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Mount Pleasant: spotlight on three business upgrades

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A popular neighbourhood catches on to energy efficiency and sustainability

In the early 1900s, the establishment of breweries and other industries along Mount Pleasant's Brewery Creek had Vancouver residents imagining that the neighbourhood would grow to become a fashionable "uptown."

A century later, the area has fulfilled that promise and become a popular place to live and shop, with more salons, cafés, and restaurants than any other part of Vancouver. A short stroll down Main Street passes one of each — and all three have recently made energy-efficiency upgrades.

Pomp & Proper Salon — cooler than ever

Pomp & Proper (2812 Main St.) is a stylish boutique hair salon that likes to pamper its clients, but in the summer they tended to lose their cool as the space filled with overwhelming heat.

"Because of the size of our space, the air conditioner couldn't keep up with the blow dryers and the heat from the incandescent light bulbs," says salon owner and veteran stylist Jasmin Harker.

So, in December 2010, they took advantage of BC Hydro's Product Incentive Program and retrofitted the salon with LED lights.

"When I heard there was an option to have the same quality of lighting, but without the incandescent heat, I decided to do it," says Harker. "We probably switched at least 100 lights out from incandescents to LEDs.

"We produce a lot of heat with the blow dryers running all the time, and we're west facing, but changing to LEDs made a total difference — a huge difference. Now the air conditioner is able to keep up."

Not only has the temperature dropped, their energy bills have gone down as well.

"Our bills used to range from about $400 to $500 every three months," says Harker. "They've gone down by about $75 to $100 each bill. Over the years that will definitely be a savings."

Another advantage is that the bulbs last longer. Harker says, "Before, we'd be replacing bulbs every couple of months. So far with the LEDs, we haven't had to replace any bulbs."

Harker has recommended to some other business owners that they make the switch to LEDs.

"I'm from Hornby Island, and a friend of mine runs a general store over there. I talked to them about our lighting and they came in to take a look as they're thinking about switching to LEDs."

JJ Bean — sustainable staff

The City of Vancouver requires that energy efficient lighting is used in all new buildings, so when JJ Bean put a café into the downtown Woodwards building a few years ago, they used LEDs for most of the lighting.

"We were extremely happy with the results," says Neto Franco, general manager for retail in all 10 JJ Bean locations, "because they last forever [up to 20 years or more], save electricity, and are greener."

From there, JJ Bean decided to upgrade all their locations. In their Mount Pleasant café (3010 Main St.), they made the switch to LEDs this past December.

"We want to change all the light bulbs to LEDs. We have already changed most of the incandescents, about 50-60 bulbs, but there are still some MR16's [halogen bulbs] that we haven't changed," says Franco.

He says two issues kept them from upgrading all the lights right away. One was that he wanted to find bulbs that wouldn't get too hot, which can limit how long they last. He's looking forward to a bulb with a built-in fan that Philips is expected to introduce to the market soon.

The other issue is that the first available LEDs producde light towards the cooler end of the colour spectrum. "In some places we need a warmer light," he says. "New ones are coming out that are warm, and we already have a few samples, so most likely in the next couple of months we will be changing those too."

Franco says that he's already noticed the savings in JJ Bean's Yaletown location, the first that went to LED.

JJ Bean doesn't stop with lighting — they're trying to be more energy efficient at all locations, which can be open 15 hours a day, not including time for cleaning.  Franco says all new appliances are ENERGY STAR®, and that  they've upgraded equipment to reduce the amount of natural gas we use roasting coffee.

"Taking these steps is responsible," says Franco. "We know we need to do the right thing. And the staff as a whole are very environmentally conscious and they are always pushing us. So we respond to that — and it goes both ways, because the changes we make affect the staff too."

Eight ½ Restaurant — ahead of the curve

Eight ½ Restaurant owner-operator Mike Wiebe does not like to waste anything — time, energy, not even pickle jars.  So he has made it his goal to reduce or eliminate waste from the restaurant's operations, and to have Eight ½ (151 East 8th Avenue) become "one of the greenest restaurants around."

Wiebe started making energy upgrades about two years ago, after the Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Association (MPBIA) annual general meeting, where he serves on the board.

"We had a BC Hydro specialist come in to talk about energy, ways that businesses could start saving, and the BC Hydro Product Incentive Program. Since I'm on the board, I thought we [Eight ½] should be ahead of the curve to let other businesses know what needs to be done."

The first change the restaurant made was to replace their old dishwasher, which he says was probably their biggest energy user, with an ENERGY STAR, low water, low temperature model.

"It cuts energy use down quite a bit," he says. " It's tough to calculate because sales are up 25% from last year, so now we're using the dishwasher more. Costs have gone down, but usage has gone way up."

The restaurant also focused on composting, plus recycling bottles, paper and other material. Garbage has been reduced to  a quarter of what it was before, and Wiebe is looking for more ways to reduce.

In October they also changed about 50 lights to LEDs, which not only saves energy but reduces the waste and maintenance time associated with changing incandescent bulbs.

"We have these 13 lights along the bar that look like candles," says Wiebe. "We used to have to replace them every two weeks. They overheated a lot. With the new ones, we haven't changed any yet. They're supposed to last 5,000 hours or something, and they have a five-year warranty."

Wiebe's vision doesn't stop at the door to the restaurant. When he looks around, he sees "all these buildings that could save energy, all these lights that aren't LEDs." Wiebe wants to reduce waste all over Mount Pleasant and to inspire other restaurants to make changes.

"If we start a green initiative and other businesses see it work, they will hopefully follow suit."

Wiebe's passion has already inspired change. "My mom's got her whole house in LEDs now," he says.