Texas State’s Net Impact chapter is making an economical and environmental difference downtown by providing local businesses with free energy audits.
Net Impact is a global, volunteer based program centered around sustainability and environmental protection. Each chapter takes on projects throughout the year to help their universities and communities. The Texas State chapter is hosted in the McCoy College of Business, but members are from a variety of majors.
The Texas State chapter focuses on the values of the global organization but also ties in economics, said Joseph Fischer, finance junior and project manager of the energy audits.
“Our branch takes a more business friendly approach that pairs sustainable growth and environmental responsibility with economically feasible solutions,” Fischer said. “Things that won’t break the bank for a small business but will make a difference in the environment.”
Net Impact and Main Street San Marcos have joined forces to provide the energy audits conducted by student volunteers within the organization. The volunteers underwent training to learn the skills necessary for the audits. The idea to conduct these audits for local businesses came from volunteer work the chapter did for Texas State in 2012.
Janet Hale, Net Impact faculty advisor, said in 2012 that the Net Impact chapter conducted free energy audits for 54 percent of the buildings on campus.
“By conducting these audits, Net Impact ended up saving Texas State over $40,000 in auditing fees,” Hale said.
There was a company that offered to provide these audits to the city for a fee, but it did not complete the job, Fischer said.
“They ended up flaking out and not completing what they set out to do, so we came in to fill that gap and provide what we had done at the university in 2012,” Fischer said.
Volunteers are provided with a list of businesses to audit. The audits take anywhere from 15-30 minutes depending on the size and type of business. There are questions that managers are asked about their energy use, and the rest is filled in by Net Impact volunteers.
Nikita Demidov, finance sophomore, said he joined the project to help his future career while also making a difference in San Marcos.
“Auditing seems like such a complicated process when you hear it,” Demidov said. “So I wanted to learn what it was about and now that I understand, my goal is to contribute what I know to help the businesses in the community.”
The audits are designed to search for ways businesses can save money on energy bills while simultaneously impacting the environment in a positive way, Fischer said.
“We look for things that are more basic but the little things you can do that will help to improve their energy efficiency while being environmentally aware,” Fischer said.
The audits Net Impact is conducting are classified as American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers level 1 audits, alternatively known as walk-through audits. This is a basic starting point for energy optimization. The businesses which agree to receive the audit must register online through the Green Impact Campaign which is the software volunteers enter the audit results into.
According to its website, Green Impact Campaign is a nonprofit organization that connects students and businesses together to facilitate climate change.
The volunteers enter the information and the results go directly to the businesses so that everything stays confidential, Hale said.
“It’s not about us, we’re just the implementers of the audit and they (businesses) can decide what they want to do or they just get data full of information they need,” Hale said.
Cedrik Chavez, health and fitness management sophomore, said he has been involved with several Net Impact projects but feels none of them has made as much of a difference in the community as this one.
“I wanted to make a difference in the community,” Chavez said. “I’ve never had such an impact with the other projects I’ve done, and this one drew me in because I really wanted to make a difference in San Marcos.”
Net Impact will continue through this semester conducting free energy audits for businesses downtown. The group will also extend the audits through the fall semester, Fischer said.
“We’re going to continue the energy audits to next fall and expand the number of businesses, in addition to expand the area that we’re looking at,” Fischer said.
Net Impact is using its tools to support Texas State and the community as a whole, Hale said.
“What it all comes down to is really about campus community involvement,” Hale said. “We wanted to do what we can to those who constantly provide for us in the historic downtown area.”