Melink Volunteers: Green Business Groups of Cincinnati

Supporting green business groups and clean energy initiatives is important to Melink as a company, and many employees have made a personal commitment to such initiatives as well. Melink employee-owners donate their time and expertise to serve on sustainability groups, advisory board committees, or professional boards at the local and regional levels.

Green Business Council of Cincinnati 

Joel Geiman, General Manager
Allison Sternad, Director of Marketing & Sustainability

The Green Business Council of Cincinnati (GBC) was founded in 2011 by several Cincinnati area corporations to help local business leaders collaborate on sustainability initiatives, such as energy benchmarking, waste management, and composting. The council meets on a bi-monthly basis to help guide its members to apply best practices for delivering a better social, economic, and environmental future. Melink employees not only offer their expertise on renewable energy and LEED building certification but also share their experience with their own internal sustainability programs.

Melink is also part of the GBC Executive Committee, which meets on a monthly basis. “Melink’s responsibility on the committee is to manage the list of all council members, keep members accountable on attendance requirements, and to help set expectations for new members in the GBC’s mentorship program,” said Geiman, who has been volunteering his time with GBC for about a year.

Beyond 34

Joel Geiman, General Manager
Allison Sternad, Director of Marketing & Sustainability

Beyond 34 Logo

Through the GBC in early 2020, Melink became involved with Beyond 34, an initiative facilitated by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Beyond 34’s goal is to increase the current 34% recycling rate in the United States through a multi-stakeholder approach. An implementation model was created for a pilot city (Orlando, FL) to increase and improve its recycling and recovery rates. The test program was successful in Orlando, so the U.S. Chamber Foundation chose Cincinnati in 2019 as its second region to apply its model.

Green Energy Ohio 

Randy Miles, Vice President

Green Energy Ohio Logo

Green Energy Ohio (GEO) is a statewide, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting clean energy practices through education, outreach, and representation. GEO has presented testimony to Ohio legislators in support of policies and projects that advance the development and deployment of clean energy. Melink’s Randy Miles serves on GEO’s Board of Directors. Annually, Melink participates in the Green Energy Ohio Tour, which showcases renewable technologies in homes, businesses, and public buildings.

Green Workplaces Cincinnati

Natalie Heltman, Account Coordinator
Allison Sternad, Director of Marketing & Sustainability

Green Workplaces Cincinnati is a program through the Hamilton County Waste and Recycling Office. The group consists of sustainability committee leaders from local businesses. Through monthly meetings, the program gives members a chance to connect to outside resources and share best practices. Great Workplaces Cincinnati supports the 513 Green Workplace Certification, a sustainability designation that recognizes businesses in Hamilton County that voluntarily operate in an environmentally friendly manner.

Keep Cincinnati Beautiful

Melink supports Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, an organization that focuses on building community through neighborhood revitalization and education. The organization is active in each of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods and sponsors the Great American Cleanup where participants pick up litter, plant flowers, paint buildings, and more.

GoZERO Composting

Matt Meyer, Director of Field Service

GoZero Compost Collection at Melink Corporation

GoZero is a Cincinnati non-profit that provides food waste collection and compost delivery services. Its main goal is to divert food waste from landfills as a self-described “compost courier.” Essentially, GoZero organizes residential and commercial drop-off sites for food waste collection, picks up the waste, delivers it to a site to be composted, and then delivers the cured compost once ready for application. Melink has had a GoZERO food waste compost drop-off station on its campus since 2016. Area residents can subscribe to get a collection bucket and start dropping off food scraps from home. Learn more.

EV Cincy, Cincinnati Office of Environment
& Sustainability

Nate Schmidlin, Account Specialist

EV Cincy is a project out of the City of Cincinnati’s Office of Environment and Sustainability. Increased adoption of EVs reduces local air pollution, improves public health, and slows climate change. Schmidlin serves as an ambassador to educate others about the benefits of electric vehicles. However, due to the pandemic, original outreach plans like going on test drives are on hold.  “COVID-19 has forced us to switch gears from our original outreach plan. Now it’s all about getting the EV awareness message out on social media to help people stay informed,” said Schmidlin.

