Making Changes: 13 Actions Companies Can Take to Become Planet-Friendly

"You have to hold yourself accountable for your actions, and that’s how we’re going to protect the Earth." – Julia Butterfly Hill, environmental activist

I’ve recently talked about how we need both personal and systemic change to fight our climate and litter crises. Our planet won’t be magically fixed because one person cleans up litter and drives an electric car. We need companies to get on board and make big changes that will positively impact our planet. I’ve put together a list of 13 changes companies of all sizes can make to become more planet-friendly. Use these as a jumping off point. There are so many ways you can “green” your business. 1. Company Audit. You won’t know what to improve if you don’t first know what you’re doing that’s not sustainable. How much energy do you use? Where is your company’s energy coming from (renewable or fossil fuels)? What kind of waste are you producing and how much are you creating? Is it all headed to a landfill? These questions will help you get started on auditing your company’s sustainability. Learn more: https://www.greenamerica.org/blog/running-quick-and-easy-sustainability-audit-your-business and https://www.greenamerica.org/taxonomy/term/2509

2. Ban Single-Use Plastics. (This wouldn’t apply to medical supplies.) From employees to customers, make the switch to sustainable materials that aren’t plastic-based. If you currently sell bottled water or drinks at your establishment, switch to drinks in glass or cardboard bottles. Walk around your facility and write down anywhere you see single-use plastics and find ways to replace them with sustainable and reusable options.

3. Recycling Bins and Signs. Provide easy access to recycling bins with clear signage. If there is no recycling bin by the trash bin, people won’t recycle. It's as simple as that. You need to make it as easy as possible for people to make the right choice. And because what can be recycled can vary greatly between locations, putting up a sign to show what can and cannot be recycled is a big help!

4. Pack Sustainably. If your business needs to package items for sale or shipment, avoid plastic and use cardboard, paper, and other planet-friendly packaging material that are easily recyclable. And if you can, reuse packing materials and boxes. You can even offer the opportunity for your customers to off-set their carbon. Learn more: https://www.shipbob.com/blog/eco-friendly-shipping/

5. Office Supplies. Check the sustainability of your supplies. Is the paper you use for day-to-day business purposes made from 100% recycled materials? Are you recycling it when you’re done? Ideas to get you started: https://ecowarriorprincess.net/2018/12/32-ethical-eco-friendly-office-school-supplies/

6. Healthy, Planet-Friendly Foods. If you offer food to your employees or customers, are you offering vegetarian and vegan options? A UK study found that if everyone ate vegan once a week for a year it could cut UK emissions by 8.4% annually [1]. Have you offered organic and locally grown items? This is also important to eliminating pesticides that hurt our soils and lowering the transportation footprint of our food.

7. Compost. Sign up for a composting program or start your own to reduce food waste in your business. The compost can be used around your building to help fertilize gardens (Try planting a pollinator garden!). Or share it with other local businesses that may need it. Learn More: https://www.nrdc.org/stories/composting-101

8. Adjust Your Thermostat. It’s important to conserve energy in both winter and summer. It’s recommended to set your thermostat at 68 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter (when people are present) and 78 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer (when people are present) [2] Also, make sure your HVAC and A/C are well maintained.

9. Transportation Efforts. If you have company vehicles, transition to electric vehicles. Not only will you save an estimated 43% on operation costs [3] when you switch to an EV you’ll be lowering your company’s emissions. Even when an EV is charged using non-renewable energy grids, EVs are typically responsible for lower levels of greenhouse gases [4]. And also consider offering an incentive program for employees who bike or take public transit to work instead of driving.

10. Clean, Don’t Destroy. Are the products you use to clean planet-friendly or do they contain chemicals that will hurt our environment? Harmful chemicals can cause water pollution, air pollution, and much more. Switching to greener options is an easy way to avoid this. Learn More: https://www.epa.gov/greenerproducts/identifying-greener-cleaning-products

11. Avoid Lawn Chemicals. Landscaping services that spray chemicals should be avoided. These chemicals can negatively affect lakes, rivers, streams, and the ocean. They harm insects, fish, and native flowers which can severely disrupt the food chain [5]. We all want a beautiful outdoor space, but not at the cost of our environment. Learn More: https://www.epa.gov/pesp/benefits-and-risks-associated-landscapes

12. Dispose of Electronics Properly. When you upgrade to new technology, do your best to sell or donate what you are replacing to someone who could continue to use it. If you must dispose of the item, do it in the proper way. According to the EPA, one million recycled laptops save the electricity equivalent of more than 3,500 U.S. homes per year. Furthermore, for every one million cell phones recycled, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium are recovered. Often local counties will have an electronic recycling program. If not, check out Best Buy: https://www.bestbuy.com/site/services/recycling/pcmcat149900050025.c?id=pcmcat149900050025

13. Create Clear Signage. Letting your customers and employees know that you’re becoming more planet-friendly not only adds to your business's value, it encourages them to get on board as well. Having clear signs on how they can help is necessary. Whether it’s a sign to discourage waste, encourage recycling, or explain your company's current efforts, communicating your sustainability to those interacting with your company is important. I hope these 13 ideas help your company get on board with becoming more sustainable. It's also a great idea to find a knowledgeable consultant or employee to implement and grow your sustainability. You got this! Do you have an idea on how businesses can become more sustainable? Please share it in the comment below.

 

Sources:

[1] https://vegconomist.com/society/eating-vegan-once-a-week-can-reduce-greenhouse-gases-by-8-4-per-year/#:~:text=%C2%BB%20Society-,Eating%20Vegan%20Once%20a%20Week%20Can,Gases%20by%208.4%25%20per%20Year&text=New%20data%20reveals%20UK%20greenhouse,meat%20free%20meals%20they%20eat. [2] https://www.cnet.com/home/energy-and-utilities/heres-the-ideal-temperature-you-should-set-your-thermostat-to-this-winter/ [3] https://www.energysage.com/electric-vehicles/costs-and-benefits-evs/evs-vs-fossil-fuel-vehicles/ [4] https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/electric-vehicle-myths#:~:text=comparable%20gasoline%20vehicles.-,Myth%20%231%3A%20Electric%20vehicles%20are%20worse%20for%20the%20climate%20than,EVs)%20have%20no%20tailpipe%20emissions.

[5] https://cfpub.epa.gov/npstbx/files/marc_lawnchemicals.pdf