Perhaps you’ve heard of other companies taking steps to become more eco-conscious and have wondered if this is something your business should consider. In short, the answer is yes. As it becomes more clear how much of an impact businesses have historically had on our environment, it’s time for businesses to use that knowledge to make positive changes that will help the environment and reduce their ecological footprint going forward.
There are some serious benefits a company can enjoy when they go green that go beyond the immediate goal of helping the environment. If you want to help the environment and start capitalizing on the benefits to your business, your company can make changes this year to become more eco-conscious. In this guide, we’ll discuss 14 resolutions you can make this year that add up to major strides toward a more sustainable business.
Why Make Environmental Resolutions?
Why should your business resolve to be more eco-conscious in 2020? The most obvious reason is that you can have a positive impact on the environment. While your impact may seem small on its own, it’s still valuable. As more businesses take steps toward sustainability, all of these efforts add up and can truly make a difference.
Of course, environmental resolutions are aimed at helping the environment, but that’s not all. Eco-conscious business practices can also help your business. There are two main benefits companies can reap when they become greener: reduced costs and a boost in their reputation. These are both factors that can help your bottom line.
Depending on the size of your business, you could save millions of dollars by adopting greener practices. These savings tend to come primarily in the form of reduced energy costs and reduced waste across the board. There is no downside to increasing the efficiency of your business operations — it helps the environment and helps you maximize profits.
In addition to the direct financial benefits, your business can also enjoy an enhanced reputation when you choose to go green. One study found 81 percent of global consumers have a strong belief that companies should do their part to help improve the environment. These consumers care about issues like air pollution, water pollution, packaging waste, food waste, water shortages and the use of pesticides.
As awareness of environmental issues continues to increase, eco-conscious practices are becoming the expectation for businesses rather than a novelty. Still, companies who make an extra effort to works toward environmental conservation can be seen as leaders in their industries and can receive special attention from eco-conscious consumers.
In addition to improving your image among consumers, you can also appeal to talented potential employees who want to work for an eco-conscious company. Three-quarters of millennial workers say they would be willing to accept a smaller salary if it meant working for an environmentally responsible company. While making changes may seem complicated or expensive initially, you may be able to cash in on some very real benefits.
14 Eco-Conscious Resolutions to Make in Your Business Today
Of course, every industry and business has its own ways of making improvements, but there are some changes that make sense for most businesses — changes that will help the environment and your business. Even if you adopt just one or two of these resolutions this year, you can make a valuable change and likely experience motivation to continue making positive changes in the years to come.
1. Choose Eco-Friendly Vendors and Materials
One way you can take steps toward becoming a more eco-conscious company is by evaluating the companies you’re currently partnered with. Do all the vendors in your supply chain share your commitment to sustainability? If not, it may be time to consider switching vendors. Some examples of various types of businesses that switch to more eco-friendly vendors and materials include:
- Offices: Businesses that work out of offices purchase large quantities of supplies — and in many cases, these supplies are not designed to be sustainable. Consider the fact that Americans throw away roughly 1,600,000,000 pens a year. If your office is using disposable pens, that’s an easy switch you could make to refillable pens. Another easy change would be to switch your standard copy paper to recycled paper. In some cases, you may even want to partner with a new vendor who offers more sustainable products.
- Manufacturing: Manufacturing businesses should look at every step of their supply chain to root out any environmentally irresponsible materials or practices that go into making their product. In some cases, this will mean switching vendors to one that is committed to using sustainable or recycled materials and eco-friendly processes. It could also mean working with your current partners to make positive changes.
- Construction: Many construction companies can also reevaluate the products and partners that characterize their business. While the materials you use will likely differ from project to project, look for ways to use more eco-friendly building materials, sourced from environmentally responsible manufacturers. Some examples include recycled concrete, plastic composite lumber and wool bricks. You should also avoid materials that emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
2. Replace Equipment With Energy-Efficient Models
Consider what equipment your business relies on. Is this equipment energy-efficient? If not, replacing these models with newer, more efficient models is an easy way to reduce your energy consumption. Less energy usage means a smaller ecological footprint and lower utility bills. In almost every industry, the equipment necessary comes in a range of makes and models that are more or less energy efficient. Some examples of businesses that can improve the efficiency of their equipment include:
- Manufacturing: For manufacturing facilities, the equipment used can consume a great deal of energy. Manufacturers can reduce their energy use by replacing key systems, such as compressed air, process heating and motors, with updated, energy-efficient models. In some cases, you may be able to improve the efficiency of existing equipment by placing a higher priority on ongoing maintenance tasks or by otherwise enhancing the equipment.