Green Umbrella 

Green Umbrella logo

Green Umbrella is the regional sustainability alliance of Greater Cincinnati with more than 200 member organizations, including Melink Corporation. Green Umbrella facilitates collaboration among non-profits, businesses, educational institutions, and governmental groups. The organization hosts the annual Midwest Regional Sustainability Summit and serves as a thought cultivator for sustainability initiatives in Cincinnati’s Tri-State area.

Cincinnati 2030 District

Cincinnati 2030 District Logo

Facilitated by Green Umbrella, the Cincinnati 2030 District’s goal is to create healthy, high-performing buildings in Cincinnati. Members, including Melink Corporation, make a commitment to reduce their buildings’ energy use, water consumption, and transportation emissions 50% by the year 2030. The company is actively helping Cincinnati meet its 2030 goals by providing industry expertise (through events like educational seminars) but also building data to help the city understand what can be accomplished and how.

Why LEED Buildings Make Financial Sense

The University of Notre Dame chose sustainable, LEED-approved construction options and why you should, too.

Recently, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) awarded the University of Notre Dame with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification for the design, construction, and operation of three buildings attached to Notre Dame Stadium. These building are Duncan Student Center, Corbett Family Hall, and O’Neill Hall. Your next statement may be “So what?!” Why should the folks at Notre Dame care, and why should anyone else involved with owning, managing, and operating a commercial building care?

The answer? Money.

LEED Gold Certification seal from the U.S. Green Building Council

According to research from the U.S. Department of Energy, LEED buildings consume 25% less energy and 11% less water than non-LEED buildings. That translates to lower utility bills. If you could build the same facility but pay 11-25% less in operating costs, why would you choose otherwise? And this isn’t even taking into account all the environmental benefits of LEED buildings!

If the decision is made for the non-LEED option, then that is saying you know you could spend less operating this building, but you want to pay more. You know you could improve the income flow of your building, but you choose to make less. Why? 

LEED Buildings: Financial Common Sense

Perhaps the concern is that a LEED building might cost more to construct than a non-LEED building. Depending on where you are building, there are notable tax benefits and incentives from states and municipalities (AKA free money). Choosing to build a non-LEED building is essentially saying you don’t want free money.

Finally, since a commercial building is an investment, the core factors of occupancy rates, lease payments, and long-term tenants are very important to cash flow. Citing the USGBC, LEED buildings retain higher property values than non-LEED buildings. LEED buildings are healthier for the occupants, and 79% of employees say they would choose a job in a LEED building over a non-LEED building. All of these point to greater demand (occupancy), longer term leases, and higher property appreciation. Money, money, money.

LEED Building infographic from U.S. Green Building Council
Source: USGBC

Intelli-Hood: A Solution for LEED Buildings

As I write this from Melink’s own LEED Platinum-certified headquarters, nicknamed HQ1, and across the street from our newly opened HQ2, which is a Zero-Energy Building, I am very happy for Notre Dame. I am also very PROUD that Melink’s Intelli-Hood® variable speed kitchen hood controls were a part of all the conservation measures that helped them achieve this certification. Within the three buildings that achieved LEED status, Intelli-Hood was installed on eight kitchen hoods. Intelli-Hood is now standard on any new hood installations, as well as retrofits, at Notre Dame.

Notre Dame opted for the sustainable, energy efficient, and financially smart option of LEED construction. What will you choose?

 

Home Sustainability Projects

Melink Employee-Owner Natalie Heltman offers tips for home sustainability projects.


