This Wednesday, April 22nd is Earth Day! As the annual celebration of our beautiful planet approaches once again, people from all walks of life are realizing sustainable practices are something to embrace, for the health of our planet, future generations and a strong economy that works for everyone.
As environmental changes impact our surroundings, the effects domino into our daily lives, affecting agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, and our health and welfare. On top of that, key findings in the Fourth National Climate Assessment predict a 10% reduction in the economy from the disturbances.1 Interrupted supply chains, reduced agriculture yields, housing instability, and irreversible damage to industries like forestry, fishing and farming, paint a challenging picture for us all.
Who better to be the harbinger of positive change than small to medium businesses, responding to the needs and wants of the public as we move toward an insistence of sustainable business practices and products? A 2015 Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR Study2 found:
90% of consumers would switch brands to one associated with a social or environmental cause.
80% would buy an unknown brand if it had strong social or environmental commitments.
71% would pay more for a socially or environmentally responsible product.
Add to this the fact that a growing generation of Millennials are now making green shopping a priority. According to a Nielsen global study3, both Millennials and Generation Z’ers are willing to pay extra for products and services from companies who make positive social and economic impact their primary mission.
Responding to the Demand for Green
Adopting sustainable business practices and/or shifting to providing sustainable products and services does not have to come with a huge price tag. Something as simple as replacing outdated appliances or equipment or exploring and utilizing advanced technology that’s green-friendly to reduce waste with power-saving features helps to save energy and reduce costs.
For example, many Xerox® printers and multifunction printers meet or exceed the requirements of the world’s most widely-recognized certifications for product environmental performance — the international ENERGY STAR, UL’s EcoLogo eco labels, and Germany’s Blue Angel.
Other Supportive Actions You Can Take:
Reuse, Reduce, and Recycle – Become recycle-literate and learn which items truly can be recycled; “wish-cycling” or placing questionable items in the blue bin to feel better actually requires more energy to sort and slows down recycling efforts. When you follow the three ‘R’s’ your business can run more efficiently, create sustainable jobs4, and save money.
Replace your energy supply with accredited renewable ‘green’ energy – this includes solar and wind power you can buy from an energy retailer.
Use recycled and post-consumer waste materials – Choose products wisely. For example, avoid pollution causing single-use plastic and consider replacing your phone or other electronics less often to keep hazardous waste out of landfills. Or encourage your favorite restaurants and markets to convert to recyclable take-out containers (avoiding non-recyclable plastic such as “clam shells”).
Benefit from eco-smart materials and products – if you’re building or renovating take advantage of new green paints and building materials. Thermal paint additive can cut 40% of the sun’s heat, reducing energy needs. Consider the same “eco-smart” mantra for your body by enjoying locally-sourced, organic, fresh food and environmentally-friendly personal items.
Consider products with the whole life cycle in mind – “eco-design” and “life cycle design” take into consideration all the raw materials and energy needed to design, produce and distribute a product for a long life.
Save paper by using scanning to enable digital work processes – with printers featuring Xerox® ConnectKey® with Earth Smart settings that automatically reduce paper waste and toner usage. Send used toner cartridges back to Xerox through our Green World Alliance recycling program, which prevents millions of supply items from entering landfills each year.
Reduce business travel and consider carbon offsetting – make your goal more virtual meetings and less in-person; join a rideshare program and use ride services instead of renting vehicles. Purchase carbon offsets to make up for the greenhouse gas emissions any travel creates.
Create an Environmental Business Plan and Look at Your Foot Print
Plastic straws are just the current crucible of the environmental waste awakening. Take a moment and take stock of the products you use and the actions you take. You may feel overwhelmed, but one simple step at a time, multiplied by a million other steps, will make all the difference in the (sustainable) world – and keep you sustainable for years to come.
(From the editor: This article was originally published on Xerox Insights.)