One Green Thing…
Quick! If you did one thing today related to sustainability that was different than what you would normally do, what would it be? What is the first thing that comes to mind? Would this act become a permanent part of your routine or would it be a one-time thing? Would it be for someone else or you personally? Do you really ever consider the environment when you make decisions to do something? Anything? If you don’t generally think about how your decisions impact your triple bottom line, does that make you a bad person?
If you were able to quickly answer these and so many other questions about sustainability, good for you! If you had a brain hemorrhage just trying to come up with an answer, you are not alone. While most people are aware of some form of sustainable activitym such as recycling plastic water bottles or newspapers, many just flounder when actually considering how their day-to day-actions and decisions affect the environment. Younger generations have been targeted and inundated more heavily and haven’t had the years of bad habits to overcome, so it may come easier to them (or not, depending on their circumstance). Even businesses may not consider how to provide goods and services to customers that have a low impact on the environment. This includes green-economy companies whose entire focus is on a lower carbon footprint, or a relatively small but growing population of individuals who make consistent, but conscious, choices about bettering the environment.
Now, it is a daunting task to make every decision and every thought about, “Will this hurt the environment?” Quite often, we make seemingly minor decisions that can have a butterfly effect on how we live and have a carbon impact. Maybe you simply needed a new widget to do your daily business and the packaging was not made of recyclable materials, or it was shipped in from around the globe. Maybe the coffee you bought at the local coffee shop bought its coffee from a supplier who uses deadly pesticides and wasted water in the cultivation of its beans? Did you consider this when you made your purchase? Does this mean we should just throw our hands up and give up?
As stewards of this 1,083,206,916,846 km3 spaceship we call Earth, it is our challenge to be as conscious as we can about how we treat the planet. Making even little efforts can pay off in spades. Hopefully you do consider things like where your stuff comes from, or how your product or service really impacts the ecosystem. And since we chew up lots of time these days staring at little handheld devices that are supposed to make us more productive and provide us with a veritable smorgasbord of information, we should have no excuse. With all of this information overload, we should be able to look up where things are sourced and what the carbon footprint of widgets we buy is.
Unfortunately, this is not available in most cases and we would literally get nothing done if we spent that much time looking things up (although it would be more productive than that last round of Angry Birds Space).
So what can you do? Pick things that you feel will have the most impact and do them well. If you don’t know where to start, use that little super computer in your hand to help search for ideas. Here are some starters:
- Know where your stuff comes from, and buy local. If you sell products, source as much of your raw materials from local sources and make sure your customers know that information.
- Pay attention to how things are packaged or how you are packaging things. How often have you or your customers bought something that was way more box than product?
- Ditch the bottled drinks altogether in favor of reusable bottles made of aluminum or glass.
- Make even small investments in energy upgrades to your home or office such as lighting, HVAC, insulation, or other weather proofing.
- If you are a business, provide to your customers energy information about your product following standard guidelines by the EPA and Department of Energy.
- Take a look at your landscape. Use plantings that are native to your geographic area. They will require less maintenance, water, and often look healthier. Plant trees, too! They provide shade, prevent erosion, and help sequester CO2.
- Only buy what you need and only sell what the customer really needs. It does no one any good if it sits in the closet, and every product has a carbon footprint, so reduce impulse buying.
- We travel a lot, so take the shortest route. One flight is much less of a carbon footprint than multiple stops and carpooling or public transportation is a well known reducer. Shipping products on the shortest route also will help to reduce your costs.
- Unplug or use smart power devices for your electronics. Provide information on power management to your customers too.
- Ditch the microwave and actually cook! The food will be healthier with less salt, preservatives and chemicals, as well as less packaging. Provide your employees a way to cook at work.
- Use cold water for things like dishwashers and laundry. There are now environmentally-friendly cold-water detergents that are fantastic for this.
- Bundle your errands and other short trips to make the most efficient use of your time and resources, using less gas in the process.
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Repurpose (upcycle) what you buy and have. Share this with customers or provide them resources — especially with electronics — about as e-cylcers or other donation locations.
This is just a start, but what you will find is that if you consciously make it a habit to try one new thing each day related to sustainability and work to incorporate it into your daily routine, or share it with your customers, you will make a significant improvement in our world in the long run.