At work, I’m a member of Melink’s Sustainability Committee. We are a group of approximately 10 employee-owners working toward community involvement and education related to sustainability. Our team focuses on initiatives like ensuring our fellow Melinkers are educated on recycling and composting best practices. We conduct a monthly waste audit at our facility. We’ve set up initiatives to recycle items that typically aren’t recyclable, like toothpaste tubes and Plastic #5 items. Being part of the committee made me wonder how I could incorporate sustainability into my home life, too.

I began thinking of ways to add green infrastructure to my house. Based off electricity stats sent by my utility company, my house is ranked among the most energy efficient in the area. So instead of thinking inside my house, I wanted to “green” aspects on my home’s outside.

DIY homemade sustainability project rain barrels at gutter downspouts

DIY Rain Barrel

So, I decided my first project (thanks to YouTube university) would be a set of three 55-gallon rain barrels to use in the summer when Cincinnati goes through its driest months. Full disclosure: Making a rain barrel is noted on most DIY sites as an easy project. I am not a handy person; I had never picked up a drill before this, and I was able to complete the project in about a day.

Rain barrels are an interesting project because there are many options. There are kits sold at home improvement stores, or you can reuse food-grade 55-gallon drums as an inexpensive alternative. With sustainability in mind, I went for the reusable option and was able to buy my drums online from a soy sauce wholesaler for around $10. Also, I purchased spigots to install on the barrel to give us the option to use a drip hose on especially dry days.

I use the collected water for watering my lawn, vegetable garden, and hanging flower baskets. I haven’t noticed a return on our water bill, but I do feel less guilty watering my lawn and garden when I’m using water from the barrels.  

However, having large, blue barrels near our downspouts is not the most aesthetically pleasing look for our backyard. Before starting this project, especially if you live in a neighborhood, check to see if there are any restrictions. I followed our subdivision’s guidelines by installing the barrels on the back side of the house behind a fence. Make sure to reach out to your local officials to confirm any guidelines on water capture.

If you’re ready to get started, I recommend this video.

DIY homemade compost bins

DIY Compost Bin

Since the rain barrels were so easy to make, I decided to step up my green infrastructure game with a second project. We already had a couple of compost boxes, but I wanted to try building rolling compost containers. This project required a few more tools but was also very simple. 

If you’re a gardener, composting is a great way to boost your soil and, ultimately, your harvest. Composting enriches the soil by helping to retain moisture and suppressing plant diseases and pests. It reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.

I made two rolling compost bins, using two additional barrels I purchased online. I am able to move them around the yard to add compost to our vegetable garden and potted plants. Compost is the “black gold” of soil. My vegetables grow really well with the compost, and there is almost no need to use any fertilizer.

This video gives a nice overview on how to build your own compost bin.

My Future Home Sustainability Projects

The great part about both of these home sustainability projects was how I was able to reuse items. Materials that might be deemed “trash” or unwanted were saved from going to the landfill. I was able to build both projects with materials I had around the house or from the barrels that had already served their purpose.

What’s next? During my time in the Peace Corps, I focused on community gardening and that is something I would like to revisit now. I think my next project will be a raised vegetable garden — maybe a keyhole garden with compost in the middle.

Melink envisions clean energy transforming the world by improving our global economy, security and environment — for ourselves, our children and future generations. “Walking the Talk” stories showcase Melink employee-owners that are making sustainable choices in their personal lives.

Making the Switch to Reusable Straws

Melink Employee-Owner Janice Scheid offers tips for switching to reusable straws.


Janice Scheid, Melink Corporation’s Controller, made the switch to reusable drinking straws, and she’s not looking back.

“If I can give up normal straws, anyone can,” said Scheid, who calls herself “The Straw Queen”  — that’s how much she loves them!

So why did she make the switch? Scheid credits her son and the organization 4ocean with opening her eyes to her straw consumption. She estimates she was using two straws per day on average.

“When you think about two straws per day for 365 days a year, that adds up. They were heading to a landfill or potentially into the environment,” said Scheid.

