John Lembo has worn many hats: global head of facilities and asset management at WeWork, senior director of energy at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, professor at Manhattan College and vice president of engineering at TRC Energy Services, to name a few. But as his job title has changed, Lembo’s innovative mindset and personal passion for his work never has.
Sparkfund: Tell us about your background in energy and sustainability.
John Lembo: I’ve spent many years in this industry. The most prolific aspect of my background was the 10 years I spent as the director of energy for Starwood Hotels. I did a lot of energy and sustainability projects there, including implementing their first sustainability program. I also ran a small company that developed the commissioning for the sustainability design guidelines for the World Trade Center, and I ran point on the energy and facilities program at the communal workspace company, WeWork. Now my own company, the Navitas Group, is my focus.
Why is the role of energy manager important?
Buildings are the largest users of energy in the world. So, while sustainability is about water consumption, recycling and waste management, to me it’s really about how buildings operate. One critical aspect of sustainability is the consumption of fuel, water and power, and making these critical components efficient by ensuring the related technologies operate optimally.
What's a best practice that a small organization without any sustainability team can implement tomorrow?
I recommend calling your local utility to get some assistance from their various incentives and programs. They often have a list of contractors you can reach out to, for example. They also often have resources in-house, and many have incentives available to buy down project costs and make the first cost of energy conservation projects more palatable.
What's standing between the average organization and sustainability?
Commitment and buy-in from higher-ups is essential to corporate social responsibility and a sustainability program. It needs to be baked into the fabric of an organization, not just an initiative someone is tasked with completing.
One impediment to energy efficiency is the cost. Often, capital is in competition with other projects. There are ways, though, such as performance contracts and utility and state incentive dollars, to get around that.
What’s one small thing you do every day to be sustainable?
I recycle, and my home is energy efficient. I keep my air conditioning at a reasonable temperature, insulate as best as I can, and use LED lights. My family also only buys non-GMO foods, and foods with no chemicals. We also try not to waste food. Any kind of waste, to me, is bothersome.
I believe that one household can make a difference. It has to start somewhere.
How do you get motivated?
I just love what I do. You have to be excited about what you’re doing and where you’re going. I love to get out of bed and own the day, but if I have no place that I want to go, then it’s tough. I need a task, goal or deadline. I get excited about all there is to learn.
If you had to quit your job tomorrow and couldn’t work in this field anymore, what career would you pursue?
I love to cook (and eat), so I would be a chef. My whole family loves to cook, actually. I also love music; I’ve played guitar since I was 10 years old. I’d like to figure out a way to work that in as well.