Japan started a “Cool Biz” program in 2005. The program simply allows workers to dress in short sleeves, instead of the traditional jacket and tie, during the warm summer months. The change in dress codes means that temperatures in offices can be set at 82 degrees F, which reduces costs, electricity consumption and carbon dioxide emissions associated with air conditioning. The program saves over 1 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, equivalent to the emissions of over 200,000 households.
Cool Biz is one of my favorite examples of an elegant solution because it emphasizes the comfort of people, rather than specific temperatures and technologies. When comfort is the objective, changing the dress code is a reasonable solution. It is more cost effective and offers more environmental benefits than installing even the most efficient air conditioning system. Plus, employees are more comfortable – everybody wins!
We should be doing this everywhere. How do we explain to our kids that one reason we didn’t meet our energy responsibilities is because we have a tradition of wearing jackets and ties inside during the summer? We need energy for lots of things – this isn’t one of them.