In fact, Scheid’s disposable straw consumption is on par with the U.S. average. It’s estimated the average American uses 1.6 straws per day. This equates to each person in the U.S. using about 38,000 straws between the ages of 5 and 65. (Check out this article from the National Park Service for more stats.)

Thus, she decided to change her habit, a promise she has committed to for more than a year. She purchased a straw cleaning brush and multiple types of reusable straws — stainless steel and hard plastic — to suit her drink preferences. She also purchased bent metal straws and Tervis-sized plastic straws to fit specific cups.

Reusable plastic and metal straws
Janice Scheid’s reusable straw collection

Reusable Straw Tips

Feeling inspired? Here are sip-worthy tips from Melink’s Straw Queen:

  • Keep a straw close
    You made the investment, so make sure your straws are available at all times! Besides having her reusable straws at home, Scheid keeps straws in her car, at her desk, and in her purse.
  • Speak up to skip the disposable straw
    When going out to eat, Scheid asks for no straw when she places her order.
  • Educate your family and friends
    Just like her son inspired her to consider her straw consumption, she tries to make others aware. She has gifted her friends and family with sets of reusable straws, saying her mom and sisters are hooked now. “Little changes add up,” said Scheid.
  • Shop around
    Scheid purchased her first reusable straws through Amazon, but she said they are easier to find as they become more common. She has even found them in unlikely places, such as JOANN Fabric and Craft Stores.
  • Consider your other habits
    Scheid also has made changes in other areas. She avoids buying drinks sold in plastic beverage rings (i.e. 6-pack of bottled soda) because of the rings’ impact on the environment and wildlife. And to avoid single-use plastic grocery bags, she purchased heavy-duty, reusable canvas shopping bags. Additionally, she has swapped out one-time-use plastic sandwich bags (i.e. like Ziploc brand) for reusable options.

Melink envisions clean energy transforming the world by improving our global economy, security and environment — for ourselves, our children and future generations. “Walking the Talk” stories showcase Melink employee-owners that are making sustainable choices in their personal lives.

Melink Completes Zero-Energy Building at Super-Green Campus

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CINCINNATI, OHIO — Melink Corporation has completed construction of HQ2, its second Zero-Energy headquarters, at its super-green business park in Milford, Ohio.

The Melink HQ2 is a Zero-Energy Building (ZEB), meaning that the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is less than or equal to the amount of renewable energy generated on site. The cutting-edge project serves as a prototype ZEB for architects, engineers, and owners to help mainstream Zero-Energy best practices.

“Our goal is to show the world that new and existing buildings can be made Zero-Energy at a cost premium of less than 15%,” said Steve Melink, who founded Melink Corporation in 1987.  “The benefits are not only significant energy savings but a reduced carbon footprint and enlightened corporate brand that attracts and retains customers and employees.”     

To achieve Zero-Energy, also commonly referred to as “Net Zero,” HQ2 features several innovations, including a super-insulated envelope, super-geothermal heating/cooling system, an intelligent ventilation system, automatic lighting and shade controls, and a solar PV canopy in its parking lot with charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs).

Businesses, schools, and government agencies are invited to tour the Melink HQ2. Melink’s purpose is to educate and inspire other leaders who can further accelerate and capitalize on the shift to a clean energy economy. A grand opening celebration for HQ2 is being planned for late spring.

HQ2 is the second building on Melink’s campus. HQ1 was constructed in 2005 as a LEED Gold facility, and in the following years it was improved to Net-Zero Energy, Energy Star 99, and LEED Platinum. Also, Melink’s fleet of vehicles consists of all hybrid and EVs.

Melink Corporation is a global provider of energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions for commercial buildings with five offerings: Intelli-Hood® Kitchen Ventilation ControlsHVAC Test & BalanceSolar PV, Geothermal HVAC, and PositiV® Building Health Monitor. For more than 30 years, Melink has helped companies save energy, increase profitability, and make the world more sustainable. In 2018, Melink became an ESOP and is now 100% employee-owned.

