Sustainable Business in Charlotte


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Go Green: A Guide to Sustainability in Charlotte

Charlotte is continually climbing the ranks of sustainable cities lists. From the local government to nonprofits to business leaders, there has been a push for the community to go green. The Charlotte Chamber’s goal is to promote what is best for Charlotte’s business environmental and quality of life.

This publication focuses on ways the average Charlotte business can adopt sustainable, environmentally friendly practices. It also highlights a few innovative projects in and around Charlotte that have the potential to grow and replicate.

Putting Environmental Stewardship Into Practice

Build Green

Consider LEED-certified construction if you are in a position to build or renovate your workspace. Starting at the root of the cause will set a foundation for sustainable practices in the future. The LEED-certification process promotes using recycled materials, reduction in water use, renewable energy sources, and minimizing pollution emitted during construction. Also talk to your accountant about federal and state tax credits available for green construction projects.

Sustainable Operations

Energy is likely one of the largest operating expenses for your business. Monitoring and maintaining energy use can result in cost savings over time, whether it’s conserving energy use throughout the year or performing timely maintenance on energy systems to avoid having to replace large systems at a high cost. Investing in cost-savings equipment now will help save money in the future.

Heating and Cooling:

  • Well maintained heating and air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment runs more efficiently, so be sure to regularly change filters and perform annual system tune-ups.
  • Consider installing a programmable thermostat that uses less energy when the office is not occupied.
  • Controlling direct sunlight coming through windows can result in lower HVAC costs. Use blinds to keep your space cool in the summer and open them wide in the winter to warm the office.


  • Using natural light as much as possible will help cut electricity bills down. Walled-off offices and cubicles may provide privacy, but block natural light, so try orienting office space around windows.
  • Turn off lights when they are not in use. Consider installing occupancy sensors that can sense people in the room and control lights accordingly. These sensors can range from $20 to $200.
  • Replace incandescent bulbs in the office with energy-efficient compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) that use less energy. Duke Energy provides free CFLs to qualified users.

Office Equipment and Appliances

  • Work with your IT department to determine what systems need to stay on overnight and during the weekends. Encourage employees to turn off their computers when they go home for the night. If it doesn’t need to stay on, turn it and the power strip off.
  • “Smart” power strips can help eliminate energy costs by sensing when a device goes into standby mode and cutting the energy flow to that device. You can purchase these power strips for as low as $25.
  • Replace older appliances with Energy Star certified ones. Making the switch could save you upwards of $50 per appliance per year.

Water Conservation

  • Water conservation is a key factor in sustainable business practices. If your company leases space, talk to your property management company about water conservation systems.
  • Try installing meters to track incoming sources of water. Reading and tracking data from the meters will help you identify ways to reduce consumption and identify leaks sooner
  • Consider replacing old toilets with newer models that use less water per flush. With new equipment, look for the WaterSense (water conservation equivalent of Energy Star) label.

Get Employees Involved
Many of your environmental efforts could be for naught if your employees aren’t active, willing participants. Invite them into the planning stage, let them know everything you’re doing to save money and operate sustainably, and give them specific direction on their roles and responsibilities. Engaging employees in the process may lead to innovative ideas that take your initiatives to another level.


  • Encourage employees to commute using mass transportation by subsidizing the fares and monthly passes from the bus or light rail.
  • Idling vehicles are a major contributor to low air quality. If possible, work with employees to create flexible work schedules that allow workers to commute during off-peak hours or even telecommute one or more workdays.
  • If you have a vehicle fleet, consider investing in a green fleet. Simple things like choosing the right-sized vehicle, planning routes efficiently, and eliminating unnecessary loads could minimize fleet costs.


  • Commercial waste comprises nearly half of the waste disposed in Mecklenburg County. Support recycling by placing separate containers for recyclables and waste.
  • If your business only has recycling containers for paper and cardboard, consider expanding options offered to plastic, metals, and glass.

Environmental Innovation
North Carolina and energy innovation have a strong history on which to build. Duke Energy, now the largest electric power holding company in the country, was born along the banks of the Catawba River providing hydroelectric power to the Carolinas’ textile industry. Now, companies are still coming up with environmental innovations, making Charlotte a growing hub for the energy sector.

