Meeting our environmental responsibilities - be it at a domestic or business level - is more pressing than ever. Landfills are full, and oceans are choking. A recent report revealed that Americans are throwing away 230 million tons of waste each year - more than any other nation in the world. That said, it’s not too late - we’ve still a window of time to turn things around for the better.
Operating a green business is instrumental in creating and leading positive change. Notwithstanding the hugely positive impact on the environment, being green is also good for your bottom line. Adhering to the 3 Rs of Waste Hierarchy (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), and conserving resources can actually save your business money in the long-run.
So without further ado, here are my smart tips for businesses looking to take ownership of their environmental footprint:
1. Office Supplies
In the U.S. alone, over four million disposable pens are thrown away every day. And that’s just pens. Your businesses can make changes by stocking the office with reusable pens - ones which simply have their inks refilled. The process of refilling makes it easier to keep track of pens, rather than losing them and simply replacing them. Plus they actually work out cheaper long-term.
Additionally, consider appointing someone - another member of staff, or office manager - to oversee and keep track of the stationary cupboard. Be transparent by explaining to your team that the process isn’t to take everyone back to their school days, but to ‘green’ up the office. Eventually, people will start to realise the need to take ownership of their own environmental footprint and impact.
For a more accurate picture of how much your business throws out, you could conduct a waste review or audit. It’s important that you’re aware of what you can recycle as well: throwing just a small amount of unrecyclable material can cause the entire portion of recycled material to become contaminated and therefore end in a landfill fate.
One of the easiest ways to make your business more environmentally-friendly is to practice green procurement. Review your procurement policies when looking for suppliers and choose to source goods and services that have been produced sustainably and don’t require excessive packaging. Make sure your supplies don’t contain substances which are toxic and harmful to the environment, can be recycled/reused, and are made from renewable materials. Be inquisitive and curious when researching and speaking to suppliers as to where the good are coming from and how they will be presented when they get to you.
Finding suppliers in your area is a good place to start with green procurement. Are there any local companies that can supply your business with what it needs? Rather than sourcing products online, ask around in your locale. Some smaller suppliers may not have a massive online presence but do business via word-of-mouth and be just as good at it.
Additional tips: check if your suppliers offer a service where they take back packaging for reuse. In terms of logistics, find couriers who commit to carbon-neutral delivery methods.
There’s no denying we’ve firmly entered into the digital era. Yet the use of paper in your business is inevitable - particularly if you’re sending out letters and direct mail which require envelopes. Make the easy switch to eco-friendly envelopes, and envelopes which are reusable. Reusable envelopes reduce costs on envelope spend and acquisition expenses by eliminating the need for a separate reply envelope in your mailings - they simply reverse. You save on operating costs, cut warehousing needs and reduce waste: benefits both you and your customers can appreciate.
If your company deals in high volumes and is ordering 500k or more, or requires envelope printing, it’s important to procure from a company that can responsibly deliver on your request, by considering the impact a high-volume order can have on the environment.
A small, but effective tip: by ensuring your mailing lists are up to date, you avoid sending out unnecessary letters, thus saving the paper, printing, and postage.
4. Web Hosting
Running all the servers in the US is equivalent to running five nuclear power plants. That’s a lot of environmental damage! Servers have to run at all times, so is your company’s website causing a consistent drain on environmental resources?
With green hosting, on the other hand, you can ensure that part of the energy comes from a renewable power source. Apart from being friendly to the environment, green web hosting is also affordable. The hosting company itself has already saved money by choosing to make its own energy. Thus, it passes the savings to its consumers, making green hosting a more affordable option than the traditional choice. For a similar cost, your company can help the environment while gaining the trust of your customers and keeping your business available online at all times.
Over 17 billion pounds of office furniture and equipment in the U.S. is sent to landfill every year. This waste - typically a result of necessary changes like moving, branch closures or refurbishing projects - poses a significant problem since the materials should not be going to landfill in the first place.
For example, a typical desk chair is made of dozens of different materials and chemicals. Since most furniture and equipment is also made of wood, metal and plastic and has a long lifetime, the products can be effectively repurposed. These materials are also considered scarce resources and hazardous if not disposed of properly, meaning recycling or repurposing should be the first option.
Ask yourself, ‘Does my office really need new furniture?’ Is there a way of updating or upcycling the older pieces? It's less expensive than buying new, and it’s better for the environment.
More and more businesses are embracing renewable energy in a big way as they begin to feel the impacts of the climate crisis where it matters most: their bottom lines. Many are finding that there’s an awful lot of green to be made in a renewable energy-powered economy.
Power your office with alternative energy which is generated from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, geothermal, hydropower and plant matter.
As wind and solar energy achieve cost competitiveness with fossil fuels, addressing the climate crisis has become an economic imperative. Previously green energy incentives were only available to larger businesses, but now smaller businesses want in.
Green electricity sales in the form of voluntary power purchase agreements grew by 4% in 2015, notes the National Energy Renewable Laboratory. Contracted green power sales from those deals grew by 13% in 2015, it adds, and now total 10.2 million megawatt hours demonstrating the thirst for green energy to be available to all.
Whereas a traditional power purchase agreement, for example, might require a company to buy 100 megawatts and it would last 20 years, the contract now offered to the smaller businesses might be for 10 megawatts over 10 years.
7. Computers and Accessories
There are a few ways you can recycle your businesses' old computers and computer accessories. First of all, when you buy a new replacement computer ask your vendor if they will take back (or even buy back) your old one. Companies like Dell and HP have asset recycling programs that do just this.
It also pays to check with your local office supplies store to see what they offer in terms of e-waste recycling programs. Find more information on Computer Recycling in the U.S. You might even be able to bag a tax deduction by donating computers which are less than five years old and still in decent working condition to organizations that will refurbish them.
Implement these smart tips to defend the planet and promote a safe, sustainable future. They might seem like small steps, but they go a long way to reduce your footprint on the environment, and makes a big impression to your customers and potential customers.
Is it easy being green?
These may seem like small, baby steps, but incremental changes go a long way in fighting the good fight on behalf of our planet. They are simple to implement, and can make a big impression on customers too. Maintaining momentum to provide the so-called ‘greener future’ can have far-reaching consequences, so it’s pivotal for businesses to assume responsibility and be held accountable in terms of global footprint and promoting a positive and sustainable future.