The Future of the 2020s: Healthy Buildings

As we enter the Roaring 20s and continue the “What’s next?” conversation surrounding societal, technological, planetary, and human behavioral changes, I think it’s important for us to consider the role of buildings in all these arenas — ideally, healthy buildings.

According to a Navigant Research study in 2018, the global building stock is expected to increase 13% by 2028, and other research estimates the total global building stock will double by 2060. Should these estimates be correct, that’s the equivalent of building an entire New York City every month…for the next 40 years! Consider that growth, combined with research that contributes 40% of greenhouse gas emissions to buildings, and we have a big opportunity in front of us.

On a recent visit to Melink, President and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council Mahesh Ramanujam highlighted his mission to transform buildings by first focusing on the people inside of them. Considering people spend 90% of their lives inside buildings, the more people associate buildings with human health and personal well-being, the more the conversation for smarter and more efficient buildings can be accelerated.  While Mahesh is a great influence on the advocacy front, Melink is in a great position to offer building owners tangible solutions for tackling these challenges. 

How Melink Innovates Healthy Buildings

Innovation is a core principle at Melink, and 2020 brings about exciting opportunities across all of our products and services to make an impact in the world:

  • Melink PositiV®  is a building health monitor that provides trend data for the key metrics of building pressure, CO2, temperature, and humidity. Negative pressure can lead to a multitude of “Sick Building” syndromes that ultimately lead to decreased employee performance, increased sick days, and unhappy occupants.
  • Melink’s core Test & Balance services ensure that buildings are performing as they were designed to support and protect the occupants.
  • Intelli-Hood® measures the cooking activity at the kitchen hood level to ensure the operator is using only the energy required to exhaust cooking effluent based on the demand, in addition to ensuring enough replacement fresh air is delivered to occupants.
  • Our Solar & Geothermal division is busy working to rapidly scale the adoption of these core building technologies and innovate around barriers to entry. The price of solar continues to decline as efficiencies increase, leading to a transformative time in the solar industry as we go beyond grid parody. In most cases, we offer our solar customers the ability to lock in their kWh rate for the next 30 years at prices below $0.025 / kWh. With the rapid rate of innovation in the battery storage sector, I’m confident new technologies will emerge that mitigate net-metering laws and allow building owners to more efficiently install power plants on their roof via solar.
  • Plus, our geothermal team continues to push the boundaries of hybrid thermal loop systems in an effort to remove significant bore-field cost in geothermal projects. Our new HQ2 is a living laboratory to drive the innovation necessary to responsibly heat, cool and power the buildings of the future.   

So, “What’s next” for Melink? Changing the world, one healthy building at a time. Sound familiar?

Climate Change: A Moral Imperative

As the President of Melink Corporation, I’ve always been a bit uneasy publicly commenting on anything that is political or could even be perceived as political.  We live in extremely polarizing times and I’ve never wanted to ostracize anyone; I’m too pragmatic.  It’s not my job to get political.  My job is to run a company, to serve our customers, employees, strategic partners, and other stakeholders.

Isn’t it?

…No. 

Our climate is changing and the vast majority of scientific evidence clearly suggests that humankind is the cause.  So why should you or I stay silent just because the issue has been politicized?  For one thing, climate change should never have become a political issue.  It’s a moral imperative, a matter of national security, and an unfathomable economic opportunity.  Fighting a changing climate is the right thing to do, because it’s the right thing to do.  Our children and grandchildren deserve the same chance at a healthy and happy future as we, our parents, and grandparents had.  How many wars have been fought, lives lost, over natural resources?  Clean energy comes from technology – not fuel sources such as oil or natural gas.  Pursuing a sustainable future also means pursuing a more peaceful future.  And as for economic opportunity – the world is going green whether you like it or not.  The United States led the industrial and technological revolutions of the past.   Leadership of the clean energy revolution is ours to seize.  Doing so would foster unparalleled economic growth for decades to come.  Not doing so will leave us lagging behind in a world that moves faster today than at any point in human history.  United we stand.  Divided we fall.

