We have roles to play as inhabitants of this planet. One of those roles is to be good stewards of the planet's resources.
Now, being environmentally friendly is mandatory, especially when we are faced with the grim reality that the speed of humans' consumption is much higher than the replenishing capabilities of the Earth.
A new report by Circle Economy found that only 8.6% of the minerals, biomass, metals and fossil fuels in the world’s economy are reused, with 91.4% of these resources being lost forever.
At the same time, consumption has risen by 8%, marking the first year in history that world consumption has surpassed 110 billion tons.
While it’s true that we as individuals have an obligation to reduce our current consumption — especially those of us living in industrialized nations, who use up nearly 10 times more resources than people living in non-industrialized regions — it’s crucial to acknowledge that corporations are a major driving force behind overconsumption.
Need to name the biggest culprits? They are unsustainable business models based on consumerism and companies that exploit the global supply chain by importing materials and exporting waste.
In business, everything comes at a cost. It takes resources to create a product from raw material, more resources to introduce that product to market, and still more to distribute the product.
With this in mind, business owners must acknowledge that they have a broader responsibility in caring for the environment. Why not turn this responsibility into an opportunity to gain an edge on reducing consumption?
As a business owner, you have the power to help reduce humankind’s environmental footprint by reforming your business practices to be more sustainable.
That’s why developing a crisis management plan that involves potential environmental crises is critical in ensuring business success.
You also have the opportunity to empower your employees to be more eco-friendly, whether at home or on the job.
Here are some ideas for how you can shift your company’s culture to one of greater environmental consciousness from the ground up.
Educate On Resource Consumption
The first step to promoting an environmentally friendly lifestyle is to educate yourself and your employees about energy consumption.
Look for opportunities to unobtrusively educate your clients and staff about their energy consumption levels and how they can be more mindful in areas of the office they are likely to frequent.
For example, consider leaving a reminder to turn off the light after exiting the room next to light switches in your office building (If you have motion-sensor light switches, even better!).
Or, you might place a sticker on the bathroom mirror that says something like, “The average person uses 80 to 110 gallons of water daily. Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth and in between washing hands and dishes to save nearly 40 gallons per day!”
You might put a sign in the office kitchen reminding employees to use one paper towel at a time and to bring their own silverware and dishware. Encouraging energy and resource-saving habits at the office makes it much more likely that employees will exercise the same reflexes at home.
Develop a Responsible Waste Disposal Program
Even the most environmentally conscious person is going to inevitably produce waste. For those not committed to a completely zero-waste lifestyle (like most of us), it’s important to know how to dispose of waste properly.
Not everyone is mindful of where their trash goes and what its impact is on the environment. You can start making your employees more mindful of the waste they generate by implementing a responsible waste disposal program through clearly segregated waste bins.
Don’t forget about compost! Composting is easier than you think, and it saves a lot of valuable waste from the landfill. The United States Environmental Protection estimates that yard trimmings and food residuals constitute 20 to 30% of solid waste.
Instead of sending that waste to rot in landfills, you might consider a mini compost bin which you can then use to fertilize some beautiful office greenery.
Rescuing your recyclables and compostables from going to the landfill has a direct impact on air and water quality — it has been shown that landfills considerably reduce both of these.
Did you know that the water bottle it took you 20 minutes to drink will spend 450 years in a landfill before breaking down? That’s just one example of why it’s so important to separate recyclables from garbage.
For those who don’t know what scrap goes where it helps to have a poster on or near the bins that breaks it down for reference. Separate trash as such:
Recycling Paper, glass, and metal material, including:
Newspapers, magazines, etc.
Metal containers, including tin, aluminum, and steel cans
Glass bottles and jars.
TIP: Only clean paper, glass, and metal can be recycled. Items with food or other residues (such as grease, oil, etc.) cannot be recycled.
Compost Raw, organic materials including:
Any non-animal food scraps
Rotten fruits and vegetables
Leaves and grass clippings
Compostable paper products like some napkins, dishware, and utensils.
TIP: Many more items can be composted with some prep time, including nutshells, non-glossy paper, cardboard, cloth made of natural fibers, sawdust, pinecones, and fruit pits.
Landfill All other garbage
TIP: The items that are acceptable and safe for landfills depend on your municipality. Only non-hazardous garbage should go into landfills.
You should properly dispose of hazardous waste as well. This includes old computer parts, batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, old paint cans, and more.
Turning off the lights when you exit a room is not the only way to conserve energy in your office. There are dozens of ways to save energy; some of them may be things you’ve never even considered before.
You can start by upgrading your old fixtures and appliances. Modern LED light fixtures, for example, use 75% less energy and can last up to 25 years longer, making them a sound investment. Just think how much money you’ll save over time by switching to such an energy-efficient upgrade!
Remind employees to turn off their computers after a shift. Make electrical outlets accessible so employees can easily plug and unplug appliances when needed.
Those who own their property can consider renewable energy sources as well. Not everyone has the resources to install the largest wind microturbine array in the country like Intel.
