By Nadine Long
Self-storage is often seen as consumerism gone wild: we’ve accumulated so much stuff that we now have to rent extra space to store it. Arguably, a bigger problem is that we buy disposable, single-use items and just toss them out.
Many people choose to use storage while downsizing their living space, or to save items for friends and family to use, which is more green than repeatedly buying disposable items to cycle through and toss out.
Storage facilities are getting into the green game to make their facilities more appealing to consumers, save energy and save money.
A-American Storage in Hawaii signed a conservation agreement with the Hawaiian Island Land Trust, pledging that they would not develop on the land. The agreement helped three small ranchers in the area maintain their businesses.
Some enterprising storage owners are repurposing old warehouses and renovating them to become storage facilities. Some are built with sustainable materials to meet LEED standards.
Safe & Secure Self Storage in Coconut Creek, Florida, the 2010 Outstanding Green Facility award winner, is LEED certified: the facility uses little electricity and produces as little waste as possible. Safe & Secure uses green cleaning methods and natural pest control, and its grounds are landscaped for water conservation.
While climate-controlled facilities are ideal for patrons who want to protect furniture and other delicate items, many owners are turning to seasonal climate control instead: it doesn’t make sense to cool a unit in winter, so renters can sign up for seasonal agreements and help conserve energy.
The layout of storage facilities makes them ideal for solar energy panels. Green Warrior, a company that specializes in solar panels for mini storage, points out that rooftop solar power makes sense in the dense structure of a storage facility, where units are tightly packed and buildings are simple. (See an example at Cedar Storage in Utah.)
Green Warrior also suggests installing carports on large storage parking lots – the carport roofs make a good space for additional solar panels.
Most storage facilities already use a minimal amount of energy, and installing solar panels could make them entirely self-sufficient. Some solar-enabled sites generate enough surplus power to sell it back to their local energy company. The cost to the consumer to rent at a solar-powered facility is usually the same as a standard facility; if owners offered discounts to renters who used solar-powered units, it’d be win-win.
Secure Self Storage in Delaware – which already has one facility running entirely on solar power – intends to install a green roof (vegetation growing on a roof can provide insulation and reduce water runoff from the rooftop), and is looking into wind turbines for facilities located near bodies of water, like one of its facilities on Coney Island.
Combining wind turbines with solar power might be the next step for facilities looking to get off the grid and offer a more earth-friendly service to their customers.