- Industrial kitchens and restaurants: In the case of industrial kitchens and restaurants, equipment like refrigerators, freezers, mixers, ovens, dishwashers and more can all be swapped out for more efficient models.
- Offices: Businesses that operate out of offices can also upgrade their equipment to more energy-efficient models. When shopping for electronic equipment, such as printers, copiers, computers and more, look for Energy Star certified office equipment.
Investing in more energy-efficient equipment may involve an upfront cost, but it is likely to pay off over time as you reap the benefits of reduced energy use. Especially if the equipment is nearing the end of its lifespan, this is the perfect opportunity to choose new equipment that will help you make your operations more efficient and sustainable.
3. Update Your Lighting
One simple way you can reduce your energy usage is by upgrading your facility’s lighting. There are a few different ways you can improve your current lighting, including:
- Capitalizing on natural light: Look for ways to introduce more natural light into your facility, whether that means creating better sight-lines from windows to interior workspaces, removing window covers or adding skylights and windows. The more natural light you let in, the less you will need to supplement with artificial lighting. Plus, employees will enjoy the change. One study compiled a wealth of research that suggests natural light is one of the most valuable perks to office workers.
- Installing motion sensors: If you find lights are often left on when no one is in the room, you can prevent this waste by installing motion sensors on timers that will cause the light to go off on its own if the sensor detects the room is empty. These are an especially popular option for restrooms and any rooms that are not continuously occupied during the day.
- Focusing on task lighting: General overhead lighting is typically a necessity, but if you rely on overhead lights to illuminate every nook and cranny of your facility, you’ll end up using a great deal of energy. A helpful solution is to install task lights, such as track lighting or lamps, in areas where workers need extra light to do their work and to reduce your use of overhead lights.
- Upgrading light bulbs: More energy-efficient light bulbs are a major improvement on traditional incandescent bulbs. Halogen incandescents and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are both more energy-efficient options, but light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are the most energy-efficient option. They use just 20 to 25 percent of the energy traditional incandescent bulbs use. Plus, LEDs last eight to 25 times longer than halogen incandescents and 15 to 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
4. Reduce Your Paper Usage
You may have heard companies talk about “going paperless.” The reality is that most industries still depend on paper for certain things, but even if you cannot completely eliminate your need for paper, there is always room for improvement. Your company may be using more paper than you realize. The average office worker in the U.S. goes through approximately 10,000 sheets of paper every year.
So, how can you reduce your paper usage? Even if you need to use paper for external communications, such as sending records or advertisements to people by mail, you can focus on your internal use of paper and see where you can opt for digital records and communication instead.
One way you can step a major step forward in reducing your dependence on paper is by using cloud computing to share documents. Cloud computing services make it possible to access documents stored on a central server from a variety of devices. This minimizes the need to pass printed documents around.
In this digital age, things that used to be standard, such as giving printed agendas to each employee at a meeting, are no longer a necessity for companies committed to going paperless. Instead, you can email the agenda or share it online, and allow employees to view it from their own devices, either before or during the meeting.
Since every business’s needs are different, take a close look at your own operations and look for any instances where you can avoid printing something and share the information some other way.
5. Recycle Paper and Plastic Waste
In addition to reducing the amount of paper your business uses, you can resolve to recycle the paper waste you create. Employees can be tempted to toss a no-longer-needed piece of paper in the trash, but with multiple employees over time, this can greatly increase the waste your company creates. Some documents are sensitive and, therefore, need to be shredded. Some recycling services will not take these paper shreds, but you may be able to contract with a shredding service that will collect the shreds and bundle them to be sent to the appropriate facilities for recycling.
