Earth Day started on April 22, 1970 and has been going strong, on the same day each year, ever since. Based on a belief that we are the stewards of our planet, and the recognition that an unhealthy planet is bad for everyone, Earth Day works to raise awareness of environmental issues.
As business owners, we often struggle to find ways to make our businesses more environmentally-friendly without wiping out the bottom line.
It can be done though. The best part is that there are many, many examples that you can look to for inspiration – there’s absolutely no need to reinvent the ‘bicycle’ wheel!
Read on to learn about some of the companies around the world that have made profitable commitments to the planet, and find out how you can follow their lead, whatever your budget.
New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA provides employees with a bicycle and a Toyota Prius to run local errands. They also reuse, recycle, or compost over 75% of their waste product.
Ikea has made its greatest impact by changing its suppliers. 50% of their wood comes from sustainable forests and 100% of their cotton comes from farms that meet a higher standard. They also install solar panels on every store. They plan to be a “net energy exporter” by 2020, which means they will actually make money by generating their own solar power.
Wal-Mart is often pummeled when people speak of companies that waste and abuse the planet. In truth, they have been making major strides and, based on their size, even the smallest steps can have a massive impact. Over 25% of Wal-Mart’s energy usage comes from renewable sources. They have reduced plastic bag waste by 38% and diverted 81% of the waste that used to go to landfills.
Keurig-Green Mountain make coffee machines which can be found in homes across the country. For the environmentally minded though, the little coffee pods are a nightmare! Millions of them get thrown out every day, so Keurig decided to help you recycle them. They actually pay for the return shipping, and even give you a discount voucher for future purchases when you do.
Facebook, Google, Amazon and other major data companies have made a simple commitment: they don’t build a data storage centre without also building a sustainable energy source to offset it. This automatically makes all growth sustainable. Each of these companies builds dozens of data storage centres every year that use phenomenal amounts of energy. By ensuring that they neutralise this energy usage, they can keep from using non-renewable energy sources to grow their companies.
What can you do if you aren’t a giant company?
All of the companies mentioned are huge and have really deep pockets so it might seem that you can’t keep up with them, but there are many things that you can do. Here’s a few of our favourite ideas…
- Put a bicycle outside – Make a bike available for your employees to go to lunch or run quick errands. Healthier staff, less energy usage, fewer cars on the road – there really isn’t a downside.
- Skylights – For a few hundred pounds each, you can install skylights into your offices or facilities. Using natural light will reduce your energy usage. A simple light meter can turn your lights up and down as the sun provides more or less light. Using filters, you can also make the light more diffused, keeping it from over-heating the room or blinding staff.
- Recycle – Look for ways to recycle more of the waste in your offices. This can be as simple as composting food, recycling your Keurig cups, or reusing paper by using the back for non-essential documents.
- Plant trees – Ask your groundskeepers to put a plan in place to replace hard surfaces with greenery, and to plant new trees wherever possible. High-drainage areas, like grass, will help you avoid possible flood risk, and the extra greenery is a great way to boost staff morale. Not to mention the green impact of any initiative that replaces concrete with greenery!
- Talk to suppliers – Put your suppliers on notice that you are going green. Let them find ways to supply you with greener products. If they can’t, seek out suppliers who can get you what you need.
Don’t be Wal-Mart!
Tell the world about everything you do. The world’s largest retail company doesn’t say much about their green initiatives, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t! Put out a press release, tell your staff, update followers on social media – do whatever it takes to ensure you make your commitments and actions visible to everyone in the company and its wider networks. It’s not only good for your business, but it might just be the inspiration for your employees and smaller companies to follow in your footsteps!