Still, the very least you can do is look into geothermal sources for heating and solar panels for electricity.
Go Paperless Using Renewable Energy
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency report, the country generated almost 68 million tons of paper and paperboard waste in 2018.
The numbers don’t have to be that way. Going paperless is a viable option, after all. Not only does it make your documents more accessible, but cloud storage also makes them more resistant to environmental hazards like water and fire.
However, using digital files in lieu of paper isn’t as simple a switch as you might think, and data about its impact on the environment is not so straightforward. Saying that a paperless office is better for the environment is somewhat misleading. It largely depends on your specific needs and how you will be replacing paper.
While going paperless can indeed save a lot of trees from being cut, going digital might be more detrimental in the long run if your electricity is coming from a coal mine company responsible for mountaintop removal.
Evidence shows that coal mining is a major contributor to global warming and is also a significant cause of biodiversity loss, deforestation, and stream pollution. As demand for digital files grows, so will data centers’ energy use. It’s estimated that our device and internet use accounts for 3.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions — no small number.
It’s worth noting that paper is recyclable. Electricity is not. So, if you’re going to go paperless, commit to it, and use renewable energy rather than fossil fuels. This is an excellent decision for your finances and brand image as well.
In addition, consider using lightweight digital tools like TMetric for time tracking: this way, employees and employers alike get a perfect solution for putting a stop to clunky paper business management.
By switching to renewable energy, you can save money, lower your tax bracket, and make your company more appealing to businesspeople and consumers who place weight on a company’s eco-friendliness when considering whether to trade with them.
Reduce the Company’s Carbon Footprint
Another pressing issue is the carbon footprint made by companies on manufacturing, fuel emissions (especially in work-related transportation), and electricity usage.
According to Amazon, they have experienced a total carbon footprint increase of 15%, mainly from emissions coming from indirect sources (use of equipment and vehicles included) in 2019.
They aim to reach zero carbon by 2040. Yes, even for such a big enterprise like Amazon, reaching zero is a long journey. Just remember that every step is important and worth it. You can start by choosing certain aspects in your organization that you’d want to improve on.
For instance, if you want to reduce your carbon footprint through fuel emissions, then you can consider the following:
✅ buy items in bulk to reduce transportation
✅encourage carpooling amongst your employees
✅ provide perks for those who would volunteer their vehicles
✅ increase and secure parking spots for bikes and eco-friendly transport.
You can consider giving your employees an option to work remotely. In this way, they won’t have to drive to work each day. You’ll get to make the most out of your paperless digital platform.
At the same time, reduce the resources that your office consumes, especially if it’s coming from a non-renewable resource (another huge culprit behind the country’s high carbon emission).
Support Same-Minded Companies
When was the last time you have checked with your partners? Are you aware of how they manage their business? Are their policies ethical? Do they support the same cause? Unfortunately, green companies, especially smaller businesses, don’t get the attention and support they deserve.
Everyone knows that money is a great motivator, and the same is especially true in business. Making the bold decision to only trade with companies that use renewable energy and use environmentally sound business practices creates both social and financial pressure on other companies to do the same.
By taking this stand, you can be the catalyst in setting off a chain reaction of environmentally conscious business reforms.
Create a domino effect of encouragement and positive environmental impact by supporting vendors, suppliers, and groups that align with your own eco-friendly vision.
Do your part in strengthening the community and prove to your employees how serious you are in your efforts 一 even if it means switching up your partners and even potentially losing a percent of your revenue.
Color Your Culture Green
Finally, make a lasting impression by incorporating green thinking into your company culture. You will not only encourage your employees to think more conscientiously, but it will also significantly boost the job satisfaction levels of your workers that do care.
According to a study by Cone Communications, 74% of employees say that their job is more fulfilling when involved in decisions that make a positive environmental or social impact.
What’s more, 70% of respondents would be more loyal to a company that contributes to issues they deem important.
From a business perspective, green always looks good. The brand reputation earned by a company for its responsible use of resources is also invaluable. Some companies that experience environmental hazard disasters, like chemical spills and nuclear radiation, never recover.
People actively respond by boycotting a company when they find out it is not environmentally responsible. Can you imagine the damage that a chemical leak or a non-cruelty-free scandal can do? Remember, the best way to avoid a crisis is by not creating one in the first place. Being eco-friendly is a mission that should be a part of any responsible business.
The ideas towards a greener company are endless; you’ll likely discover plenty more when you evaluate your business from every angle.
We hope you’ll take inspiration from the above ideas and step up to play your part in preserving the planet for the generations that will inherit it.
Mike Abelson is the Editorial Director at Lendza. He enjoys helping entrepreneurs and startups succeed through smart, innovative strategies.
He’s partnered with CEOs and executives to grow businesses from the ground up. Before his work at Lendza, Mike was a stock market analyst. When he’s not traveling for work, he enjoys reading adventure and science fiction novels.