Plastic waste is also common in offices and other business environments. Consider, for example, disposable plastic water bottles you might hand out at meetings or plastic cups at the water cooler. Some businesses choose to minimize their use of disposable plastics, opting instead for reusable or biodegradable options, but if you want to continue using disposable plastic products, make sure you encourage employees to recycle them when they are finished.
You likely already have recycling bins in your facility, but you should ask for input from employees about the obstacles that keep people from taking their recyclable waste to these bins. Perhaps you need to add another bin or two. It’s also likely that employees are unclear on what can and cannot be recycled.
In a recent survey, 62 percent of respondents said they worried they were recycling incorrectly due to a lack of understanding. Including graphics on your recycling bins or signs overhead that detail which types of items can and cannot be recycled should help. You can also make this a topic for a company-wide email or part of a meeting addressing your new eco-conscious resolutions.
6. Reduce Standby Power Usage
You may think you’re doing an effective job conserving energy use if you turn off equipment when your facilities are closed down or tell employees to make sure they power down their computers at the end of each day. While these are good steps to take, they fall short. Turning off equipment does not mean they stop drawing power. Many devices continue to draw energy when they are off, in some cases, similar amounts as they consume when they are on.
The energy that devices continue to draw while they are turned off is known as phantom load, vampire energy or standby power use. This issue has become more problematic as more and more devices are designed to remain on standby and connected to the internet, ready for a quick startup, while they are “off.”
The typical American household easily has about 50 devices and appliances that are constantly drawing power, so imagine how many devices and appliances are drawing power in your business’s facility. Everything from computers to coffee makers can contribute to your phantom energy load.
So, how can you reduce your company’s standby power use? To ensure your devices aren’t drawing power when your facility is shut down or employees are away, these devices should be unplugged. The simplest way to do this is to plug nearby devices into a power strip or surge protector. Then, employees can simply switch off the strip when they are ready to turn off their devices and switch back on when they’re ready to power up.
7. Use Alternative Energy Sources
If you’re looking to make a significant change, you may want to consider alternative energy sources. Renewable energy may seem like a foreign concept to some companies, but many are embracing this alternative and seeing the benefits. Renewable energy can help you power your business and lower your dependence on fossil fuels.
Solar power, in particular, has become increasingly popular among American businesses. Installing solar panels may seem like a large upfront investment, but this move can help you save a lot in the longterm. Plus, both federal and state governments offer incentives, such as tax credits, that can greatly offset the upfront cost associated with a solar grid installation. If cost is the concern keeping your company from using cleaner energy sources, find out what incentives are available to you, and conduct a cost-benefit analysis to see how much you could save over time.
Wind energy is another possibility to consider. In recent decades, the cost of land-based wind has dropped considerably. All the while, cumulative wind capacity has risen. Lower costs and exceptional capacity growth means that relying on wind energy makes good business sense. As with solar energy, investing in wind energy will save a company money over time.
As the public becomes more wary of burning fossil fuels, looking for alternative energy sources is a smart move, and as we’ve seen, it can also make a positive difference for your bottom line.
8. Use Energy-Efficient Transportation
Vehicles emit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that can be detrimental to the environment. In 2017, transportation was responsible for more GHG emissions than any other category, even electricity. Individual people can take steps to reduce their own emissions from driving, but businesses can also make an effort to promote and use more energy-efficient transportation. Some examples of these efforts include:
- Incentivizing carpooling: Even though many of your employees may live close to one another, most people drive themselves to work by default. One small step your company can take is to encourage employees to carpool to work. You can incentivize carpooling by labeling some of the best parking spots at your facility for carpooling vehicles.
- Providing charging stations: You can encourage your employees to drive plug-in hybrid or electric cars by installing charging stations in your parking lot. This can make all the difference for some employees considering purchasing a more eco-friendly vehicle. You can also provide better parking spots for hybrid and electric vehicles.
- Purchasing hybrid or electric work vehicles: Many companies have work vehicles used for logistics, service calls or other purposes. You can do your part to lower your GHG emissions by purchasing hybrid or fully electric vehicles. If you choose conventional gas vehicles, you can at least choose vehicles with impressive gas mileage.
