Don’t turn on the heat just yet


Fall is just around the corner and that means cooler weather is on the way. Try these energy and money saving tips before you crank up the heat for the first time.

Insulate your walls and ceilings adequately.This can save 20 to 30 percent on home heating bills. Have an inspection by a qualified technician if you’ve not looked at your insulation for quite some time. Insulation will compress and shift over time which reduces its effectiveness.

Weatherize your home or apartment, using caulk and weather stripping to plug air leaks around doors and windows.Caulking costs less than $1 per window, and weather stripping is under $10 per door.

Close drapes and window coverings at night. This will reduce the heat lost through windows. During the day, open drapes and coverings to allow the sun to radiantly heat your home.

Use Ceiling Fans to utilize heat more efficiently
Heat rises and much of the heat loss in your home is through the ceiling. Most ceiling fans have a switch to reverse their direction. As you enter the heating season, reverse the direction of your ceiling fans and set them on low. This will better mix the warm and cool air in your home and slow the rate of heat escaping through the ceiling. Ceiling fans do not use much electricity and this will result in a net energy savings.

There are also several low or no cost steps that can be taken to lower the cost of heating commercial buildings. Find out more at

Energy independence – see how we did it

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Gundersen Health System’s path to energy independence took two tracks – energy conservation and development of energy projects in cooperation with regional partners.

Watch this short video to see how Gundersen did it, project-by-project.

Students see Gundersen’s energy conservation projects in action

Biomass Gundersen Envision

Gundersen’s biomass boiler burns locally-sourced wood chips to create clean energy.

This summer’s University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) “Energy and the Earth” engaged thousands of people worldwide. However, UW students were given an opportunity to participate beyond the online forum when they visited Gundersen Health System to see Gundersen’s Envision energy conversation projects in action.

The students toured Envision’s dairy digester, biomass boiler, solar, wind, and geothermal heat pump projects, which represent Gundersen’s path to energy independence.

“It was incredible to see one organization using so many types of renewable energy,” said Anna Ostermeier. “I was impressed that so many of their initiatives were able to take off, despite the challenges. After learning about several energy technologies in the MOOC, it was interesting to see how they were put into practice.”

“They use leftover wood chips from nearby lumber mills to fuel a biomass digester and methane produced by a nearby landfill to fuel a generator,” said Brooke Marten, who is studying civil engineering. “They use what others may view as waste and turn it into useful energy. I hope other businesses follow in their footsteps.”

Gundersen reached its goal of energy independence last October and is helping other healthcare organizations realize how they too can become more energy independent.Envision speakers and consultants are available to come to you. Find out how!

Gundersen CEO speaking at Latin American Forum

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Dr. Thompson standing atop one of Gundersen’s wind turbines in Cashton, WI.

Jeff Thompson, MD, CEO of Gundersen Health System, will bring our organization’s message of better health and well-being for our communities through sustainable environmental programs next week to an international audience.

Dr. Thompson is a featured speaker at the first Latin American Forum (1º Fórum Latino Americano de Qualidade e Segurança na Saúde), August 13-16 in São Paulo, Brazil. Through this year’s theme – “Pursuing Sustainability” – the forum brings together healthcare professionals from around the world to discuss contemporary health issues like environmental sustainability, population health and quality improvement.

Dr. Thompson will discuss Gundersen’s journey to become the first health system in the United States to achieve energy independence and the wealth of opportunities available to health systems that use environmentally and economically-sustainable business practices. He will be joined by Marcos Tucherman, manager at Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital in Sao Paulo, and Veronica Odriozola, executive director of Health Care Without Harm Latin America.

The Forum is sponsored by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) in partnership with Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein.

Find out how Gundersen achieved energy independence and simple steps you can take to become more environmentally and economically sustainable.

Walk, ride, share for cleaner air

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Active commuting encourages people to get physically active on a regular basis and to reduce greenhouse emissions and traffic congestion by actively or alternatively commuting. In addition, reducing energy consumption will help prevent illness by reducing environmental factors linked to diseases (cancer, respiratory, asthma, reproductive, cardiac).

Active/alternative commuting includes:

  • Walking
  • Bicycle riding
  • Car pooling
  • Using mass transit transportation
  • Any other travel without driving yourself (rollerblading, skateboarding. Have fun and get creative.)

