The credit union has recently opened the doors to what it said is New England's first environmentally friendly credit union branch. Seasons FCU is aiming for leadership in energy and environmental design certification for the branch interior from the U.S. Green Building Council.
For some time the credit union has been offering gourmet coffee in its branches and started to look into a more environmentally sound alternative to serving it in Styrofoam cups after hearing from a member about the long-term impact they have on the environment.
"It is amazing to see how such a small change grew into something so big," said Seasons FCU CEO Keith Wiemert. "The overwhelmingly positive feedback we received when we made the switch got us looking for other ways to just do the right thing."
Opportunity knocked with the Meriden storefront branch relocation project and Weimert said the credit union wanted to just go all green.
"We did not just want to have a few CFL light bulbs, offer e-statements and home banking--anyone can do that. We want to really stand for something--that meant going for LEED certification and making this a green branch," said Weimert. "Our credit union mission is changing members lives for the better, so going green is a natural next step for us."
According to a USGBC database, among financial institutions, Seasons FCU's 1,725-square-foot branch is one of the smallest projects of its type seeking LEED certification.
Seeking LEED certification meant that Seasons FCU was working to meet dozens of stringent guidelines, from recycling construction waste to choosing environmentally friendly paint, carpet and furniture. The Meriden branch features floor tiles made from recycled glass, woodwork certified by the U.S. Forest Stewardship Council, insulation made from 100% natural fiber and runs on 100% alternative energy, using a mix of wind and hydro-electric power.
The result is a branch interior that is modern yet warm and inviting--so much so that members wouldn't even know how green it is were it not for the green tags and markers pointing out the eco-friendly elements of the facility.
"We're hoping to set an example for others. Yes, going green is a little more expensive up front, but with the energy savings which will cut our energy costs in half, all the extra money spent on making the green branch will basically pay for itself in about seven to 10 years. We have a 20-year lease, so for us it makes sense from a business standpoint as well," said Weimert. "And the member response has been overwhelmingly positive, and they tell us how proud they are of their credit union and how we've inspired them to incorporate green elements in their own homes."
The credit union has also formed a "green team" to find more ways to go green and raise awareness. Staffers are embracing the initiative, rising to the challenge of making one change in their personal lives as a step toward living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.
Plans are underway to further engage the community by partnering with area schools to provide environmental awareness education and open the branch up for field trips on sustainability. Also under consideration is creating a green informational microsite, which would include actual member and staffer tips.
"The branch is not an end but rather a beginning for us," said Weimert. "We don't want to do what everyone else is doing. We're asking our green team to innovate, think outside the box and come up with unique ideas on what more we can do for the environment and what new products, services can we offer members."