So, the way I see it, it’s not just my responsibility to speak up – it’s up to all of us.  Silence only gives the political rhetoric more power.  Leaning on the facts, using our voice, and taking action, will literally change save the world.  Honestly, who doesn’t want to help save the world?

Future is getting warmer, but still bright

Originally published on Cincinnati.com

In recent months, I have come to notice an interesting shift in the news coverage of climate change. Stories have moved away from debating its scientific merits and causes, toward accepting it as a reality. In fact, most coverage has focused on the current and future impact of climate change as well as coping strategies.

Take for example the following headlines: “19 schemes to survive climate change,” “Climate change puts our military bases at risk,” and “Your children’s Yellowstone will be radically different.” This shift suggests, at least to me, that as a society we have finally accepted that the climate is changing, and humankind is the cause. Though I would generally prefer that we collectively focus our efforts on preventing rather than accepting it as an inevitability, I view this as a positive development. The first step to solving any problem, is recognizing the problem exists. 

As a father of three wonderful children, it is clear to me that taking action against climate change is a moral imperative. Those who are willing and able to think beyond the present, and who are selfless enough to act on behalf of future generations, know that the time to make a difference is extremely limited. I’m reminded of my grandfather, who arrived in Normandy, D-Day plus two. He didn’t join the fight, at age 17 no less, because he expected to get rich. He did it because it was the right thing to do; it needed to be done. I am now convinced that the risk climate change poses to our children and grandchildren will dwarf any threat humanity has faced before.

As a kid, my dad used to say to me, Craig, your problems are like mountains. You can climb over, go around, or tunnel through it. You can never just stand still and do nothing.  Until recently, I think most folks have been waiting on the federal government to lead the charge against climate change up over, around, or through the mountain. But it’s clear Uncle Sam’s current interest is in removing the mountaintop and mining its coal. The cavalry isn’t coming. We need to lead the charge. 

Though we are now experiencing the increasingly impactful effects of a changing climate, such as unprecedented heat, flooding, and wildfires, I remain more determined – and encouraged – than ever. Every day I see more selfless leaders, particularly from private industry and local government, leading our way to a brighter future. 

For example, look no further than our own back yard. The city of Cincinnati has developed a plan consisting of 80 strategies aimed to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by the year 2050. Separately, a group of local professionals worked for a full year to launch a 2030 District in Cincinnati. Several founding members of this district have made an aggregated commitment to reducing their building’s energy use, water consumption, and transportation emissions by 50 percent by the year 2030. 

Site Selection Magazine, a publication covering real-estate and economic development, has named Cincinnati the Most Sustainable Metro in the U.S., beating out Chicago, Boston, Seattle, and San Diego. In 2018, Fifth Third Bank signed a Power Purchase Agreement allowing them to achieve 100 percent renewable power consumption.  Proctor & Gamble, the largest consumer products company in the world, has diverted 70 percent of its manufacturing waste from landfills; in two more years P&G will have achieved 100 percent diversion.

At Melink, we have just broken ground on our second Zero-Energy building, HQ2, located in Milford. And for me personally, I am in awe of my colleagues and the impact they’re making on a global scale. Every day I have the unique privilege of serving alongside some of the most passionate, best-at-what-they-do, group of professionals working in energy efficiency and renewable energy today.

While there’s no silver bullet for combating climate change, saving the future will be the culmination of many collective efforts from men, women, and children who are committed to changing the world. Though we should pay attention to the buzz around climate doom and gloom, we shouldn’t worry about it. Instead, let’s take action where we have an opportunity to make a difference. 

Someone far wiser than myself once said, “Don’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders… carry the weight of your world on your shoulders.” If each of us acts to preserve our world, and we maintain faith in one another, the collective impact will far outweigh the risks we face. Therefore, I choose to believe that our children and grandchildren will have an exceptionally bright future.

