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Begin with a Plan
In order to find innovative ways for industries to think green, a business must begin with a plan. An environmental management system or EMS is a set of procedures and guidelines developed by an organization to reduce it's environmental impact. It includes a system of checks, audits, and reviews to allow the EMS to evolve with the company's changing practices.
The process of creating an EMS involves close scrutiny of all the business's current procedures in order to identify areas of improvement. The company benefits from reducing it's environmental risks. It creates a sense of awareness in employees that can spread into their everyday lives. It also shows the company's commitment to green living which can appeal to consumers.
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Little Things Add Up
Every business is different, but the potential exists for small changes to have far-reaching effects. Penn State University saved over $120,000 a year by simply changing the default margin settings on the university's computers to smaller margins to use less paper. The university estimated that it saved over 45,000 reams of paper and reduced their trash by 45 tons.
Similar savings are also possible in energy costs. A switch from incandescent to compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) could save businesses over $100 per bulb over its lifetime. CFLs use about one-fourth of the energy of incandescent bulbs, estimates the U.S. Department of Energy. Considering that lighting makes up nearly 20 percent of a business's electricity costs, the switch to CFLs can translate into significant savings.
A move toward a digital workplace will provide further cost savings. Companies can encourage employees to refrain from printing or copying documents, relying on electronic copies. Likewise, faxes can be sent through email rather than the conventional way.
The employee break room offers additional opportunities for green living. Use of coffee mugs and plastic plates will also reduce waste. Company-provided flatware and other kitchen items will reduce the need for disposable items.
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Recycling offers a way for businesses to further reduce their environmental impact. Sometimes the most innovative ways for industries to think green are the simplest. Recycling reduces disposal costs. It benefits the environment by reducing fossil fuel emissions from generating new products. It also provides renewable resource products which can benefit businesses.
A switch to plastic lumber for office landscaping offers a practically indestructible source of materials. Unlike treated wood, plastic lumber does not split, rot, or degrade in the environment. Companies can reduce landscaping maintenance costs while benefiting the environment.
By embracing green living, businesses can find new and inventive ways to benefit not just the organization, but the environment as well. It will demonstrate a commitment to responsible business practices and respect for the environment.
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U.S. Department of Energy: How Compact Fluorescents Compare with Incandescents – www.energysavers.gov
U.S. Energy Information Administration: Frequently Asked Questions – Electricity – www.eia.doe.gov
photo by: Nickname (CC/flickr) <http://www.flickr.com/photos/nikcname/4893253973/sizes/m/in/photostream/>