Monk Office


Electricity savings of 17% just part of the greening of office products supplier

Nina Winham

Whoever said you can't teach an old dog new tricks hasn't met the folks at Monk Office, Vancouver Island's largest office products provider and the largest independent stationer in B.C.

The firm was founded in 1951 and has experienced steady growth for decades, now operating 10 retail stores plus a distribution centre, and four lines of business with about 120 staff. It was in 2006, however, that it really started to show how new thinking can make a big difference. That was the year when CEO James McKenzie decided to found Monk's ECO Team.

"Our ECO Team has been the driver," says McKenzie. "We determined that power, natural gas, diesel, water and paper are the main things we consume that impact the environment. So we've set up [conservation] measures and goals, and then we brainstorm how we as the ECO Team are going to get to those goals.

"We do some internet research, but a lot of [the team's initiatives] are common sense, like keeping the doors closed in the distribution centre so the air conditioning can function properly in the summer and the heater is not wasting heat in the winter."

McKenzie says the team is made up of eight staff representing different areas of the company, giving team members the opportunity to take on leadership roles, and stimulating two-way communications about environmental issues and ideas.

The efforts of the team, and the company overall, have borne fruit. Since 2006, Monk has reduced electricity consumption by 17%, reduced waste sent to landfill by 70%, and cut water consumption by a whopping 95%. Monk achieved ISO 14001 certification (an environmental management standard) in June, 2008, and "Go Green" certification from the Building Owners and Managers Association in December 2007.

"I'm so proud of Monk in so many ways," says Jeff Lumley, Monk's Manager of Facilities. "It's really part of the Monk culture now to turn off lights when people leave an office and to properly dispose of an apple core. I think the whole culture of Monk has changed in the past two years."

As part of its ongoing work to improve environmental performance, Monk recently undertook several lighting retrofits with the help of BC Hydro. So far the upgrades have covered one of its two warehouses (with the second also slated for upgrade this year), its office space, and four of its Victoria-based stores.

The work has included a variety of new lighting, including:

  • swapping old T12 fluorescent tubes for energy-saving T8s;
  • exchanging older halogen and incandescent lights for screw-in LEDs;
  • shifting to LED exit signs;
  • adding occupancy sensors to switch lights off when not needed.

Lumley says the warehouse light has improved staff comfort. "It's a much nicer light," he says. "And in our offices' lower level, we have two gentlemen who quite often got migraine headaches and they're not getting so many headaches now, because the lights burn better."

Together, the lighting retrofit projects are expected to save $3,500 per year in electricity and nearly $900 in maintenance (numbers that will improve with the additional retrofit to be implemented). The work also qualified for a rebate of $6,051 from BC Hydro's Product Incentive Program – proof, as Lumley notes, that although Monk's environmental commitment is inspired "because it's the right thing to do," it's also good from a business perspective.

CEO James McKenzie says Monk's commitment to its environmental program would have meant the company would have undertaken its lighting retrofit even without the rebate offer from BC Hydro, though he agrees "it is very nice to get," and an important part of helping businesses make change.

"It's a valuable program to really show that the province and BC Hydro are committed to energy consumption reduction. And it helps, every little bit helps – it shortens the payback time on the investment considerably."

McKenzie has agreed to help promote BC Hydro's message by signing on as a Power Smart Community Leader, a local ambassador for energy conservation.

"Monk is family owned, and operates primarily on Vancouver Island," he says. "A result of that is a huge connection to the community. We think that our communities up and down the island will be a much better place if we all do our part in terms of minimizing our impact on the environment. So that's why I do what I do – we like to give back to the community where we can."

Nina Winham is a Vancouver-based freelance consultant and frequent contributor to

Did you like this story? Subscribe to the Power of Business eNewsletter and get stories, features and Power Smart program updates to your inbox each month.