Sustainability “is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” –the Brundtland Report
Green businesses embrace sustainability and have a plan to increase sustainable strategies in business operations. A Sustainability Action Plan will help define short and long term goals and activities to maintain momentum and empower others to take action. Additionally, creating a ‘green’ team will help employees and customers know what actions they should take. Visit Greening4Profit Case Studies to get information on creating a Sustainability Action Plan and case studies.
There are a variety of actions businesses can take to increase sustainability, and conservation is the first step.
What is Conservation?
Conservation is the act reducing consumption thereby increasing the natural resources available for future generations. Business strategies include water conservation, conservation of material supplies and energy conservation, which is the act of reducing the consumption of electricity and natural gas. Many conservation practices are free and easily implemented. Examples include: double-sided printing, turning off lights, shutting down computers, workplace recycling, and alternative commuting.
Completing conservation actions first provides the largest Return on Investment (ROI) because conservation eliminates waste. Energy efficiency measures yield more than a 16% ROI. Additionally, there are many financing options available for adopting energy efficiency measures such as:
- PACE 100% upfront financing through the CaliforniaFirst program
- On-Bill Financing through PG&E
- Utility and Rebate incentives (see resource list on main Green Business page)
Once you have defined what sustainability and conservation mean to your business, you can communicate that message to your employees and customers. This can foster a culture of sustainability and create a sense of urgency so others know why they need to take action.
Where to begin?
Before taking action it is best to understand your baseline energy, waste, and water usage. Businesses can collect data from Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager. Reviewing your baseline and average usage data can help you decide where to begin.
Spotlight on lighting:
The following demonstrates the approximate percent of energy use from lighting:
|25% schools||15% hospitals|
|45% retail||20% grocery stores|
|25% offices||30% colleges/universities|
|5% restaurants||20% hotels|
Since lighting accounts for a significant portion of energy bills the average ROI from lighting efficiency measures is very high. For example:
|LED exit signs 37-133%||Converting to CFLs 106-166%|
|Lighting Shelves 25-75%||T12 to T8 or T5 37-133%|
|Occupancy sensors 30-50%||Sun Shading 25-74%|
|Top lighting 15-43%||Daylight Controls 23-36%|
Visit Smart Lights today to see how much you can save.
Conservation Strategies: Double-sided printings, turning off the lights, shutting down computers, work place recycling, and alternative commuting are all examples of free conservation strategies.
Office Equipment can account for 16% of energy consumption. Energy star equipment uses on average 65% less electricity than other machines.
Transportation: In Marin County transportation accounts for 70% of GHG emissions. According to Natural Capitalism Solutions, businesses can save $2,000 per employee in commuting cost by using compressed work weeks, flextime, and allowing work from home. Visit GoTime Marin for more information.
Waste: Before designing, buying, or using products and services think about the packaging. Using renewable resources can reduce your waste bill. Reducing your waste bill and associated GHG emissions is as easy as reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost. Click the above 'Mandatory Recycling Law' button for more information on how to incorporate recycling into your business practices.
Water: On average, restrooms account for at least 30% of water use in buildings. A simple fix is using aerators; this can provide an estimated savings of 90,000 gallons/year for a community center. WaterSense certified fixtures meet standards for high-efficiency and performance.