Road-Tripping in a Non-Tesla 100% EV

You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.

Abraham Lincoln

I have the unique pleasure of working with an employee-owned organization, Melink Corporation, that is dedicated toward making the world a better place. Our vision is to help advance clean energy such that it transforms the world through improving our global economy, security and environment – for ourselves, our children and future generations.

Though energy efficiency and renewable energy are at the core of what we do, sustainability is central to who we areIf we don’t lead by example, who will? So, in addition to operating a Net-Zero LEED® Platinum headquarters facility, we have a super-green fleet of vehicles. Our National Network of Service Technicians each drive hybrid vehicles. Our parking lot has over twenty electric-vehicle charging stations. In total we have over forty hybrids and seventeen EVs in our fleet driven. 61% of our employees drive either hybrid or electric.

I, personally, drive a 2018 Chevy Bolt and have done so for about nine months. The car has a 238 EPA estimated range and does not have the luxury of accessing Tesla’s Supercharging Network. I have a 45 mile commute, one-way from my home to my office. Fortunately, by driving an EV, living in a home and working in an office that are both powered by renewable energy, my ‘electric gas’ is very clean. I have three young kids, and it is very important to my wife and I, that we set a good example; not only so we guide them toward making their own integrity-based decisions as they mature, but also so in a direct effort preserve their future. As Abraham Lincon said, You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.

This month was the first time I took the Bolt on a good old fashion, American road-trip. I knew it would be a challenge but as another President said, nothing in the world is worth doing unless it means effort pain and difficulty. Here’s how it was (and can be) done.

The Hardware. You’ve got to have an EV that has an extended range. Here’s a list, for your reference, of the longest range EVs on the market today. But you’ve also got to have the capacity for Level 3 charging. On the Chevy Bolt the hardware cost an incremental $750, from the factory. GM advertises 90 miles of charge in 30 minutes, up to the 80% mark and the speed begins to taper to protect the battery.

The Fuel. There are of course Plug-in Hybrid EVs such as the Chevy Volt and Honda Clarity. Those models have about 30 – 50 miles of battery capacity with traditional gasoline as a backup. This isn’t the kind of EV I’m talking about here; I’m talking about 100% electrons. And I must acknowledge that during my road trip the electrons pulled from the grid may be coming from brown-power sources; but not necessarily. Wal-Mart, for example, has solar on many of their locations. And one of the two EVgo stations I charged at was at a Wal-Mart. Nonetheless, what’s the advantage of driving an EV vs. a traditional internal-combustion engine that uses gasoline? For one, EVs convert about 60% of their energy from the grid to power at the wheels; gasoline only converts about 19% of the energy stored to the wheels. Also, electricity, even from a coal-fired power plant, is a domestic energy source. Finally, you can get your electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind.

The Apps. Before making any long-distance road trip, pre-planning the locations of charging stations (and their distances from one another), is critical. There are a number of apps you can use to see what’s out there: PlugShareChargePoint, and EVgo are the ones I use.

The Infrastructure. EVgo is America’s largest Public Electric Vehicle Fast Charging Network, with over 1,000 chargers in 66 markets. As a non-Tesla driver, this network is vitally important for the emerging EV market.

The Planning. A few days before my trip from Southwest Ohio to Eastern Tennessee, a 350 mile commute, I identified two Level 3 Fast charging stations and one Level 2 charging station for my trip. The first Level 3 charger I stopped at was only 35 miles from my house, located at a Wal-Mart in Florence, Kentucky. I topped off and drove another 239 miles to Knoxville, Tennessee… quite literally almost no margin for error between charging stations. Fortunately, during my planning I learned of an EVgo charging station that’s being installed about 3/4 that distance, along I-75 near Williamsburg, Kentucky. So the infrastructure is continuing to develop. After making it to the next fast-charger in Knoxville… I had 8 miles to spare. Nonetheless, I made it. So I charged for about one hour (180 miles). While I waited I was able to eat lunch and catch-up on some work. Then I drove another 35 miles to my final destination, which was for business purposes There I stayed for about 30 hours, plugged in to a residential 120V outlet at 12 amps. I got my charge up to about 90% before making the return trip… back to Knoxville, then to Florence, then home. Similar to my first-leg, I made it back to the Florence charger with about 6 miles to spare.