- Reducing idling: For construction companies and other companies that rely on heavy equipment, a positive step toward better energy efficiency would be to reduce idling. Telematics technology can help make workers more aware of the times machinery is idling and can prompt them to turn off vehicles whenever they are not actively being used.
9. Responsibly Dispose of Old Electronics
As technological updates become more and more frequent, older electronics become outmoded relatively quickly. Tech updates can be very beneficial to businesses, but what about all those old electronics you no longer need? According to the United Nations, the world generated 44.7 million metric tons of e-waste in 2016, and that amount is expected to reach 52.2 million metric tons by 2021. This staggering amount of electronic waste contains many recoverable materials.
To be more eco-conscious as a company, you should dispose of electronic waste more responsibly. There are three main options for sustainable disposal:
- Take electronics to the recycler: One option is to see if there are any organizations or community programs in your area that will take your electronics and recycle them properly. This is a good option for very outdated electronics that won’t be useful to someone in need and should instead be disposed of responsibly.
- Donate electronics: Some nonprofits in your area may be willing to take electronics that are outdated but still work and give them to people in need. This could include people in your local community and people all the way to people in developing countries with limited access to electronic devices.
- Give electronics to tech companies: Another way to recycle our electronics is by giving them back to tech companies who manufactured or sold hem. Many electronics companies have created programs to take back or even buy back old electronics. Buy-back programs are especially great for companies needing to dispose of outdated devices since you can avoid putting them in a landfill and offset the cost of your new electronics.
10. Use Green Cleaning Products and Practices
A simple way to make your facility greener is by implementing more eco-conscious cleaning practices. Every business with a facility has a need to keep it clean. Unfortunately, many conventional cleaning products contain chemicals that can contribute to pollution.
If the products used to clean your facility are not advertised as green or eco-friendly, you can bet they contain some volatile components. However, if you outsource your cleaning service, you may think it is out of your hands. However, you may be able to request that your cleaning service use certain products — or you can always choose to partner with a company that only uses green cleaning products.
For businesses that have ongoing in-house cleaning tasks, such as businesses in the hospitality sector, it’s especially vital that you look for green cleaning products and that you look for ways to make your cleaning methods more sustainable. For example, some hotels now embrace more sustainable cleaning by giving guests the option to hang up their towels and continue using them rather than having them automatically go into the wash. Reducing unnecessary washing means saving water, energy and detergent, not to mention time and money.
Look for ways to make your business more eco-friendly and clean at the same time. This may seem like a small step, but even small changes can add up to a more eco-conscious company overall.
11. Reduce Your HVAC Demands
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, known collectively as HVAC, can be one of the biggest energy hogs in a business facility, just as it is at home. Especially if your facility is located in a climate with extreme outdoor temperatures during parts of the year, your HVAC system must work hard to maintain a comfortable indoor environment. Of course, the harder your heating and cooling systems have to work, the more energy your facility is using.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce your HVAC demands. Some of these steps include:
- Updating your HVAC equipment: HVAC equipment that is over a decade old or seems to be working poorly may be wasting energy. If it’s time to replace your old equipment, choose Energy Star HVAC equipment that will heat and cool your building more efficiently. This equipment may be more costly, but it will save you money over time.
- Maintaining your HVAC equipment: To work as efficiently as possible, HVAC equipment needs to be well-maintained. Annual tune-ups will help you detect any problems that need to be fixed to keep HVAC equipment at its best. You should also replace your filters every few months. A dirty filter will cause your equipment to work harder than it should have to.
- Installing a programmable thermostat: A programmable thermostat is essential if you want to keep your heating and cooling demands to a minimum. When employees are working, you’ll need to maintain a comfortable and safe environment, but if there are times when your facility is empty, you can program your thermostat to adjust the temperature accordingly.
- Improving your insulation: A better-insulated building will be easier to keep comfortable, regardless of outdoor temperatures. There are many ways you can improve your facility’s insulation. For example, you can use energy-efficient windows. You can also seal and insulate ducts to prevent heat or cool air from escaping and improve the efficiency of your system considerably.
12. Incorporate More Greenery Into Your Facility
Companies often use the term “going green” in the abstract, but taking the term more literally can also help you make your business more environmentally friendly. Adding more greenery both outside and inside your office has many benefits to the environment, as well as to your employees.
