Spring is upon us, and that means warm weather and new beginnings. This is the time the Earth comes to life again, and it’s nice enough for people to get outside without so many layers of clothes. People can start planting flowers and showing off their green thumb. But does your business also have a green thumb? April 22 is Earth Day, so now is a great time to start asking that question.
So, let’s discuss steps you can take within your company to be more eco-friendly. Let’s be honest—most businesses could make a bigger effort to help the planet out. Luckily, some steps you can take are surprisingly straightforward and, believe it or not, they don’t require huge commitments. That’s something we can all get behind.
We’ve compiled a list of ten easy ways to be more sustainable practically overnight. Remember, when it comes to helping the planet, a little bit can go a long way.
Perform an Energy Audit
A good place to start is getting an energy audit done. An energy audit or energy assessment is where a technician comes to your home or place of business and identifies opportunities for energy savings. They will prepare a personalized energy report, and the results can help you make informed changes such as insulating windows and doors. By sealing leaks and cracks, you can cut up to 20% off of your heating or cooling bills. Some companies like Mass Save and Eversource offer free energy assessments. Eversource even offers virtual home energy assessments which makes it even more convenient to increase your sustainability.
Work from Home
The U.S. Census Bureau says the average one-way commute time for Americans is 27 minutes, meaning that before the pandemic, most of us spent over an hour driving to and from work each day. Those of us working from home have eliminated that commute, so that extra hour each day can be done doing something more impactful. And by burning less gasoline, we pollute the air with less greenhouses gasses like carbon dioxide that contribute to climate change.
Not every company is in a position to keep every employee working from home full-time, but moving forward, it might be possible for some to permit occasional remote work (or at least be more accommodating of it). This can be part of a new eco-friendly initiative. As an added bonus, Global Workplace Analytics conservatively estimates that typical employers can save $11,000 per half-time telecommuter. This is thanks to added productivity, lowered real estate costs, decreased absenteeism and turnover, and better preparation for interruptions. You can help your bottom line and the planet by having a work from home policy.
Recycle Your E-Waste
Another way your business can be eco-friendly is by properly recycling your e-waste. Electronic waste or e-waste is anything from cell phones, tablets, computers, or TVs that people just throw away. This waste mostly ends up in landfills. In 2009, the United States threw away 2.37 million tons of electronics, and only a quarter of that was collected for recycling. For all the rest that wound up in landfills, the precious metals inside cannot be recovered and reused. And when these products are not disposed of properly, it can be damaging to people’s health and the environment.
You can help play your part by making sure you and your team correctly recycle unwanted or broken electronics. Another option is donating these old devices to charity. One notable charity is Cell Phones for Soldiers. They take your old phones or computers and sell them to recycling centers. Cell Phones for Soldiers uses the proceeds on prepaid call cards for troops and financial assistance for veterans. If you are unsure of how or where to recycle your old tech, you can simply bring it to your local Best Buy or quickly Google local drop–off sites.
Use Green Web Hosting
This next eco-friendly step is simple so long as you don’t currently host your website on your own servers. Most companies don’t. Instead, they opt to pay for hosting from companies like Google, Amazon, GoDaddy, Ionos, and others. Green web hosting refers to companies that use renewable energy, plant trees, or buy carbon offsets or renewable energy certificates (RECs). They often cost the same or less than companies running their servers with energy from fossil fuels. By swapping who hosts your site, you can feel confident you are being more responsible.
Alternative Energy Sources
Now that you’ve taken the first step of responsible energy use by utilizing green web hosting for your website, you can get more in depth with it. You likely still have some office space even if it’s been reduced since the pandemic started. In many areas of the country, you can actually opt to buy green power from your current utility provider. Green power is one category of renewable energy that represents the highest benefit to the planet. Sources include wind, solar, geothermal, biogas, biomass, and low-impact hydroelectric.
Green power typically costs more per kilowatt-hour (kWh) than energy from coal or gas plants. You pay a premium price because the company uses the extra money for RECs, representing the renewable benefit of your purchase. Price varies on a wide variety of factors, but generally speaking it is cheaper to buy local green energy and to buy it in larger increments. You can opt for green power in both your office and your home, if it is available. Based on an average home’s energy use, using green power should only cost you an extra $195 per year, a very modest increase. This can add a double-positive effect of working from home on top of commuting less.
If you’re interested in using green power at your place of residence or business, there’s a company called Green-e (which is endorsed by the EPA) that offers a search tool for finding providers that sell green power.
We use a lot of power lighting our homes, offices, streets, and highways. Between the residential and commercial sectors, the United States used about 219 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity for lighting in 2020. We need lights; they’re not going anywhere. Still, we can make smarter decisions about the types of lights we choose to use in the office and in our homes. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and LED lights are two great choices.
CFLs use about 75% less energy than their incandescent counterparts. They cost a bit more but last between six and fifteen times longer. Likewise, LED lights are highly efficient, use at least 75% less energy than incandescent lights, and last about twenty-five times longer. Widespread use of LEDs could mean that by 2027, we save 348 TWh of electricity—enough to match the output of forty-four large power plants. You can be a part of that dramatic savings.
Use Reusable Products
If you aren’t already, you can look into using biodegradable or reusable products. One big item that comes to mind is single–use water bottles. Most plastics production is designed for a single use, and only 23% of those plastics will get recycled in the US. To help reduce the number of plastic bottles that end up in landfills, hop onto Amazon and find a nice water bottle that you will be proud to use day after day. If you are looking for an inexpensive option, try out this simple Nalgene water bottle. Whichever you choose, you can hydrate knowing you are helping the environment.
This one might not come as a shock to most of you because it’s something that is constantly being talked about. You know the saying, “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.” Recycling is taking items that would normally be thrown away but instead repurposing the materials and creating new products with them. This is the simplest way to help the environment and even your communities. Sure, you may not know every single material that can be recycled, but lucky for you, there’s a smart recycling guide to show you what you can and cannot throw in the recycling bin. On top of environmental benefits, there are economics benefits to recycling as well. One study found that in a single year, recycling activities accounted for 681,000 jobs for people in the US.
Now is the best time to start implementing these changes into your business. Giving your business a green thumb is easier with these ten tips. Sitting around and waiting for things to change is not going to cut it. It’s time to take action and stay consistent in order to make a lasting impact on the environment. Let the warm weather inspire you. Go show off that green thumb of yours!