How to Implement a Sustainability Initiative
With climate change on the rise, many businesses are introducing sustainability initiatives. Any restaurant, school, hospital, or corporation can commit to increased social responsibility. Consider your facility’s cleaning products, supply chain, and energy use. Is there more you could be doing?
Each building and business is different, so each sustainability initiative will be unique. However, the basic steps are the same whether you run a doctors office, daycare, or cafe. Start by forming a committee of managers, cleaning staff, and other building users. The committee then works together on the following tasks:
- Define what sustainability means for your specific facility.
- Develop specific, measurable goals and objectives.
- Collect baseline data on the current status of your goals.
- Create action steps to implement change.
- Communicate the plan to all staff and building users.
- Implement the action steps.
- Monitor effectiveness based on measurable goals.
- Make data-based changes when needed.
What the committee focuses on will vary depending on the industry. In general, you’ll want to look at cleaning products, resources, and consumption.
Conduct an audit to determine what cleaning and paper products your facility uses, then research green-certified alternatives. Your distributor can help you identify sustainable products that fit your needs. When applicable, opt for concentrated cleaning solutions. Diluting on-site reduces packaging waste and fuel consumption from transport. You can consolidate the number of different cleaners by selecting multi-purpose products.
Packaging and Shipping
The vast majority of environmental impact in the consumer sector comes from the supply chain. Examine where your products are coming from and work closely with your supplier to choose products that lessen your environmental impact. For example, many businesses are shifting to buy more locally-sourced products.
Consider the production practices of the manufacturer.
Find out if products are:
- Manufactured using energy-efficient methods
- Made from easily recyclable materials
- Efficiently packaged and shipped
Commercial buildings account for nearly 40 percent of the US energy consumption. The average business spends a quarter of their annual energy use on heating the building. Other big consumers are lighting, cooling, cooking, and computing. Conduct an audit to see where you’re using the most electricity.
Let’s look at four low-cost ways to lower energy use.
- Nighttime – Is there anything left on after hours? Train the closing employees to set back the thermostat and switch off all unused electronics before turning off the lights.
- Maintenance – Schedule regular maintenance on the building’s equipment and HVAC system. Inspect duct-work and insulation for damage. Regularly change filters.
- Lighting – Optimize natural light. When feasible, open the blinds and dim artificial lighting during the day. Test lighting levels with a lux meter and remove unnecessary lamps from over-lit areas.
- Passive Solar Heating – Control sunlight entering the building. With the sun low in the winter sky, you can gain color heat through unobstructed south-facing windows. In the summer, block direct heat gain with solar screens, awnings, or trees.
A sustainability initiative can reduce the environmental impact of cleaning supplies, shipping, and energy use. Many schools, restaurants, hospitals, and offices are finding innovative ways to lower their carbon footprint. With thoughtful planning, sustainable business practices can help save money and the environment.