Eye on the Environment: Distinguish Your Business By Going Green
 
May 3rd, 2011

by Kathleen Furore

There’s a lot of “green” in the tile world these days. There’s “green” manufacturing, “green” home improvements, and “green” buildings that get “green” LEED certification. There is also a green impact beyond selling green products. First, green businesses save energy and other valuable resources and this adds up to real dollars saved on the bottom line. Green businesses are mindful of the waste they generate, recycle as many materials as possible, and focus on creating a healthy environment for employees and customers. Along with saving resources and money, they are demonstrating an increasingly important environmentally responsible attitude. In today’s competitive marketplace, there are benefits to maintaining a green business. As more and more consumers patronize environmentally friendly businesses, crafting a green business plan, then promoting it to the marketplace, can distinguish you from your competitors.

“There are plenty of reasons for tile dealers and distributors to make an effort to ‘green’ their businesses, but the most important may be that it can save them money,” says Mark Newberg, Office of Policy and Strategic Planning, US Small Business Administration. “Whether it’s sealing leaky windows or ductwork in their shops, or installing energy efficient lighting in their showrooms, combining energy efficiency upgrades with regularlyscheduled maintenance cycles can help reduce the time and effort associated with making these money-saving improvements.”

Taking the first green steps for your business.

Do your green research.
Use the resources here and elsewhere on the web to identify where your business has the most impact on the environment and human health. Are you using toxin-free raw materials where possible? Are you recycling or reusing applicable products? Is your office energy and resource efficient? Are you providing your staff with safe working conditions? Recruit a “green team.” Implementing green practices takes time and commitment. It’s not a one-person job and you may find that “buy-in” from employees will lead to greater success. Look for green leaders among your employees and ask if they would like to lead and/or participate in your greening efforts. Work with them to develop a company green mission statement and list of your top five green initiatives.

Benchmark and reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.
Many of the choices we make as individuals and as organizations have both direct and indirect impacts on greenhouse gas emissions. For example, driving a car directly impacts emissions, releasing CO2 into the air. Purchasing 100% post-consumer content recycled paper has an indirect impact on emissions by helping to preserve virgin forests, which process CO2 in the atmosphere. (EPA’s Climate Leaders Program and Carbon Disclosure Project offer additional resources.)

Saving Energy = Saving Dollars
Volatile energy costs – like current gasoline prices – have a significant impact on businesses. The impact is even more significant at times like the present, when the economy is limping out of a recession. Right now, energy conservation is one of the most significant ways businesses can save money, combat climate change, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers a number of valuable tips to saving energy and your bottom line.

Heating and Air Conditioning.
Tune up HVAC systems before each cooling and heating season. Change (or clean if reusable) HVAC filters as prescribed by manufacturer. Install ENERGY STAR programmable thermostats to optimize your HVAC system based on your schedule. Control the amount of direct sun coming through your building’s glass windows. Use fans to maintain comfortable temperature, humidity and air movement, and save energy year round. Plug leaks with weather stripping and caulking.

Lighting.
Turn off lights and equipment when not in use. Adjust lighting to your actual needs; use free “daylight” during the day. Replace incandescent light bulbs with ENERGY STAR compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), wherever appropriate. Install switch plate occupancy sensors to automatically turn off lighting when no one is present and back on when people return. Install ENERGY STAR qualified exit signs and save up to $10 dollars per sign annually in electricity costs while preventing up to 500 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. Upgrade to T8 (1-inch diameter) fluorescent lamp tubes with solid-state electronic ballasts.

Green Business Resources
The resources below are a good starting point for tile dealers and distributors interested in creating and promoting an environmentally friendly “green” business.

The SBA’s Green Business Guide.
Offers information on topics including Green Marketing, Green Business Case Studies, Green Business Practices, Green Certification and Ecolabeling, Green Marketing Regulations, America’s Green Cities, Environmental Grants and Loans, Green Commuting and Green Product Development. For more information, visit www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/starting- managing-business/managing-business/runningbusiness/ green-business-guide

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Green Business Initiative is a group of projects specifically aimed at helping small to medium enterprises (SME’s) save money and reduce their environmental impacts. The projects aim to actively help SME’s to become more “resource efficient.” This means that they will use less energy, less water and fewer raw materials, in turn producing less waste and costing the business less money. The program even offers an opportunity to meet a Greenbusiness Advisor who can visit your business and identify money-saving steps you can take. To register and use the online audit tools that can help your business begin measuring resource use and identify where savings can be made, visit www.greenbusiness.ie.

EPA’s Quick Start to Green Programs (www.epa.gov/greenkit/ quick_start) can direct visitors to resources such as GreenBiz.com™, Business Voice of the Green Economy (www.greenbiz.com). It is the leading source for news, opinion, best practices, and other resources on the greening of mainstream business. Launched in 2000, its mission is to provide clear, concise, accurate, and balanced information, resources, and learning opportunities to help companies of all sizes and sectors integrate environmental responsibility into their operations in a manner that supports profitable business practices.

Office Equipment
Turn off machines, including computers, when they are not in use. Unplug appliances, or use a power strip and the strip’s on/ off switch to cut all power to the appliance when not in use. Many appliances draw a small amount of power when they are switched off. These “phantom” loads occur in most appliances including VCRs, televisions, stereos, computers, and kitchen appliances. Unplug battery chargers when batteries are fully charged or chargers are not in use. Use rechargeable batteries for products like cordless phones and PDAs.

Water Savings.
Fix leaks. Use water-saving faucets, showerheads and urinals. Buy the most efficient water heater possible. Consider “tankless” water heaters to reduce “standby” storage costs and waste. Set water temperature only as hot as needed (110-120 degrees). Landscape using plants native to your climate that require minimal watering and possess better pest resistance. Consider “gray water” for irrigation.

Waste Management.
Examine all waste streams—process wastes, hazardous wastes, non-hazardous wastes, solid wastes, and office waste. Look in trashcans and dumpsters to see what materials are being discarded and consider wastes poured down the drain such as rinse waters and process waters. Examine your energy and water consumption and look for high and low usage trends in your utility bills.

  • Characterize each waste stream. Determine where the waste comes from, what processes generate it, and how much is being discarded.
  • Evaluate all wastes for possible reduction. Determine how you can reduce each waste, evaluate your purchasing policies, and determine what you can reuse.
  • Identify potential production changes that would improve efficiency, including process, equipment, piping, and layout changes.
  • Investigate opportunities for new products or ingredients that prevent waste generation.
  • Identify resources that will help  you conduct a waste reduction assessment. Trade associations and regulatory agencies might be able to provide technical assistance, and your equipment vendor might have suggestions. Also consider hiring a consultant who specializes in identifying potential waste prevention measures.

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