Duke Energy
Duke Energy, ranked 123 in the Fortune 500, consistently raises the bar when it comes to sustainable business practices. The company is becoming one of the biggest solar electricity providers in the country. From installing solar panels at North Carolina Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, to providing solar grants for schools and hospitals in Florida, Duke Energy has plans to invest $3 billion in renewable energy over the next five years.

Here in Charlotte, Duke Energy has played a vital role in energy use reduction. Through a program called Smart Energy Now® aimed at lowering energy consumption in office buildings uptown, Duke has helped reduce consumption by 6.2 percent. The program, now called Smart Energy in Offices, is available to individuals and companies alike and focuses on small, simple changes that employees can make to minimize energy usage.

All Green Recycling
All Green Recycling found tremendous value in Charlotte’s sustainability efforts. A full-service industrial, commercial, and consumer e-waste recycling company, All Green announced in 2015 the relocation of its corporate headquarters to Charlotte. With a diverse list of clients throughout North Carolina, All Green Recycling collects electronic goods ranging from computer and telecommunications equipment to automotive and aerospace control systems and prevents these valuable materials from ending up in landfills.

Blue Sphere
Blue Sphere, an international developer of waste-to-energy projects, is building a 5.2 Megawatt facility in Charlotte that will process organic waste into methane gas. The methane gas will be used to power three Caterpillar large generators. The facility is expected to start production during the last quarter of 2015 and will process between 400 and 600 pounds of organic waste per day.

Catawba River District
The Catawba River District is a nonprofit organization that brings educators, environmentalists, businesses, and governments together to promote sustainable watershed development and provide educational programming. It helps operate schoolyard gardens at four schools in Mecklenburg County and two in Gaston County. Classes may begin producing garden fresh goods and “selling” them to other classes or schools.

CLT Joules
An incubator for startup companies, CLT Joules promotes innovation and entrepreneurship in the energy sector. The program helps energy companies in the beginning phases by providing learning opportunities and connecting startups to the big energy players in Charlotte. Startups in the program have created 66 new jobs and attracted almost $9 million in funding to date. CLT Joules has accommodated companies such as:

  • eosMYCO, Inc. which focuses on developing a complete solution for coal ash remediation
  • SmartCharge which promotes the world’s first rechargeable LED light bulb, and
  • Stark Power, which provides a lithium-iron battery pack that is cheaper and more efficient for lightweight vehicles.

How is Your Organization Going Green?

Coca Cola Bottling Consolidated

  • The Charlotte bottling plant has its own wastewater treatment facility that allows the company to discharge water that is as clean as the water originally purchased
  • The “Recycle & Win” program partners with local governments and retailers to encourage recycling of all Coca-Cola bottles

Harris Teeter

  • Currently operates 40 stores with Energy Star label and multiples stores that are LEED certified
  • Uses non-ozone depleting refrigerants in new stores. For older stores that are being remodeled, they properly dispose of refrigerant and refrigerant oil

Choate Construction

  • Dedicated member of the U.S. Green Building Council and offers green opportunities on all projects
  • Accredited LEED AP’s use a detailed scorecard to monitor and document sustainable building throughout the construction process

UNC Charlotte

  • The University replaced over 30,000 T-12 fluorescent fixtures with LED lamps in 2014
  • A new student community garden club made up of approximately 100 students creates green areas around campus and constructed raised beds and a hammock area in 2014
  • UNC Charlotte earned the Tree Campus USA designation for the first time ever after establishing a tree care committee

City of Charlotte

  • The City owns and operates about 100 alternative fuel vehicles and has five LEED certified buildings
  • The city fire department has reduced vehicle idle fuel use by 80% through APU technology
  • There are over 1,500 solar panels installed on City owned and managed facilities


City of Charlotte Community Engagement — Energy & Environmental Programs
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center
600 E. 4th St., Charlotte, NC 28202

City of Charlotte Environment Department
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center
600 E. 4th St., Charlotte, NC 28202

City of Charlotte Solid Waste Services
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center
600 E. 4th St., Charlotte, NC 28202

Duke Energy Efficiency Programs (North Carolina)
526 S. Church St., Charlotte, NC 28202

Envision Charlotte
320 E. 9th St., Ste. 707-B, Charlotte, NC 28202

Piedmont Natural Gas
4720 Piedmont Row Dr., Charlotte, NC 28210


Sustain Charlotte
135 Brevard Ct., Charlotte, NC 28202