Ask Eartha: How can a business decrease its environmental impact?
February 23, 2018
I own a small business in Dillon, and I'm interested in learning more about how to decrease my business' environmental impact. Do you have any suggestions?
Thanks for your question this week, Sheryl! I love supporting local green businesses, and as a business owner, there are a number of reasons you'll love going green, too. Nielsen, a global market research firm, reports that an increasing number of consumers care about supporting brands that demonstrate commitment to sustainability. This is true across income levels and especially among younger age groups. In addition, environmentally friendly behaviors can also save you money. For example, energy and water efficiency decrease the amount of resources you use, saving money on your utility bills. Turns out conservation is a win-win for both the environment and your bottom line. Here are some helpful tips for getting started.
Does your business still use incandescent lights? Does your space feel drafty in the winter? Do you have an old thermostat? If so, you're wasting energy. Upgrading to energy-efficient lighting and appliances and sealing places where air leaks out of your building will help your business save energy and money.
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Examine the types of products you purchase and where you buy them from. Do you use harsh cleaning chemicals that are bad for both people and planet? Do you support recycling by not only recycling your waste, but also by purchasing materials made with recycled content? Sure, recycled-content printer paper might cost a few dollars more per case, but I bet you could also identify ways to reduce your paper usage.
Does your business practice resource conservation by reducing, reusing and recycling? Can you donate older electronics or furniture to local organizations? If you work at a restaurant, do you recycle glass separate from other materials? Have you thought about composting your food scraps? It's true that there are barriers to starting these programs, but that does not mean they're impossible. Restaurants across the county already compost food scraps and recycle glass — yours could be next!
Does your business have a bathroom, kitchen or an irrigation system? Yes? Then you can save water! Take a look at your toilets. If they use 1.6 gallons per flush or more, you're using more water than you need to (and paying for it). Many sinks use 1.5 gallons per minute, which is an awful lot of water pouring down the drain to wash hands. Small fixes like installing high-efficiency aerators and using conservation tools in toilets can go a long way towards saving money on your water bills.
Join a Sustainable Business Program
As a small business owner, you might think incorporating sustainable business practices is only for the larger companies who can afford to hire an environmental manager. Think again! High Country Conservation Center's Resource Wise sustainable business program is designed to help business owners become more informed about easy conservation fixes. Their advisors serve as your personal environmental managers. They'll let you know how your business is doing, where to make improvements and even offer public recognition for your efforts. Added bonus: HC3 has rebates to offset the cost of projects you undertake.
To many of us in Summit County, giving back to the local community is an important value. In the business world, this could mean anything from encouraging employee volunteerism, donating items to local nonprofits and sponsoring community events. It also means networking with other businesses to learn about what they're doing to implement sustainable business practices.
If you'd like to be more involved in the community — whether as a business or an individual — check out the High Country Conservation Center's 29th annual Tim McClure Benefit at 6 p.m. on Friday at the DoubleTree in Breckenridge. Tickets are $40 at the door and include appetizers, live music, a performance by local belly dancers, a great silent auction and unlimited tasting of local beer, wine and spirits. You'll also have the opportunity to mingle with businesses nominated for HC3's Greener Summit Business award to ask how they practice sustainability every day. If you start making changes this year, there's a good chance your business could be nominated for the award in 2019!
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.