Energy and emissions reduction
At Allstate, we recognize that small changes can produce powerful results. Every time an employee turns off an unnecessary light, every time a customer opts to receive documents electronically instead of by mail, every time we use the bus or subway to commute to work, we are taking positive steps to reduce our environmental footprint. And while we may have made our biggest strides in energy and emissions reduction immediately after we established our environmental key performance indicators, we continue to look for ways to improve our efficiency.
In 2013, we made good progress in reducing our energy consumption, decreasing our overall energy use by a total 19.39 percent from our 2007 baseline. We also reduced our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 6.3 percent over the prior year, a total reduction of 26.7 percent since 2007.
More environmentally friendly operations
We also looked for ways to make our day-to-day operations greener. For instance, we reduced our use of harmful chemicals by changing our standard janitorial contract for all our properties to comply with LEED standards. Now all our housekeeping staff use environmentally safe products to clean our facilities.
In our offices with café services, we instituted an enterprise-wide ban on Styrofoam to reduce the amount of solid waste we generate. In facilities in Charlotte and Roanoke, Virginia, we have closed full-service kitchens and replaced them with self-serve micro-markets. These facilities provide employees with a broad range of food options. They also require far less fuel, water and electricity to operate—and generate significantly less waste.
Lower-impact commuting and travel
Reducing energy use doesn’t just happen at the office. Allstate encourages employees to make sensible, environmentally friendly choices about their travel and commuting too. We now have six electric charging stations at our home office in Northbrook and another two in our Allstate Workplace Division in Jacksonville, Florida. Our new Esurance Service Center in Ogden, Utah, now under construction, will have an additional three. All of the charging stations are available free of charge to our employees. We also help our employees reduce their impact on the environment through a bus service that links to the Chicago Transit Authority and Metra train lines. And we build virtual meeting technology into many of our facilities, so unnecessary travel can be minimized.
More data center cooling
Data centers like the ones we use to process customer and claims information use a significant amount of electricity—mostly to keep the servers inside cool enough to function. At two of Allstate’s data centers, we’re using innovative airflow management technology to reduce the amount of power it takes to keep our systems cool.
We use a “hot aisle/cold aisle” containment arrangement, where cold air comes in through a lower-temperature aisle, cools the computer equipment and then is discharged into a hot aisle on the other side of the equipment row. We then capture the hot or exhaust air through a system of blanking plates and barriers. Because it can’t flow back into the cold aisle, it floats to the top of the building, where it is returned to a cooling unit through an overhead circulation system.
This process allows our cooling equipment to work more efficiently (using less electricity), since it does not have to cool the mixed air but only the hot air (cooling less air constantly). Additionally, hot aisle containment prevents hot air from spilling over (or around) the cabinets to create hot spots in the cold aisle. In Rochelle, we have been able to use heat captured through this system to reduce our overall heating costs. In 2013, this system saved Allstate $60,000 in our Rochelle data center and $59,136 in Hudson, while also significantly reducing electricity use.