Sustainability is a buzzword that’s thrown around a lot when it comes to being environmentally friendly, but it’s often overlooked in the business world. We set computers aside when we don’t need them anymore, toss toner cartridges into the trash and use more than 90 million tons of paper every single year at U.S. businesses alone.
How can businesses embrace more sustainable practices?
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We’ve already mentioned how much paper Americans use every year. The easiest way to combat this kind of wastefulness and embrace sustainability in your office is, obviously, to go paperless.
We can translate most of our papers into digital formats seamlessly. We can even sign and digitize documents that require a signature, like a contract. Paper checks should be a thing of the past, and we can share hourly statements and bills digitally rather than printing them.
Storing interoffice documents in the cloud not only eliminates paper in the office, but it also facilitates collaboration with employees both inside and outside of the office. If security is a concern, you can lock the files with both a password and location — the latter means users can only access data on computers or devices that are in a particular area.
Going paperless is not something you’ll be able to do overnight. Instead, set up a plan over the course of one year or five years — or however long you think it will take for you to go completely paperless.
Water Dispensing Systems
Even if you have humidifiers in the office, these environments are inherently dry, so many people carry water bottles to stay hydrated. Encourage employees to ditch the disposable water bottle by offering filtered water refill stations throughout the office. You can even opt for refill stations that fit on top of your existing water fountains, which have a vertical filling spout so you don’t have to tilt your water bottle sideways to fill it.
You can even go one step further by offering branded water bottles with your logo and information on them — you’re doing something good for the environment while getting some free advertisement in the process.
Opt for Green Energy
Switching to green energy is one of the best ways to embrace sustainability, but it isn’t always the easiest step. Start by talking to your power company — they may have green energy programs you can opt into at little to no cost.
Depending on your building location and local building regulations, you may be able to install solar panels that will offset your energy usage. This is quite an investment, but if you’re committed to going green, it can be a great way to get away from traditional power grids that burn fossil fuels for power.
Sustainability was once thought to be the enemy of profit, but more and more examples are emerging that show that sustainable businesses can not only turn a profit — they can also thrive.
Just one person commuting to and from work five days a week generates nearly 7500 pounds of CO2 every year. Multiply that by the number of employees you have.
Encouraging carpooling or using public transportation can help to reduce the carbon footprint of your business exponentially. Even getting just five people to stop solo commuting can help reduce your carbon footprint by more than 35,000 pounds of CO2 every year — and that’s assuming your employees are only driving 15 miles to work and have a car that gets decent gas mileage.
Go Green — Literally
Office spaces are generally drab and bare, but they don’t have to be. Adding greenery to your office — especially if you have windows — can be an excellent way to improve morale in your office. It’s also an inexpensive way to improve office air quality. Most of these plants are easy to keep alive and remove chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde and ammonia from the air.
Having greenery is better for your employees in more ways than one, and it doesn’t take much to add some plants to your office.
Work From Home
Telecommuting is becoming increasingly popular in a host of different industries. It’s easier for employees to work from home, and it helps to reduce their carbon footprint by eliminating their commute.
If your employees could complete their work from home, consider offering it as an option for at least a few days a week. You might still want to meet in the office regularly for meetings or collaborative projects, but it’s beneficial to the environment to allow your staff to work from home when possible.
Sustainability is a lot more accessible than it was a decade ago, and business and sustainability are no longer mutually exclusive. Even in developing countries, we are beginning to see stories of business owners and consumers alike prioritizing clean energy and other environmentally friendly practices that will, in turn, only serve to help the health and wellness of their people.
If countries that are still sometimes struggling to meet their citizens’ basic needs can make sustainability a priority, America can definitely afford to step it up. Even small steps can help make your business more sustainable overall. If you’re committed to the path, you can work up to the bigger ones. Take it one day at a time — what’s important is that we are trying to make a difference.