Story and Photo by Kate Shifman
NEW YORK — Even if your favorite bakery’s goodies are not “green,” one place shows that you still can feel good about going there. Located in a Brooklyn neighborhood, Mrs. Maxwell’s Bakery has switched to energy-efficient lighting to cut down its utility costs … thereby making its cakes look even better under the brighter lights.
It has been a tough economy for businesses small and large, with many mom-and-pop shops in particular having to close down due to higher bills and decreased sales. But Mrs. Maxwell’s is proving that it can “have its cake and eat it too,” by keeping its doors open and its bills low. The Brooklyn establishment has been serving up delicious cakes since 1928 and has just found a way to lower its energy bills by up to $11,000 annually by cutting 68,000 kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity.
Photo by Kate Shifman
Sam Naraiswar, vice president and general manager of Mrs. Maxwell’s, recognized the incredible value of Con Edison’s Small Business Direct Installation Program and worked with the utility to implement important energy efficiency changes. The bakery took advantage of the free energy survey offered by Con Edison and employed the utility’s recommendations. Con Edison also provided $100 of free equipment and 70 percent of the installation cost.
The upgrades include:
- Replacing 87 incandescent lamps in the basement with CFL lamps, saving 75 percent of wattage;
- Switching fluorescent fixtures and lamps from the outdated T-12s to more-efficient and brighter T-8s;
- Changing all magnetic ballasts to new, more-efficient electronic ballasts; and
- Replacing fluorescent lighting in refrigerator display cases with LED lighting.
With the new refrigerated case lighting, the cakes on display look brighter and more inviting, said Esteban Vasquez, program manager for Con Edison’s small business program.
Vasquez goes into deeper detail about the retrofit:
Sounds fantastic, but a skeptic may find it prohibitively expensive. The total costs for materials and installations amounted to about $9,000, but Con Edison paid 70 percent of the cost and provided free equipment. Mrs. Maxwell’s had to come up with only about $2,800. According to Naraiswar, all costs were recouped within four months in savings on the bakery’s utility bill.
To celebrate the bakery’s accomplishment, Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz presented the bakery with the proclamation declaring Tuesday, August 9, 2011, as Mrs. Maxwell’s Bakery “Go Green” Celebration Day.
“Energy efficiency” is such a buzzword that it could easily be dismissed as hype, but Mrs. Maxwell’s is proof that small changes can amount to great savings and increased profits—especially with support from utility companies.
“This is a great program. I think all small businesses should take advantage of it. It’s a win-win. As we say in Brooklyn, if you don’t do this, fuggetaboutit!” says Markowitz.
Con Edison and other utility companies across the United States offer similar residential programs to improve energy use.
Kate Shifman is a New Yorker, sustainability professional, photographer, and publisher of Solar In The City, a solar and energy efficiency guide for the city dweller.
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