News

Vrooman ups energy efficiency of heritage home

Vancity CEO Tamara Vrooman is reconciling her love of her heritage home with her commitment to energy conservation.

As the proud owner of a Point Grey Craftsman heritage cottage, with its single pane windows and knob and tube wiring, she knows there’s a limit to her old home’s energy efficiency. She and her husband Gregg are doing their best.

The couple have added insulation under the roof and installed a water-efficient shower head. They’ve put a timer on the furnace so that it shuts off during the day and put CFL bulbs throughout the home. As well, they’re sticklers for unplugging electronics and appliances — but there’s a limit to what they can do without messing with the look of the house.

“The house itself is old and reflects the technology at the time it was built,” says Vrooman.
“The good news is there are lots of wonderful local products around, such as beautiful energy efficient wooden windows that are in keeping with the style of the house but yet are quite efficient and made of recycled materials.

“[Upgrades] are something that we’re committed to doing over time, but in a way that’s consistent with integrity of house.”

Trying to update an old home is a common challenge for conservation-minded consumers. Even Vrooman — who drives a hybrid car and takes transit — has had to deal with the challenges of loving an old house and being dedicated to her role as a Power Smart leader. But she’s working it out. She’s remodelled and updated another heritage home, in Victoria, where she lived prior to coming to Vancouver.

“I still love that beautiful old house even though I knew it wasn’t the most sustainable or energy efficient home.

“Part of the commitment to do our part is to think about, ‘What can we do right away?’ and then, ‘What are things that we can do over the longer term and make it manageable?’” says Vrooman. “So to say, ‘I have it all figured out and have it easy to make these choices,’ well, I don’t. There is no perfect, it’s just working to make it better.”

Vrooman was a natural choice for Team Power Smart. As CEO of Canada’s largest credit union, she has implemented initiatives at work to reduce, reuse, recycle. Her 2,600 employees are encouraged to think of creative ways to conserve. For example, employees try to reduce garbage to one small can per week, or take public transit or reduce office supply consumption.

“I thought it was a great opportunity,” Vrooman says of joining the Team. “It’s a great way to educate more people.

“In terms of Power Smart, I really think we do a lot in our work in terms of how we work as an organization. We are the first [bank] in North America to be carbon neutral, that kind of stuff.”

Vrooman got her start as a co-op graduate student who got a low-ranking job working in government. She worked her way up to deputy minister with health and finance portfolios. She was awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee medal for outstanding contributions to public service.

“I’m 40, but I feel very lucky to have had the opportunities and experiences I had in government,” she says. “I worked very hard but I’m humble and realistic enough to know that I got a lot of support along the way.

“The person who opened the door for me said they would do it on one condition. I said, ‘Anything.’
“They said, ‘When a young person in this exact situation comes to you when you’re big and successful you have to do the same thing.’ I have always remembered that.”

But first she’s giving back to the environment. Vrooman has implemented a few policies at the workplace, such as discouraging bank statement mail-outs and sending out electronic copies instead. As well, office lights are turned off each night.

“I know that people are going to say it’s going to take more than a bunch of people doing little things to solve problems in a major way — I understand and appreciate that,” says Vrooman. “But I understand that many small actions can have a really big impact.

So I’m committed to doing a lot and it makes me feel good.”

Related links:

Source: BC Hydro News