Since the industrial revolution of the late 1700s, the business world has generated more pollution, mostly via product production, than any other force on the planet. Only recently have we come to understand just how deeply that pollution effects us and the planet. From climate change to untimely deaths (air pollution alone kills an estimated 7 million people each year, according to the World Health Organization) pollution is a huge problem. In 2014, researchers at Columbia, USC, and UC San Diego even found that pollution makes us less productive at work, particularly when that work involves any kind of physical labor.
As a modern business owner, you have a great opportunity. You can learn from the mistakes of past businesses, and take action to ensure that your business is run in such a way that it doesn't harm the environment or contribute to the planet's pollution problem.
1. Invest in green infrastructure
Whether you own your own office space or rent space within an existing building, there are ways to improve your business's infrastructure in order to make it more energy efficient and reduce its carbon footprint. If you own your own building, take the time to research and invest in electrical appliances that use less energy. Though the upfront cost of such items may be higher than normal, it will pay dividends in the long run in the form of decreased energy bills for your business.
Another simple way to reduce your business's carbon footprint and improve its' energy efficiency? Proper lighting. LED lights might be more expensive than traditional bulbs, but they'll pay for themselves over time through lowered energy cost. And because most electricity is produced in ways which produce CO2, using less electricity means lowering your carbon footprint.
It's one of the basics of green living, but there's plenty of ways to make sure your office is just as eco-friendly as your home. Did you know that ink cartridges from printers are a particularly problematic kind of waste, with roughly 375 million ink and toner cartridges thrown away per year? Luckily, there are recyclers who specialize in recycling ink cartridges, and even printer companies that will collect empty cartridges and reuse them as a regular business practice. Things like phones (both mobile and desk phones), computers, refrigerators, microwaves and even printers themselves can be reused or recycled.
3. Allow employees to work remotely
It may not always be possible, but whenever an opportunity arises for employees to work remotely, try to take it. Before flying or driving in a client or remote workers, ask yourself if an e-conference would suffice just as well. Not only will this reduce your business's environmental impact by saving the fuel your employees would have used to travel to work, but it may well raise your employees' productivity as well. Research conducted in 2014 suggests that workers may be up to 13% more productive when allowed to work from home.
Allowing employees to work remotely will also save money in the form of unused printer ink, electricity and other resources. These days, it is easy to save money in this way without even having to sacrifice the basics of face-to-face communication and meaningful collaboration.
4. Share an eco-friendly culture with your staff
If running a green business is important to you, then it should be important to your staff as well. You can ensure this is the case by making eco-friendliness central to your corporate culture. Integrate eco-friendly language into your business' mission statement and onto its website.
Develop staff guidelines that encourage your employees to go green. Remind employees to turn off computers, printers, and overhead lights when they're not in use and make sure that all staff has access to recycling bins, both near their desks and at a centralized location. Encourage employees to bring their lunch to work in reusable containers, and offer incentives for workers to use public transportation, carpool together, or ride their bike instead of driving.