“Going green” is a popular phrase these days. But what does it really mean? And what might it mean for your business?
When a person, household or organization “goes green,” it means they are going to examine the way they function to see where they can be more environmentally-friendly. Being a friend to the environment is to consider how every part of your business may affect the environment as a whole. Going green can seem overwhelming, so many experts recommend starting slow with processes that are easy to change, and work your way up from there.
One Step at a Time
The old idiom, “Reduce, reuse, recycle” has not changed. If you are puzzled as to where you should start, start with reducing your production of waste. Unless your office is paperless, there is probably a lot in paper waste coming out of your workplace. Talk with your waste management organization about recycling. Most will accept paper, and many will accept some forms of plastics. They may even provide recycling bins at no additional charge. Another thing many don’t think about is ink cartridges which can also be recycled.
Consider the office kitchen, as well. Target recycling of products purchased for office use and disposable items employees have brought in. Toss out the Styrofoam and stock up on compostable plates, bowls, cups, and utensils. Compostable items are made from materials that are easily biodegradable, so they do not necessarily have to be recycled. They can be composted instead. A positive feature to these products is that many of them are made from products that are easily renewable, helping your business to reduce its carbon footprint.
These baby steps do not need to cost your business more. In fact, they may save you a great deal of money. For example, implementing a program to recycle your ink and toner cartridges always surprises people by how much it can save. Refilling your cartridges instead of throwing them away reduces waste and reuses items that would otherwise sit in a landfill. But refilling is also cheaper.
If your business’s use of printing services is heavy, you could save a bundle. It is the same with your paper usage. If you take steps toward a paperless office (e.g. emailing instead of fax machines), you will use less paper. As such, you will need to buy less paper.
Green Your Employees
If you want your business to be more environmentally-friendly and sustainable, you must get buy-in from your employees. Since most of your employees already take steps at home to reduce their footprint, this may not be too difficult. But you will find more impressive results if you do whatever you can to make it a simple and practical choice for them. When you implement a broad recycling program, for instance, offer a brief training session for your employees on what they should be recycling and where they can find the bins.
Larger corporations are designating part-or-full-time “green teams” to discuss, propose and implement sustainability plans. This person or group can really take your “greenifying” to the next step. For example, if you have chosen to purchase compostable products for the kitchen or employee break room, why not start a composting program? Your green team could set aside a minimal amount of time for compost maintenance, and use the results to improve the health and beauty of office plants.
The bottom line is to make going green fun and easy for your employees. Make recycling policies easy to find, right above the bins. When you are implementing new programs, start contests between departments with prizes for the group that best follows the new rules. If your company has a carpooling program, or if you are thinking of starting one, designate a few parking spaces near the business entrance for carpools.
Green From the Ground Up
If you are looking to take this to a higher level, go green from the get-go. When constructing a new office building, or undergoing a major renovation, aim for a LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Leader in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) provides a set of building standards to those involved in every step of construction and maintenance. In order for a building to be LEED-certified, a third-party will determine that certain green building strategies have been followed and that certain elements are present for a building that provides the least carbon footprint and the greatest sustainability.
One of the ways to get credits for LEED certification is to use alternate forms of energy. If you have the means, build solar panels on your office roof or place wind turbines on the property. But green energy does not have to be so complicated. It may be as simple as buying renewable energy credits from your energy provider. These credits are effectively an agreement between you and your provider that the provider will obtain that energy from a sustainable source.
Going green can seem a daunting task. But with the variety of options available currently, and the fact that every little bit helps, you can easily be as green as you want to be.