Safety Tips
Follow the Rules of the Road – As appropriate – obey all traffic signs, signal and watch for traffic at intersections, cross at crosswalks, do not exceed speed limit, wear seat belt at all times, ride with traffic (bike, car), walk against traffic or use sidewalk when available, use proper lane position, etc.

Wear appropriate attire to be visible and safe – As appropriate – wear helmet, protective equipment (bike, rollerblade), be visible-wear bright clothing or reflective clothing, wear lights on person or bike, wear comfortable shoes, wear seat belt (car, bus if applicable), use rain gear as appropriate-poncho, umbrella, fenders, etc.

Be alert and aware of surroundings – As appropriate – do not use ear buds or listen to loud radio, do not talk or text on cell phone, monitor surroundings for potential dangers – environmental lighting, uneven terrain, road conditions, etc.

Safety inspection of your mode of transportation – As appropriate – secure cargo, ensure proper tire inflation, ensure mechanical items in good working condition – brakes, chains, belts, lights, turn signals, etc. Shoes in good working condition (not excessively worn, protecting feet from hazards), laces secured, etc.

Champion a Walk, Ride, Share for Cleaner Air employee challenge at your work place and start making a difference today!

Learn more about reducing energy consumption and greenhouse emissions from the environmental leaders at Envision.

Summer energy-saving tips


Open windows on cool days and nights
On cool days and nights, turn off your air conditioner and open your windows. A fan may also help and does not use as much electricity as an air conditioning compressor. Don’t open windows when the outside temperature is warmer than the inside of your house.

Use ceiling fans to cool your house
The most efficient ceiling fans cost as little as 30 cents a month if used eight hours a day. A  window air conditioner can cost 50 times as much as a fan. Ceiling fans will keep the air moving and allow you to keep the thermostat setting higher because moving air feels cooler.

Provide shading for your air conditioning condenser
Your central air conditioner condenser works more efficiently in a cooler environment. Provide shade around your air conditioner to reduce your cooling costs by nearly 3 percent.

Dry a load of laundry on the clothesline
Thirty years ago most clothes were dried outside on the line. Your electric dryer is a large energy user and consumes about 30 cents of electricity per load. During nice weather, try drying some loads the old fashioned way – on the clothesline. It also has the added benefit of a fresh smell for your laundry.

Utilize moisture sensing technology on your electric dryer
Most new electric dryers have sensors that can detect the moisture level in your clothes and shut off the cycle when they are dry.  This saves energy costs when compared to a timed dry cycle which is likely to waste energy after clothes are dry.

Plant trees for shade
Deciduous trees—those that produce leaves in the spring and lose them in the fall—shade your house from the sun during warmer days and let the sun warm your house on cooler days. Shading your home could save up to 8 percent on cooling costs.

Change your air conditioning filter
Clean or replace your central air conditioner filter monthly during the cooling season to improve the efficiency and extend the life of the unit.

Raise your thermostat setting
You can save $25 or more each month during the summer by raising your thermostat temperature from 72 to 78 degrees.

Learn about other ways to save energy at

Tips for living green everyday

  1. Put a stop to unsolicited mail. Sign up to opt out of pre-screened credit card offers. While you’re at it, go ahead and make sure you’re on the “do not call” list, just to make your life more peaceful.
  2. Reuse scrap paper. Print on two sides, or let your kids color on the back side of used paper.
  3. Conduct a quick energy audit of your home.
  4. Subscribe to good eco-friendly blogs (examples: Keeper of the Home, Kitchen Stewardship, Live Renewed, Simple Homemade).
  5. Before buying anything new, first check your local Craigslist or Freecycle.
  6. Support local restaurants that use food from less than 100 miles away and learn more about the benefits of eating locally.
  7. Fix leaky faucets.
  8. Make your own household cleaners.
  9. Line dry your laundry.
  10. Watch The Story of Stuff with your kids and talk about the impact your household trash has on our landfills.
  11. Learn with your kids about another country or culture, expanding your knowledge to other sides of the world.
  12. Lower the temperature on your hot water heater.
  13. Unplug unused chargers and appliances.
  14. Repurpose something. It’s fun.
  15. Collect rainwater to water your houseplants and garden.