Taking Root

Taking Root

Environmental concerns play out in key verticals, and security can be part of the solution

The environmental movement has been around at least since the first Earth Day in 1970, and the full advantage of green consciousness is finally being realized among some of the largest end user markets for security systems. Schools, hospitals, governments, corporate offices— from the largest retailers to the smallest businesses, sustainability and green business practices are taking on greater urgency and garnering greater levels of awareness.

Every one of these markets can benefit from using video surveillance products that consume less power, which reduces monthly costs, and from deploying systems designed to use fewer physical products. Providers taking responsibility for their ecological footprints are using more-efficient manufacturing techniques as well, optimizing productivity and conserving natural resources by using less material and reducing harmful emissions.

For end users, running green has become an important criterion for every aspect of operations, including the security department. We all rely on natural resources to sustain life on our planet, and we should all take action to protect those resources. Environmental consciousness has affected some of the largest markets for security and video surveillance systems, opening up opportunities for our industry as security departments translate awareness into action.


Long a leader in environmental purchasing and green building design, the education vertical provides an added opportunity to teach impressionable minds about sustainability by example. Education costs are a big priority, and the Department of Energy estimates that schools could save up to half their energy costs by adopting simple green measures and renovations. That savings would equate to money that could be used to pay additional teachers or to buy more textbooks and computers. Education facilities have also been among those leading the way with implementation of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. Green issues in the education market include minimizing water usage (with low-flow toilets, for example), promoting waste minimization and recycling, and using greener cleaning chemicals and lesstoxic pesticides.

How can security help? A campus setting presents an opportunity for security patrol officers to embrace bicycles or electric vehicles in lieu of petroleum-powered— and air pollution-emitting—vehicles. Even better, from a security systems perspective, the use of remote video monitoring could reduce the need for securityrelated daily patrols. Education purchasers are focused on buying greener products, such as security products manufactured in an environment-friendly factory.

For example, some security and video surveillance products are manufactured in factories that comply with a European Union directive—the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS)—to restrict the use of lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyl and polybrominated diphenyl ether.


A surprising number of highly toxic materials are used in healthcare institutions, from cleaners and disinfectants to mercury-containing medical devices and waste. The quantities of prescription medicines that end up in the nation’s rivers, waterways and groundwater also have emerged as an environmental health issue.

The rising costs of healthcare continue to be a challenge, and green-consciousness can help slow those numbers, leading to real cost-savings. Energy costs are also significant in this sector, and officials are implementing LEED building standards. Another big component of lowering energy consumption is the day-to-day operation of electrical equipment and lights.

How can security help? The energy requirements of video surveillance cameras can vary significantly from one model to another. Choosing a video camera that decreases power use by 30 percent may equate to only several dollars worth of energy savings in a year, but the amount adds up for a video system with dozens or hundreds of cameras. Large healthcare campuses typically use systems of this scale.

To minimize cost and environmental impact, many end users in healthcare and other verticals opt to keep existing legacy video equipment, such as analog cameras, rather than rip the old system out completely and start from scratch. Using a hybrid approach with video encoders enables such a strategy. Reusing hardware helps reduce waste because the old hardware doesn’t have to be disposed of. Concerns about environmental emissions in the manufacturing process are also relevant in this market, because preserving human health is a core value and goal of healthcare.

Corporate Culture

Green awareness is increasingly a part of corporate culture. Good corporate citizens more than ever “think green” when they choose supplier companies, regardless of whether they are buying cleaning fluids or printer paper, computer servers or video cameras. A company might migrate to hybrid company cars or seek out products made with renewable energy or by a supplier that emits fewer greenhouse gases.

A useful measure of a corporation’s environmental impact is its conformance to ISO 14000 environmental management standards aimed at minimizing the negative impact manufacturing processes have on the environment. Manufacturers are certified by third-party organizations to document adherence to the standards. Increasingly, corporate customers measure their own conformance to ISO 14000 and prefer supplier companies that do the same.

How can security help? Smaller products require less material to manufacture, conserve natural resources and ultimately produce less material to recycle or discard. In the field of video surveillance, cameras are getting smaller while their functionality is expanding. Smaller form factors enable use in a wider variety of applications, and their manufacture also has less of an effect on the environment. Using less can also extend to technologies such as PoE, which carries power and camera signals along a single cable. Also, security officers who report electronically instead of filing paperwork can help to conserve trees. Integrating security systems with lighting and HVAC systems can ensure that lights are turned off in unused rooms and can adjust heating and cooling based on building occupancy.


The federal government, as well as state and local governments, was an early proponent of green purchasing and continues to lead the way. The federal government pioneered a path to promote sustainability and reward green suppliers even before such products were economically attractive for private companies. Government helped drive the early days of green purchasing and set the stage for a green market today that can compete on price with the broader marketplace. President Obama signed an executive order in October 2009 requiring that 95 percent of the $500 billion in annual purchasing contracts meet sustainability criteria. Every president since George H.W. Bush has signed such an order, which focuses on the energy efficiency of federal facilities and includes specific requirements to buy renewable energy and paper with post-consumer content, to reduce the use of hazardous materials and to buy environmentally friendly office equipment.

How can security help? The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) is an easy-to-use, online tool that helps institutional purchasers select and compare computer desktops, laptops and monitors based on their environmental attributes. Many of these components are used by security departments, and the EPEAT Product Registry Web page lists 2,711 of them. Government procurement professionals are accustomed to evaluating the green attributes of suppliers.


Whether it’s reusable shopping bags or lower-energy LED lighting, many retail businesses have embraced the green trend. Occupancy sensors in locations such as restrooms and storerooms can help to avoid unnecessary energy usage.

How can security help? Remote video surveillance provides the extra value of enabling managers to view operations at distant sites. Remote video can reduce the need to drive to remote locations, with a resulting lower environmental impact.

Small Business

Small businesses by their nature are more fleet-footed than larger enterprises, and these entrepreneurs favor innovation and cost-consciousness, which play very well in the green environment. Strategies such as powering down electronics also can be especially effective in smaller companies where compliance can be more easily monitored. Small businesses are great places to use natural light sources.

How can security help? The use of unpredictable and changing natural light can be a challenge for video cameras, but smarter cameras and additional image processing can now provide clear images, even in extreme or complex lighting, without missing any details, whether they are in the shadows or the brightest sunlight.

It Begins With Awareness

Any green progress begins with a greater consciousness of environmental issues. Across vertical markets, heightened environmental concerns are becoming the rule rather than the exception. Obviously, system dependability and security integrity should never be compromised for the sake of the environment. Even so, there is ample room for end users in any vertical market to work toward sustainability and the greater environmental good. Security departments should not see themselves as exempt from green concerns but rather should actively seek out opportunities to contribute constructively.

This article originally appeared in the November 2011 issue of Security Today.


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