The Basics of Greening Your Business

Environmental Doom and Gloom.

It can be depressing – the daily barrage of messages declaring environmental doom for the planet:

– It takes 47 million gallons of oil to produce the plastic bottles the U.S. uses each year.  85% of them are thrown away.

– In the U.S., we use 100 billion plastic bags annually, which is the equivalent of 12 million barrels of oil.

– The 500 million automobiles on earth burn an average of two gallons of fuel a day.  Each gallon of fuel releases 20 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air.

– One gallon of motor oil can contaminate up to two million gallons of water.

– Americans throw away 44 million newspapers everyday – the same as dumping 500,000 trees into landfills each week.

– The junk mail Americans receive in one day could produce enough energy to heat 250,000 homes.

Sobering statistics.

Yet, we do have a lot to celebrate.  There’s a synergy being created by the myriad organizations, thousands of businesses and millions of individuals who are making significant changes in their daily lives to curb their carbon footprint and help to avert a global climate crisis.

The momentum started in 1970 with the first Earth Day. It was the brainchild of Washington Senator Gaylord Nelson who wanted to stage a nationwide environmental protest to thrust the environment onto the national agenda. It was the same year that brought the meltdown of fuel rods in the Savannah River nuclear plant near Aiken, South Carolina — an incident not acknowledged for 18 years. The first Earth Day mobilized 200 million people in 141 countries including 20 million Americans.

I was one of them. I was a “green” reporter, still wet behind the ears.  Living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, I took my cameraman with me to shoot the “Death of the Wicomico River”, a piece for WBOC-TV in Salisbury.  My boss was furious that I wasn’t back at the station re-writing AP wire copy!

Thankfully, much has changed since then.  That river, and many more, are much cleaner, and attitudes have improved. A survey by MarketTools reveals that nearly seven out of 10 U.S. consumers (65%) are now willing to pay more for products made with renewable resources.   We know the positive impacts that each of our actions can have.

Consider these planet-healing facts:

– Every ton of paper that is recycled saves 17 trees.

– Every ton of recycled office paper saves 380 gallons of oil.

– Glass never wears out and can be recycled forever.

– Plastic and aluminum cans take 500 years to break down; organic material, cotton and paper take only six months to break down.

So, as a business, you owe it the planet and your bottom line to take action to “live a carbon neutral life”.

Go Green.

Here are a few ways to start:

1. Buy ENERGY STAR office equipment. You’ll save half the electricity and utility costs.

2. Change your lightbulbs to CFLs.

3. Print double-sided papers and recycle used paper.

4. Buy copier paper with a minimum 30% post-consumer recycled content.

5. Drive less – walk and take the bus.

6. Bring bags for shopping.  (An American family typically uses 700-900 plastic bags a year.  100,000 marine mammals die annually from plastic debris.)

7. Get a programmable thermostat.

8. Don’t buy individual bottles of water. Get a bottled water supplier or drink tap water.

9. Use non-toxic cleaning supplies.

10. Become a Z Green Business – a new green certification program for businesses from the City of Aspen.  Start at www.aspenzgreen.com.  Then, with the city’s help, conduct an energy audit and lastly buy carbon offsets through the Canary Tags program.

A word of caution for businesses:  Fancy, baseless green messaging will fall flat and backfire on your reputation.  So make sure you “walk your talk”.

Many people say we’ve reached the tipping point in the environmental consciousness. If so, the next question is, “What will each of us do with this new-found inspiration?”.

Here are a few resources to get you started:

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