Environmental concerns play out in key verticals, and security can be part of the solution
- By Bill Taylor
- Nov 01, 2011
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
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
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
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
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
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.