"Greening" your business doesn't require lowering overall material production, but it does require you to use energy and resources more efficiently, and mitigate existing waste streams.
A poll of U.S. consumers found nearly half would shift their buying habits to reduce their perceived personal impact on our global ecosystem. The surveyed consumers belong to an American audience that consumed an estimated $128.5 billion worth of sustainably-branded goods in 2018.
The following tips can help your business attract this growing audience of green consumers and employees:
Leave the Car at Home
As a business owner looking for a new location, consider sites that have convenient access to bike lanes and transit, and encourage employees to walk, cycle, or carpool to work. By providing consumers with transit, cycle, and pedestrian access to your business, they may choose to give you some of the extra money in their pocket.
Break the Addiction to Convenience
Americans produced 267.8 million tons (or 4.51 pounds per person per day) of municipal solid waste in 2017.
By reducing daily employee habits that revolve around single-use products, companies can reduce their waste production and environmental footprint simultaneously. A good example is the single-cup coffee makers now seen in many offices. A large tin of coffee grounds can produce over a hundred cups of coffee for a fraction of the price of non-recyclable, single-serving coffee pods.
Beyond providing clearly marked recycling bins, examine your office(s) and consider all the ways you can potentially reduce waste. Instead of buying paper cups and plastic water bottles for your employees and customers, encourage people to bring their own cups and refillable water bottles. If you have an office kitchen for employees, compost your kitchen waste in its own bin, and use bulk containers for condiments rather than single-use throwaway servings.
Transitioning from paper towels to hand dryers in kitchen and washroom areas will also make a huge contribution toward a paperless office.
One of the best ways to make your business more environmentally-friendly is to practice green procurement. This involves sourcing goods and services that are produced and supplied in a sustainable fashion. Sourcing from local suppliers rather than those located far away is a good place to start.
Review your procurement policies, and make sure purchased goods:
- Are manufactured in a sustainable fashion
- Do not contain toxic materials or ozone-depleting substances
- Can be recycled and/or are produced from recycled materials
- Are made from renewable materials
- Do not make use of excessive packaging
- Are designed to be repairable and not throwaway
Help the Environment and the Less Fortunate
When conducting renovations, business often send usable materials to landfills during the demolition phase, rather than recycling.
Businesses can turn such materials into a charitable, tax-deductible donation (to an organization like Habitat for Humanity) rather than paying to send the "waste" to a landfill. Habitat for Humanity takes everything from appliances to used lumber and sells it for reuse, keeping a massive amount of material out of landfills each year. The proceeds are used to fund the construction of low-income housing in your business' community, and to provide work for your neighbors.
Reduce Water Usage
The past decade has been one of the driest on record in western North America, and as a result, many municipalities have enacted stringent water rationing for businesses and households. Drought ranks second among U.S. weather-related economic events, with annual losses nearing $9 billion.
Whether your business is located in a drought-stricken area or not, reducing water use is one obvious way to save money and help conserve valuable environmental resources.
Ways you can reduce water usage on your business premises include:
- Fixing dripping taps, plumbing leaks, and installing low-flow toilets and faucet aerators in your washrooms.
- Moving to a drought-tolerant landscape design, with drip irrigation and rain sensors where necessary.
- Using a high-efficiency pressure washer for cleaning jobs.
Reduce Your Building Energy Footprint
From houses and local businesses, to schools and skyscrapers, buildings in the U.S. use about 40% of the country's energy for lighting, heating, cooling, and appliance operation.
The drive to reduce building emissions has spawned a rapidly growing industry in high-efficiency architecture. Net-zero and passive construction methods employ super-insulated shells equipped with solar and geothermal systems to reduce energy usage by 80—90% over standard construction.
Whether you're constructing your own business premises or renovating an existing building, make sure you investigate the various rebate and incentive programs that may be offered for upgrading insulation, solar systems, and appliances.
Keeping your surplus electronic equipment out of the landfill is a great way to help the environment and benefit those in need. Electronic waste (e-waste) is the fastest-growing waste stream in the world, with an estimated 48.5 million tons produced in 2018.
If your business is replacing electronic items such as computers, monitors, tablets, smartphones, or printers, chances are they can be put to good use by schools or charities in your area.
Alternatively, computer manufacturers such as Dell and HP have technology recycling programs that allow credit for trade-ins on used equipment and donation programs for charities. eBay for Charity allows listing of used items on eBay with the proceeds going to nonprofits or charities.
Make sure you remove all sensitive information from any devices before you recycle them.
Switch to Cloud Computing
Cloud computing formats like Google Apps, Apple iCloud, and Microsoft Office 365 allow employees to share and access information from anywhere, and can reduce the travel costs, carbon emissions, and printing costs of your small business.
As company information is hosted in the cloud, there is no need for your business to purchase and maintain expensive, power-intensive servers.
Organizing Sustainable Partnerships
One of the best ways to make your business more environmentally sustainable is to partner with like-minded people and organizations in your community.
By partnering with groups working near the nexus of local business, government, and environmental concerns, your company can simultaneously gain better insights into where community resources are being wasted, and have a better chance of speaking directly to the concerns of your customers.