Environmental sustainability is a phrase that gets used often, but not everyone really understands it. Just what is environmental sustainability? We will take a deeper dive into the idea, how it’s driving decisions and investments, and what it means for everyone’s future.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency answers the question of what is environmental sustainability in this way: It is “meeting today’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” Conserving natural resources and protecting world ecosystems for the long term are at the core of the idea. The EPA plays a key role in developing the regulations and standards for environmental sustainability in the US.
With this environmental sustainability definition, you may be wondering what environmental sustainability means for your business. While caring for the environment is good for you, your employees, and your customers, what are the other impacts?
You can reduce your operating expenses by being more efficient with resources. Secondly, you can raise the profile of your business and enhance its reputation by being a leader in supporting environmental sustainability. The reasons why environmental sustainability is important in business are many, so it’s worth looking at ways your business can contribute.
These environmental sustainability examples can give you ideas for your own business. Many of these ideas are easy to implement and all are well worth the effort involved.
Business use of energy is the largest contributor to greenhouse gasses. Switching from carbon-based energy to renewable options is a big step towards making your business more environmentally sustainable. Adding solar to your facility or signing a clean energy contract with your power provider are easy ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
Business waste does more than clog landfills; transporting and processing it uses energy. Many items, particularly electronics and light bulbs, also create toxic pollution. Going paperless can reduce bulk waste and save trees. Recycle light bulbs to harvest valuable materials and prevent toxins from entering the environment.
You can also recycle old office equipment or donate it to charities to reduce the waste you send to landfills and prevent pollution. Many municipalities regularly schedule days when you can drop off waste like light bulbs, old computers, monitors and phones.
Saving water protects a vital natural resource and saves the energy needed to purify and pump it to your facilities. Dealing with sewage and other waste consumes energy and creates waste that must be processed.
Your small business can do its part following water saving tips like fixing leaks, using water efficient fixtures and appliances, and even reusing water when possible. Get employees involved with office etiquette signs that suggest ways to save water and energy. Small steps add up to contribute to environmental sustainability.
Other environmental sustainability examples include switching to energy-efficient office equipment. Computers, printers, scanners and monitors with ENERGY STAR® ratings can slash your energy demand. In addition, plug devices into surge protectors that make it easy to turn them off when not in use and consider adding smart office technology to optimize how you use your office equipment.
If you can take more meetings online, you can reduce your travel expenses and the carbon footprint that comes with hopping in a car or boarding a plane. Examine past travel expenses and reasons for making trips to see what kinds of travel you can reduce in your business.
Commuting also has an enormous impact on energy usage. Your business can offer commuter benefits and incentives for ride-sharing, using public transportation or even bicycles. Adding an electric car charging station at your business can encourage employees to choose this option.
Helping your customers reduce waste is another way to make your business environmentally sustainable. From carefully sourcing materials to designing packaging that is easy to recycle, you and your customers can team up to help the environment. Whatever approaches you use, be sure to communicate clearly and often so that people know what to do and can also appreciate your efforts.
Your business buildings are another place to look for ways to contribute to environmental sustainability. When making renovations like replacing a roof, consider cool roofs that reduce your need for air conditioning. New windows can dramatically cut your heating and air conditioning bills.
You can also add smart features to automate your building to save energy. The U.S. Green Building Council offers advice when it comes to planning, design, tearing down and building new, as well as operations inside buildings. Their guidelines will help you reduce energy and water use through selecting the right materials, systems and construction methods.
Now that you know the answer to what environmental sustainability means and why environmental sustainability is important in business, you can start going green in your daily operations.
A good place to start when thinking about how to go green is with an energy audit. It will help you benchmark a starting point and will give you ideas about where to invest time, money, and effort. Developing a small business sustainability plan will help you set up resources and map out a path for achieving your goals.
Environmental sustainability is a team effort. You and your employees can only do so much, which is why it is important to engage customers in sustainability efforts. Good communication is key, as is selecting initiatives that customers can get behind and support.
Environmental sustainability is more than just a do-good buzz phrase. It has real benefits for your business:
Caring about the world’s ecosystems for the long term is just as important as caring for customers. That is why environmental sustainability is a natural fit for your business–and why it is ultimately good for business.
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