Going green doesn't have to be hard. Here are some simple ways to get started.
Both individuals and businesses have a part to play in mitigating the effects of climate change. But many companies fail to commit to reducing their eco-footprints.
It’s true that implementing environmentally friendly policies can require some financial investments and shifts in how your company operates. But after the initial transition, most companies find they’re able to conduct their business more efficiently (and even reduce costs) by adopting an environmental ethic. It’s a win-win: Doing good for the planet can amount to doing good for your company’s bottom line. The great thing is you can keep environmental policies as basic or as large-scale as you’d like. There are so many eco-friendly business practices available to companies of all sizes and industries.
No matter whether your business has environmentalism built into its core values or it’s just starting to consider going green, think of the following list of strategies as a “choose your own adventure” guide to reducing your company’s eco-footprint.
Reduce paper usage
Collectively, paper accounts for around 35 percent of businesses’ waste streams (not to mention all the trees required to produce paper in the first place). So reducing your company’s paper usage is a simple way to make a big impact on your eco-footprint. Adopt any or all of the following strategies as part of your paper reduction plan:
- Encourage employees to refrain from printing emails unless absolutely necessary.
- Instead of printing out and storing important files in physical folders or storage boxes, back them up digitally on an external drive.
- Encourage employees to utilize electronic signatures so even documents that need to be signed don’t need to be printed.
- Utilize services that allow you to remove your business’ name from the Direct Marketing Association’s prospect list. This will cut down on junk mail that comes through the office only to be discarded.
- Switch to electronic invoicing and payment systems.
- When you do print, use recycled paper and print double-sided.
- Keep your mailing lists up to date so you’re not needlessly sending out mail that will never be seen by the person it was meant to reach.
Reduce energy waste
Small energy drains can add up to massive energy waste. Eliminating unnecessary energy consumption can make a massive dent in your company’s eco-footprint (and reduce your electricity bills, to boot). For example, just turning off electronic equipment when it’s not in use can reduce energy consumption by as much as 25 percent. Here are a few other strategies for reducing energy waste:
- Turn off all lights and appliances when the office shuts down at night.
- Utilize light sensors during the day so lights automatically shut off when a room is empty. In lieu of this, encourage employees to turn off the lights when they leave their offices and whenever they’re the last person to leave a room.
- Install energy efficient electronics and lighting (such as CFL bulbs) throughout the building.
- Audit the building’s insulation to ensure heating and cooling systems are operating as efficiently as possible.
- If possible, use alternative energy (such as wind or solar power) to power the office building.
Get serious about recycling
Recycling is such a simple way to reduce waste and ensure materials and products are utilized as much as possible before ending up in a landfill. This will also reduce the amount of virgin materials required to manufacture these products. Up your company’s recycling game with the following strategies:
- Make recycling bins accessible in common areas, near printers, in the office kitchen, in the mail room and so on. Include easy-to-follow information regarding what can and can’t be recycled.
- Develop a recycling program for electronics. E-waste is a growing problem worldwide. Your company can do its part by donating used electronics to be refurbished, investigating whether the items’ manufacturers have take-back programs or recycling them through appropriate channels.
- If possible, institute a composting program in the cafeteria or kitchen.
Reuse whenever possible
Not only can investing in used furniture and other office equipment reduce your company’s impact on the environment, but it can also save you money. Likewise for purchasing items that can be used over and over again. For example, Brooklyn’s carbon-neutral Little Cupcake Bakeshop reportedly saves $9,000 that would have been spent on disposable cups, lids, and sleeves every year simply by utilizing reusable porcelain mugs.
Minimize work travel
Your business’ eco-footprint extends beyond the office building. You can substantially reduce employees’ carbon emissions by encouraging the following green travel strategies:
- Offer an incentive program for employees who walk, bike, take public transportation or carpool together to get to work.
- Whenever possible, encourage employees to take the bus or train (rather than a plane) for business trips. Obviously, this isn’t feasible in the case of long-distance trips, but it certainly is for shorter ones.
- When possible, use video conferencing as opposed to business travel.
- If your company has a car fleet, invest in a hybrid or electric cars.
Consider the source
If you’re truly invested in reducing your business’ eco-footprint, then you can double (or triple, or quadruple) your impact by working with other companies who share the same values. Examine every stage of your supply chain to determine whether your company could be utilizing greener products or working with more eco-friendly suppliers. You’ll be in good company: More and more businesses are investing in green supply chains. For example, the Sands Las Vegas Corporation reportedly works with Hewlett Packard and General Electric in large part because of their sustainability commitments. Even smaller companies, such as the mattress supplier Zenhaven, are now investing in natural and eco-friendly materials. Not only is this good for the environment, but it’s good for business: Consumers increasingly expect transparency from brands about how their products are sourced and are more willing to invest in ethical supply chains.
Green your cleaning
The harsh chemicals in toxic cleaning products inevitably wind up in the environment. Switching to biodegradable cleaners is a simple but effective way to reduce your eco-footprint. As an added bonus, you’ll cut down on your employees’ exposure to indoor air pollution. Take this a step further by investing in living plants for the office — they’ll help clean up the air and keep employees healthier. For any of these policies to stick, eco-friendliness needs to become a core part of your company’s culture. When executives and managers model environmental ethics and encourage eco-friendly behaviors, employees are more likely to follow suit.
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