part of an EPA partnership of the green efforts we’ve put forward to lessen our impact on the environment,” McClain said.
McClain said these sustainability partnerships differentiate this credit union from not just a credit union perspective, but also a broader, financial institution perspective.
Besides purchasing green power, the credit union constructs its branches under the league-certified standards of the EPA.
Since 2007, the credit union also reduced its water usage by 16 percent as well as its carbon dioxide emissions by 75 percent, according to a press release.
McClain said some features include energy efficient lighting fixtures, zone heating and air conditioning, water consumption-sensitive plumbing fixtures, dual flush toilets and waterless urinals.
“There’s nothing overtly exciting in these plumbing fixtures, but they sure do lessen the impact on our usage of water,” McClain said.
Aside from its partnership with the EPA, the credit union also established a partnership with Sustain Dane, a sustainability initiative based in Dane County, McClain said.
Sustain Dane’s main focus is to lessen the corporate impacts on the environment by partnering with corporate businesses and exchanging ideas and suggestions with the businesses.
The credit union has partnered with Sustain Dane for more than four years. It’s a group the credit union can have a free-flowing exchange of ideas with, McClain said.
“That’s where we really started to engage strongly in our efforts from a sustainability standpoint,” McClain said.