Taking a Leadership Role in Going Green

  • AUTHOR: Christine Mason McCaull
  • DATE: 01/17/2009

Small Business is Leading the Way

Visionary small businesses and startups have been leading the way toward Green practices for years, but until recently they’ve been speaking to niche markets. Now, the awareness of sustainability is going mainstream.  

Between our President Elect’s commitment to renewable energy, and the slow but steady movement of the Big Box stores towards zero waste and environmentally-conscious products and services, we are all moving toward a more harmonious relationship with the planet — and business owners everywhere must take a leadership role. It’s the right thing to do, and it can save you money, too.

Steps for Going Green   

Depending on what kind of a business you’re running, here are the top five most impactful ways for you to Go Green.

Service Businesses

Article is continued below

You move people and ideas. Your top five steps for Going Green are as follows:

  1. Reduce your Transportation Footprint:

    More Telecommuting and Conferencing, Less Flying, Public Transit rewards
  2. Push Paper:

    Go with electronic document management, and electronic signatures, and if you do have to print, make it post consumer recycled (and don’t forget comprehensive recycling onsite!)
  3. Choose a Green Printer:

    Environmentally Friendly Printing means soy-based, nontoxic inks and biofriendly coatings- and papers with some recycled content
  4. Zero Carbon IT:

    Offset your web hosting and server energy use, or choose a hoster that’s powered by renewable energy (and always dispose of eWaste consciously)
  5. Save Energy and Watts:

    Reduce energy use in the office through the use of CFLs, turning off lights and thermostat management (side benefit: cooler conditions keep the brain more alert!)

Retailers

You flow goods from the maker to the user. Your biggest impact is in the way you purchase, pack and ship. Your top five steps for Going Green are as follows:

  1. Mind your miles:

    Buy local whenever possible, to reduce the overall distance your products and services travel before they get to our shelves.
  2. Think full circle:

    Offer products that are made with the planet in mind- look for certifications like BluTex and Organic Trade Association, and offer products that have a healthy end of life plan- things that can be recycled, reused or properly disposed of. Take into consideration what kinds of packaging materials your vendors use, and request Post Consumer content, and alternatives to the environmentally disastrous packing peanuts and Styrofoam wherever possible.
  3. Make your own packaging green:

    Offer only paper bags, no plastic. Preferably no highly coated papers! And choose fillers that can be reused or recycled.
  4. Choose conscious shippers:

    When sending out your packages, choose a shipping partner that is thinking about sustainability, and let their sales and customer service team know why you are picking them- so they keep doing it.
  5. Reduce energy in the Store, Stockroom and Warehouse:

    Change the lightbulbs, seal doors and windows, insulate, and adjust the thermostat.

Wholesalers and Manufacturers

You produce things. Your Greening comes in sustainable inputs and processes. Your top five steps for Going Green are as follows:

  1. Cradle-to-Cradle Thinking:

    Find a way to use all the products and waste stream from your processes before you start making stuff. Think about how your products and their packaging will be disposed of at the end of life, and design that way. Choose inputs that can be sustainably harvested.
  2. Mind your Supply Base:

    As a small business, you don’t have a lot of leverage, so work with vendors who support your vision. Avoid toxic products in manufacturing, focusing on paints and coatings and preservatives. Find alternatives wherever possible.
  3. Energy and Water Watch:

    Use energy efficient lighting, adjust the thermostat to reduce energy use, keep all machinery in good repair, insulate and seal all your operational spaces and reduce water use so there’s no waste.
  4. Pack Consciously:

    Use only products that can be recycled, and avoid plastics and Styrofoam fillers (which are made from oil, and only end up in landfills).
  5. Ship Consciously:

    When sending out your packages, choose a shipping partner that is thinking about sustainability, and let their sales and customer service team know why you are picking them- so they keep doing it.

Additional Resources for Going Green

As you can see, regardless of business type, there are many opportunities for you to take a leadership role in Going Green. But the steps outlined above are only the start.

For more advice on transforming your company into a Green Business, check out the following StartupNation resources:

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Christine Mason McCaull

Lineage2, Aion, Blade And Soul