5 simple ways to improve your environmental impact (for world earth day and beyond)

Although World Earth Day is on April 22nd, it shouldn't be only on this day that we think and work towards a sustainable future.

No longer is it just a case of thinking about the condition that our planet will be in for our children or grandchildren, but now also within our own lifetimes, such is the accelerated rate of pollution, waste, habitat harm and deforestation.

We can all do some small contribution by following these 5 simple tips that should help you to lower your environmental impact and that of your business. If we all did this, think of the net saving to our one and only home planet. 

These actions don't necessarily require lots of effort, or even require much (if any) financial investment, in fact they may even save your business money, but they all help towards a more environmentally sustainable business.

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1) Travel

Probably one of the biggest environmental impacts for a business is travel, particularly travel for meetings. Whilst sometimes this can’t be avoided, we can easily fall into the trap of thinking that an in-person meeting really is the only way to do business.

Really challenge yourself and your colleagues to think about travel. Video/web conferencing is so much better now with the likes of Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts and others and allow you to collaborate, share screens/presentations and brainstorm live. The quality is so good now that any concerns or hang-ups about losing visual cues/body language is less of an issue.

You could always make your first meeting with a client, partner, colleague face-to-face and subsequent meetings remotely thereafter.

Other considerations it you absolutely must travel;

  • Use the most ‘green’ transport possible

  • Car / taxi share

  • Try to organise your trip with other meetings en route, even if this requires a stop-over, it may still reduce your overall travel impact

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2) Waste

Although "waste" can often have financial implications, I see that many organisations can do more to improve their waste and recycling management and application of the waste hierarchy. Could you make some improvements in your design/manufacturing or service processes to apply using the waste hierarchy?

Waste Hierarchy

Waste Hierarchy

I have seen some great initiatives and cost savings by thinking outside the box, these are just a few:

  • Reusing packaging from goods-in for shipping goods-out (you can always explain to your customers that this is part of your environmental commitments)

  • Fixing broken pallets for use for goods-out, or donate for use for fencing, benches, bin stores etc

  • Composting food waste and using the compost in a wildflower area

  • Use of crushed building rubble as hardcore

  • Use of 'greener' cleaning products such as Method or Ecover 

It is also worth remembering to look at your recycling/waste contractors, how good are they at recycling, have you checked under duty of care to see how and where your waste is processed? Identifying a provider with innovative recycling processes to ensure you are as high up the hierarchy as possible (i.e. recycling over other recovery etc), if you are unsure who to select using an independent reputable waste broker with green priorities can be helpful.

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3) Energy / fuel use

Although at home many people are quite good at considering their energy or fuel use, many organisations could do more to ensure that people switch off unused lights, electrical and cooling/heating equipment and fuel powered plant.

Simple awareness campaigns, and demonstrating any financial savings for the business that can be reinvested in other beneficial areas do help

Consider asking the following questions:

·      Air conditioning, can it be turned off at certain times, or temperature increased to reduce energy and f-gas consumption?

·      Vehicles and plant left idling, do they need to be left running at all? Can they be turned off if idling for more than 2 minutes?

·      Lights, printers, copiers and other electrical equipment or machinery. Are these used all day? Can they be switched off when not in use, or timed to switch off after a period of inactivity? Some businesses will only start up certain equipment at set times and everyone is aware and organised accordingly

·      Are heaters on in some areas whilst doors/windows are open in others? Shutter doors can be closed to reduce need for heating, or even zoned areas can really help manage heating costs.

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4) Protect or create habitats for wildlife

The theme for World Earth Day 2019 is 'Protect Our Species' and what better way to contribute by creating small habitats for wildlife or protect any local habitats that you can.

This can be done with minimal financial impact or effort by doing some or all of the following: 

  • Install bird, bat or insect boxes (such as bees or butterflies) in suitable locations on your building premises or nearby trees. Add sources of food, bird feeders with seeds, peanuts, fat-balls etc

  • If you have a garden/greenspace around your work premises, add a pond and suitable pond plants

  • Create a wildflower area, (wildflower seeds are very cheap and grow easily) that will encourage insects including bees and birds

  • Plant trees or other plants to encourage other varieties of wildlife

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5) Create an environmental image or commitment for your business

Many stakeholders including customers, investors, partners, colleagues and regulators may require (or at least look more favourably upon) your business to demonstrate your environmental commitment(s) as a sustainable business.

Implementing ISO 14001 (an international standard for Environmental Management Systems) helps organisations globally to reduce costs, gain financial advantages, comply with regulatory requirements, improve reputation and increase engagement of employees.

ISO 14001 is a rapidly growing requirement with year-on-year increase in registrations. In 2017 over 340,000 certificates had been issued globally to organisations looking to prove their environmental credentials and gain benefits from this certification.

For a more specific focus on energy, ISO 50001 can also be implemented (and certified too), this helps to actively monitor and reduce your energy consumption, often providing significant financial savings. It is also a great way to comply with ESOS (energy savings opportunity scheme) under the EU energy efficiency directive and associated regulations.

As an expert in ISO management systems implementation and certification, please do contact me to talk about how I can help your business easily adopt this or other international standards.