A Billion Acts of Green® is the largest environmental service campaign in the world and this year it included an increasing number of commitments from businesses. A Billion Acts of Green® is an annual campaign that inspires and rewards both simple individual acts and larger organizational initiatives that further the goal of measurably reducing carbon emissions and supporting sustainability.
The theme for the 2011 campaign was ‘A Billion Acts of Green: Personal, organizational and corporate pledges to live and act sustainably’.
Driven by the extraordinary reach of social media platforms like Facebook, the Earth Day message was propeled across cultural, national, and religious divides. The Earth Day Network mobilized one billion people in 192 countries with the help of 25,000 partners.
These Acts of Green, involved cleanups, restoration, pledges, proclamations, petitions, letters, festivals, reports, fairs, expositions, parades, concerts, contests, plantings, awards, runs, walks, hikes, writing, speaking, and other events.
Around the world, companies of all sizes also contributed millions of acts of green. Businesses ranging from international corporations to mom and pops got involved by pledging to be greener. They also leveraged the marketing appeal of this time of year through giveaways, and other promotions.
Increasingly companies are coming together to share their green experience and expertise. However, According to the Sustainability & Innovation Survey by MIT’s Sloan Management Review and Boston Consulting Group, small business has been especially slow to adopt sustainability. Their survey revealed that only 9 percent of small companies have embraced sustainability, compared to 34 percent of large companies.
Despite these numbers, some businesses are showing sustainable leadership while reducing their costs and benefiting their reputation in the process. Here are 10 areas where companies are being more sustainable:
Companies are lowering their energy needs by encourageing employees and maintenance crews to turn off lights, computers, and other devices when they are not in use. Some are installing timers to cut the power automatically.
Many businesses are buying energy-saving appliances and taking advantage of the saving that come from increased lighting efficiency like LEDs. Some are installing ooccupancy sensors for frequently vacant rooms and reflectors for fluorescent fixtures.
Companies are also using solid-state drives, laptops with energy efficient chips, power stations, and Direct Current power instead of Alternating Current power.
An increasing number of businesses are contacting their local power providers to source electricity from renewable-energy sources such as solar and wind power, some are even generating their own power onsite.
Companies are notifying employees to recycle through emails. They are also placing recycling bins in convenient locations like near trash bins, copiers, mail boxes and in break rooms and cafeterias. Some companies are upgrading their office equipment and listing it on freecycle or donating it to a charity. Others are using Recycling for Charities to recycle e-waste like cell phones, cameras, and palm pilots. Businesses are also taking advantage of computer manufacturers take-back programs for old computers.
Many companies have committed to use less paper. As paper constitutes more than a third of our waste, businesses around the world are pledging to use less paper by using digital technology. Simple things like e-mailing documents and using an external drive rather than a filing cabinet. Apps are also being used to help businesses go paperless. When paper is being used it is 100 percent recycled paper Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified and set your printer or copier to print on both sides of the page.
Companies are sending proposals, contracts, and invoices entirely through e-mail as PDF attachments. Companies are also reducing paper use with electronic signatures like Adobe Acrobat Professional or software like DocuSign or e-signature. Using digital pay portals like PayPal to send invoices, is also being used to reduce paper usage.
Businesses are getting involved with reducing their consumption of water with low-flow appliances like aerators for faucets, and “dams” or other devices for toilets. They are diligent about fixing sources of leaking water and they employ efficient landscaping techniques.
Some businesses have made an alternative transportation pledge for Earth Day that reduces fuel use and the resulting emissions. These businesses are encouraging their employees to commute to work by carpooling, walking, biking, or taking Metro bus or rail. Some employers are providing incentives to take mass transit such as transit subsidies, supporting preferred parking for carpoolers, and racks or lockers for bicyclists’ gear. Companies are also greening the vehicles that compose their fleets. One of the best things owners can do to save money and increase efficiency is to implement mobile workforce management software that lowers fuel expenditures, improves productivity and reduces paper usage.
Companies are using less packaging and better materials including replacements for plastics that are biodegradable.
More and more companies are greening their supply chain by sourcing green vendors for their business needs.
Businesses are removing toxic substances from the workplace. They are sourcing alternatives to toxic products like cleaning supplies, glues, solvents, paints and other products.
Very few companies are carbon neutral, but many businesses are offsetting their environmental impacts by calculating their carbon emissions and working to offset them through tree planting, forest protection efforts, and energy-efficiency projects.
Some companies are building (or redesigning) offices using a growing number of eco-friendly options. Offices are being designed with minimal amounts of square footage, natural lighting, green ventilation, desk-sharing for employees who workshift and smart systems including heat and motion detection lighting systems.
Earth Day activities are of increasing importance to the business community and finding solutions to the issue of climate change is clearly a matter that must include business.
© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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