The next time you walk into a store or a salon or a restaurant, take a moment to consider the lighting. Kelly Cunningham does it all the time.
OK, so Cunningham is paid to think about lighting by the California Lighting Technology Center at UC Davis. Her work has taught her that retail lighting plays a critical role in shopping decisions and customer satisfaction.
She's also learned that retail lighting is an energy vampire: 5 million commercial buildings in the United States drink up $20 billion in energy annually, much of it from lights.
New products use light-emitting diodes that could cut lighting costs by 60-80 percent, Cunningham said, but there are hurdles to adoption.
Retailers, it seems, like tried-and-true lights. Here's why: Let's say you get your tresses dyed at a salon. The light there had better approximate the degree of light in an American home.
If that salon's lighting is off, watch out.
"If their customers go home and look in the mirror and it's not what they expected, then they're either not going to return, or they're going to return for a correction," Cunningham said, and if this happens often enough, word of mouth can kill the business. The concept holds true whether you're shopping for curtains at Calico Corners or kayaks over at Adventure Sports.
So what are retailers to do if they want to add new, energy-saving lighting but maintain quality? Contact the lighting technology center at (530) 747-3838.
On Wednesday, the lighting center opened a new retail showroom where LED technology can be compared with widely used halogen lamps. Thanks to partnerships with PG&E and the California Energy Commission, the center is looking for incentives that would induce retailers to make the switch. (Cunningham can also connect retailers with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, by the way.)
As for cost, the lighting center got six halogen lamps for $20. LED lamps being tested run $50 to $70 each.
The LEDs, however, would run for 22-46 years and sip just $1.57 to $2.41 in energy annually. The halogen lamps have a life of about two years and guzzle $10.84 in energy a year.
While the numbers are compelling, Cunningham said, retailers won't be satisfied until they can compare lighting. Now they can.
Winds of change
Paul McClure, Diane Stewart and other board members of Wind Youth Services saw the writing on the wall about a year ago as they began to see cash reserves dipping.
The economic downturn prompted government entities to reduce funding and patrons to cut back on giving. No one knew how long this climate would last.
The board decided it was time to consider a partner who would maintain Wind's mission of serving homeless youth while diversifying revenue streams, said McClure, director of advertising with Runyon Saltzman & Einhorn.
"What we really wanted to do was to find ways of doing, particularly the administrative aspects of our nonprofit the management, the backroom, all those sorts of things more efficiently," he said. " We were not a burning raft. We weren't in economic need. We felt we had stalled."
Wind officially will merge with Diogenes Youth Services on Oct. 1, and the merger will reduce the combined organization's expenses by at least 20 percent. The Wind name will be used, and the nonprofit will continue running Diogenes' group home and emergency shelter.
The merger is getting noticed. McClure and new executive director Sher Barber will discuss it at the November meeting of nonprofit leaders at the Nonprofit Resource Center. Barber also will speak at the annual conference organized by the California Wellness Foundation.
Stewart, who resigned from the board to consult on the transition, shared some secrets: "These board members were committed to their respective organizations, but they didn't have a lot of ego invested."
Such transitions take six months to a year, she said, and savings probably won't be realized right away. Board members also must put in extra time to steer the transition and communicate with staff, she noted, and if funding comes from government sources, the combined entity will have to jump through hoops that one or both agencies already had cleared.