The business world has a poor reputation in terms of protecting the environment. Whether you think that reputation is deserved or not, the business community is poised to become a prime factor in sustainable development. It may seem daunting, but any company can start going green without breaking the bank. Here are five strategies for sustainability in your business.
Efficiency is always the first step to building a sustainable operation. It also makes good business sense. Your priority should be to determine how wasteful your energy usage currently is. Commissioning a professional energy audit is the preferred way to start. The cost of an audit varies widely, and DIY audits are possible if you know what to look for. In other words, research and find suitable energy management solutions that work for you. Outdated appliances, inefficient lighting, and poor insulation are all culprits in office energy waste. Take a critical look at your infrastructure and learn where you can be more efficient.
Another worthwhile choice your business can make is to partner with other green companies. It creates a trickle-down effect. When responsible companies partner with the same, they drive commitment to sustainable development throughout the supply chain. One consideration is green packaging solutions. Packaging from plant-based materials like bamboo and cornstarch can replace non-biodegradable styrofoam packing peanuts. Look for post-consumer paper and plastics as well. Ensure that every company you do business with has at least some commitment to ecological responsibility.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse gases in the U.S. Transportation accounts for 27% of greenhouse gas emissions, with light vehicles taking 57% of the share. Consider adding electric vehicles (EVs) to your company fleet. If you don’t have a dedicated fleet, or if that option is too costly, a few simple driving hacks can increase your gas mileage considerably.
Expanding work-from-home alternatives also helps. When employees don’t need to commute, overall emissions go down. Project management suites like Basecamp can help bring people together without costly commutes.
The most decisive and radical shift you can make is to adopt renewable energy sources. Green energy is becoming more affordable all the time. According to the Center for Sustainable Energy, the average residential solar panel system costs about $3 to $5 per watt. Solar isn’t the only sustainable energy option, merely one of the more versatile. Additionally, many incentives at the local, state, and federal levels are available to aid in offsetting the cost of installation.
Besides protecting the environment, installing renewable energy can increase resiliency in a disaster by removing your operations from the vulnerable energy grid. Incorporating renewables indeed comes with an initial outlay of resources. That said, it might be a long-term investment you should consider.
A holistic approach to sustainability means seeing yourself and your company as part of the environment rather than in conflict with it. Many high-impact, systemic changes can be accomplished with surprising simplicity. Daylighting is one good example. The term means using natural daylight in your office whenever possible instead of defaulting to artificial light. Adding plant life to your office isn’t just a morale booster. A classic study by NASA revealed that several common houseplants greatly benefit air quality.
If your company has the necessary resources, consider building your facilities using green architectural design. Biomimicry is an innovative principle in which industrial and design processes mimic the form and function of natural things. A classic example is designing buildings to resemble termite mounds. Those mounds have incredible self-cooling capabilities. Realizing that we are a part of the world is vital to lasting sustainability.
Around the world, entrepreneurs and companies are stepping up to meet the challenge of protecting the environment for future generations. Start with these tips, and grow your solutions from there.