Inside your office, adding plants can improve the indoor air quality and has even been shown to improve employees’ productivity. Living plants tend to create a more vibrant atmosphere. Imagine what a difference fresh greenery can make in an otherwise industrial and sterile-feeling facility.
Outside, plants can have a more marked effect on the environment. Planting trees, shrubbery and flowers around your facility reduces your carbon footprint by giving back to the earth. Trees and other plants emit oxygen, which improves the air quality. Trees can also prevent water runoff from a storm, a problem that can lead to erosion and polluted waterways. Plants also provide a place for animals to live and can even help the dwindling bee population.
Businesses that want to go beyond the typical landscaping that surrounds the face of the building can include larger landscape islands in their parking lots or can convert their roof into a rooftop garden. Rooftop gardens can help you make a larger impact with more plants and flowers. A rooftop garden also provides a beautiful natural environment for employees to enjoy on breaks and can even serve as a barrier that insulates your building, leading to lower heating and cooling costs.
13. Conserve Water
If your business is located in the Western U.S., especially in the state of California, then you’re likely already familiar with the need to conserve water. However, water conservation should be a priority for any company resolving to become more eco-conscious, regardless of where their facilities are located. So, how can your company resolve to conserve water this year?
First, you need to know where you’re wasting water. A professional water audit can help with this. You may not realize how much water you’re wasting at your business. Some of this waste could be out of control. Audits can reveal leaks that are costing you on a continual basis and potentially leading to water damage in your facility. There are also bound to be some sources of wasted water that you have more control over.
The way companies waste water depends on how they use water in their business. For example, manufacturers may rely on water for important processes such as washing and cooling. While water may be necessary to these processes, you may find ways to use less of it. In many cases, the issue is simply a lack of awareness on the part of employees. Even businesses that don’t rely on water for mission-critical processes still use water for everyday functions, such as using the toilet or washing hands.
If your bathroom is equipped with older toilets or sink faucets, replacing them is an easy way to conserve water. That’s because updated standards require bathroom fixtures to use less water. Older toilets, for instance, can use as much as seven gallons of water per flush, while newer toilets are designed to use a maximum of 1.6 gallons. Adding low-flow faucet aerators to sinks can also cut down the amount of water that is dispensed, as well.
14. Hire a Waste Management Company
For many companies, waste management is a simple process, but for others, it’s a bit more complicated. Especially for the construction, oil and manufacturing industries, some of the waste that is produced cannot simply be thrown into a trash can or recycling bin. The amount and type of waste in these cases necessitates a more comprehensive solution.
This is where a waste management service comes in. By partnering with a waste management company that has the necessary expertise and permits to handle your company’s waste, you can rest easy knowing your remaining waste is dealt with responsibly. As you work on your sustainability efforts, this is one area where you can rely on outside help to bring you closer to your goals. Waste management companies like ERC will collect your waste, and then carefully separate out any recyclables and properly disposes of whatever remains.
Especially when it comes to hazardous waste, not properly disposing of it can cause serious problems for the environment, but even non-hazardous waste can contribute to pollution. A failure to protect the environment from harmful waste can overshadow any positive efforts you’ve made toward sustainability and can stain your reputation among the public. Not disposing of waste properly may also mean you’re violating a regulation, such as the Resource and Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) or the Clean Air Act, which will result in severe financial penalties.
If your company produces waste in some form that has the potential to hurt the environment, it is critical that you have a responsible waste management solution in place.
Partner With ERC for Responsible Waste Management Solutions
Learning how to make your business green is a complicated and on-going process. Luckily, ERC is here to help.
Responsible waste management is a key component of how your business protects the environment. This process can be complicated, but fortunately, ERC can provide a simple solution. As a turnkey service provider, we take your waste, and you never have to worry about it after that. ERC will take the necessary steps to sort your waste and process different materials in the proper way, recycling whenever possible. We understand that every business has its own unique needs, so we can develop custom solutions whenever needed.
Contact us today to learn more about waste management from ERC and how we can help your company process waste responsibly and free you up to focus on other sustainability efforts.