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How do I make my business more sustainable?

Sustainability is the forward thinking and use of current resources in all aspects of life. Read more about the definition of sustainability and why this has become a trending movement in our article on founder friends: what is sustainability?

Sustainability in Business

In business, “sustainability” used to have a simple meaning that referred to a company’s ability to sustain its operations and increase its profits. Today, the term encompasses much more than commercial success – it often refers to the energy-efficient and environmentally friendly practices, a green economy, that a company employs with the well-being of the environment and society in mind.

Even with existing office space and limited budgets, businesses can incorporate sustainability into their day-to-day operations that deliver a significant return on investment – for the environment and their economic success.

There are surprising ways businesses can save money by looking at where their shortcomings lie and implementing green practices into the corporate culture and structure.

Here’s how you too can implement sustainability in your business and take a greener path towards the green economy in your everyday life.

Start small:

Since employee acceptance can be a hurdle to implementing environmentally friendly programs, it’s a good idea to start with small, highly visible programs that deliver measurable results when implementing sustainability.

Consider starting a recycling program or switching to energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs – which use up to 75 percent less energy than traditional light bulbs. Initiatives like these can help create the buy-in needed for a larger program toward sustainability.

Examine your energy waste:

Heating and cooling are the main source of energy consumption in commercial buildings, according to statistics, but upgrading to high-efficiency models is a significant expense for most businesses. Just as homeowners are advised to find areas where conditioned air is wasted before purchasing energy-efficient windows or solar panels, it’s also a good idea for business owners or management to start asking themselves, “Are we using energy wisely?”

It’s estimated that office buildings waste up to one-third of the energy they use. Heating and cooling unused spaces is a common reason for this energy waste on a day-to-day basis. When possible, partition off unused spaces and reduce the amount of conditioned air they receive.

Other cost-effective ways to reduce energy costs include making sure the room has a properly calibrated and properly programmed thermostat that is set to turn on less frequently outside of office hours. If you have control over the heating and cooling systems, make sure they are regularly maintained to keep them working optimally.

Use smart lighting:

After heating and cooling costs, lighting is the second largest source of energy consumption for a business, and “general” lighting is one of the components with the largest carbon footprint.

There is too much general lighting in offices in the vast majority of companies. What is needed is targeted task lighting. This can reduce the CO2 footprint.

Give your employees the opportunity to determine for themselves how much light they need in their work area during their working day. In infrequently used spaces like kitchen areas or hallways, install dimmer switches or occupancy sensors that turn on lights when motion is detected.

Consider the life cycle of office products:

Behind the products used in everyday office operations is an entire life cycle that can have minimal or massive impacts on the environment. Office paper, in particular, is one of the biggest sources of waste. According to official estimates, a typical company disposes of about 350 pounds of waste paper per employee per year.

Businesses can reduce their consumption – and costs – by encouraging employees to make simple changes to company culture, such as keeping files in digital format, printing paper on both sides, offering to email receipts to customers, and including a reminder in their email signature that encourages recipients to think twice before printing the message.

Another way to become more sustainable is to use office paper that is high in post-consumer waste (PCW) or certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which means the paper comes from responsibly managed forests.

Buy local

Part of the lifecycle of an office product is the journey it takes to get to your business – which requires fuel and releases carbon dioxide, so look for local sources.

Improve your recycling

Recycling is a key principle in climate change mitigation – remember the early days of “reduce, reuse, recycle”? But implementing it inside your day-to-day job can be a challenge.

To improve understanding – and compliance with climate laws – make sure recycling is separated from waste bins by clearly labeling or even color-coding each bin and posting sheets with examples of items that can be recycled.

Not only will your company send less waste to the landfill, but you could notice fewer charges on your waste bill. By implementing a recycling program, you can reduce your trash costs by 60 to 70 percent.

Even if your location isn’t currently serviced by a recycling provider, it’s worth checking with your trash hauler. Taking recycling to a recycling center is often cost-effective for the hauler as well.

Compost food waste

Think about all those half-eaten salads and sandwiches that fill up office trash cans – and sometimes stink. Composting programs are one way to reduce waste even further and can lower a company’s disposal costs even if you’re unable or unwilling to start a DIY program on site.

Reduce water consumption

According to official data, restrooms account for 37 percent of water consumption in an office building.

By installing automatic faucets or low-flow toilets, you can reduce water consumption while preparing for future water rate increases.

Due in large part to climate change legislation, the cost of water and wastewater services has risen at a rate well above the Consumer Price Index over the past 10 years. And you can expect these and other utility costs to continue to rise to offset the cost of replacing aging water systems.

Reduce stormwater runoff

While water conservation is an important component of sustainable businesses, it’s equally important to reduce stormwater runoff, which often flows into the sewer system.

Especially in office complexes with green spaces, large rooftops, and expansive, impervious parking lots, capturing rainwater can reduce water pollution and water scarcity while lowering a property’s water costs. Strategically placed rain gardens can capture runoff water, while rain barrels capture water that can be used to irrigate green spaces.

Always ask, “What’s next?”

Because to achieve real results in your company’s culture, you need to make a long-term commitment to green practices in your corporate structure

Climate action can’t be a one-time thing. If green economy is to have a big impact, it has to be a process.

Implementing sustainability also involves putting policies in place that create a foundation for larger change. In terms of energy-efficient purchasing, for example, it’s a good idea to include a clause in procurement contracts that says, “Supplier must: Offer products that are Energy Star rated and meet Energy Star specifications for energy efficiency.

6 Ways to Save Resources in Office Spaces:

  1. Switch from “general” lighting to task lighting.
  2. Avoid heating and cooling unused spaces.
  3. Buy local and/ or sustainable office supplies.
  4. Reduce paper use.
  5. Initiate recycling and composting programs.
  6. Consider installing a rainwater retention system.

How to make your business more sustainable©


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