Eight Tips for Greening Your Operation
Want to be a leader in the green building arena? There’s no better way to demonstrate your commitment and know-how than by actually implementing green projects at your own business.
Anyone can stock certified merchandise. And it’s easy to put out a few green hang tags on the shelf or signage proclaiming your eco virtues. But to really set yourself apart from the “me too” crowd, build valuable relationships with other leaders in the industry, and save money in the process, you’ve got to walk the walk.
These days, it’s a little easier than it used to be. Depending on the type of project, there may be government incentives available or a relatively motivated local bank ready to finance something with a solid green profile.
1. Energy retrofit. Make your facility energy efficient with better lighting, insulation, and mechanical systems. Then add renewable energy generation, too. Undertaking these kinds of projects will pay dividends for decades to come. In the short run, you will build valuable relationships with those firms doing the work. In the longer term, as energy prices continue to rise, you will enjoy predictably lower costs.
2. Living roof and/or living wall. Installing a living roof or wall delivers multiple benefits, including saving energy and giving your team experience in a young, fast-growing market segment. Combine with water recycling systems for additional “wow” factor.
3. Cool roof. If you’re not ready for solar panels or a living roof, think about this: If the roof isn’t white, you’re might be paying too much for air conditioning. Paint it white, save energy—it’s that easy.
4. Water recycling. At first glance, conventional financial models may not make the quantitative case for water efficiency projects—water prices are kept artificially low. But if you’re operating in a region with stressed water resources, taking steps to reduce your demand can set a powerful example for your community. There may even be rebates available.
Install HET toilets, rainwater harvesting, and gray water recycling systems, and gain valuable experience you can use to promote these green practices to your customers.
5. Recycling of batteries, fluorescent lights, paint, electronics, etc. This may prove to be more difficult than it sounds, especially if there’s no local infrastructure for recycling, but will be well worth it in the end. These products contain toxic heavy metals and other components that pollute ground water. There are a variety of programs available, benefiting a range of nonprofit activities.
6. Zero waste. Reducing the waste generated at your facility will engage both staff and customers, and may reduce your waste haulage bills, too. Remembering the Three Rs will help you get there: reduce, reuse, recycle.
7. Repurpose parking lots. Replace a portion of the parking lot with a community vegetable garden and bicycle racks. Don’t discount this project as being impractical or too costly. There will be plenty of people in the community willing to lend a hand. Encouraging bicycling reduces the carbon footprint associated with your facility. Planting instead of parking does the same, and can provide fresh vegetables for employees, customers, or members of the community in need.
8. Shorten the supply chain. Sourcing product and materials closer to home reduces transport costs. Depending on where manufactured, imports may already carry a high carbon footprint because of inefficient coal-fired electricity generation. On the other hand, local products can earn LEED credits for local building projects and, generally, will appeal to the growing number of customers who prefer products and materials made in the U.S.A