Lessons Learned. For one, my tire pressure was relatively low when I left my house. It took the necessity of my thin battery margin to realize the impact it had on my mileage efficiency. So, I filled them almost to max-pressure and the Bolt was ‘intelligent’ enough to roll this new information into its algorithm, thus giving me an increased range by about 10 miles from where I was before. Second, I noticed that by turning off my air conditioning, the algorithm gave me another 10 mile boost in my range. Also, I tried to keep my speed (on I-75, no less) at around 65 mph. You’ll notice in this chart the relationship between speed and range; the faster you drive, the less efficient your mileage.

In order to change the world, we’ve got to do things differently. Otherwise, if we continue to do the same things, nothing will change. This trip wasn’t easy. An otherwise normal five-hour trip took me about seven-hours, one way. I didn’t want to leave the house at 5am and I certainly didn’t want to get home at 2am. But I wanted to demonstrate it could be done, in the hope that just maybe it inspires others to make the leap, not only to an EV, but to a brighter future.

World Environment Day

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”

– Robert Swan, Author

What is World Environment Day?

Focused at home in your local community, nationally, or globally, World Environment Day is a day for global citizens to do something to take care of the Earth.

Why Should I Get Involved?

You have the opportunity to  share your ideas and activities for making our world cleaner, brighter, and greener– one action at a time! Each year on June 5th, World Environment Day is organized around a specific theme that highlights a particular environmental concern. For 2018, World Environment Day is focused on the issue of plastic pollution. Plastic pollution in our water is killing marine species, polluting beaches, and poisoning human diets. According to the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, on average 60-95% of worldwide marine litter is composed of plastic. These plastics take 450-1,000 years to degrade, yet the plastic material never fully breaks down and it leaves in its toxic wake, micro-plastics. These micro-plastics end up in the stomachs of our marine life and subsequently in the stomachs of humans as we consume seafood and other meat poisoned with plastic pollution.

What Can I Do?

“Raise your voice, not the sea level!” — Message from World Environment Day

  1. For World Environment Day, go out to your local community either solo or with an organized group and pick up trash that may be littering streets, parks, or other landscapes. While picking up this waste, you and your fellow volunteers can take an extra step to ensure the proper materials are being recycled. Recycling is easy and recycled materials help reduce the amount of garbage in landfills, waterways, and the stomachs of animals! Just check with your local recycling center to see what materials they may accept.
  2. Bring re-usable bags when you are shopping. Many think to take their own bags to the grocery store, but think about taking your own bags to the mall or as you run normal errands to any store! Many retailers like Ikea, Adidas, Whole Foods, and most recently Disney have eliminated the use of plastic bags as well!
  3. Re-purpose plastic arts and crafts in an exhibit that focuses on sustainability. For example, convert plastic drinking bottles into planter’s for herbs and flowers, just cut a rectangular hole in the side of the bottle, fill with soil, and add your plant or seeds.
  4. Ditch the single use plastic water bottles. Travel with your own reusable water bottle, there are water sources everywhere that you can use to fill up your bottle. It can even help you save money at airports where a bottle of water can be expensive!
  5. Utilize reusable or compostable cutlery (you can easily order on Amazon!), and compostable and sustainable food wrap instead of plastic versions. Keep a set of silverware in your desk or purse!
  6. Educate yourself on misconceptions about recycling! Not all plastics can be recycled through your local provider and not everything that says biodegradable is a better alternative.