How to Protect Our Water Sources – the Ultimate Guide

Protect Our Water SourcesThe water sources across the country are fast becoming exhausted and polluted. Today, around 40 percent of rivers are too contaminated for fishing and swimming, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. If people fail to act now, water shortages could be a fact of life a short decade from now.

By simply implementing a few sustainability initiatives to conserve water and prevent pollution, businesses have the power to ensure water sources will remain clean and secure in their area. There are several ways companies in every industry can get involved.

Cleaning Products

Antibacterial soaps and some cleaning products contain triclosan, a pesticide that harms aquatic life and may lead to the development of antibiotic resistant superbugs. A simple switch to products that do not contain the chemical, such as regular soap, keeps bacteria under control without presenting a risk to water supplies.

Storm Drains

Storm drains should only be used for water and never for getting rid of other liquids like motor oil, detergent, paint, chemical cleaners, fertilizer, or pesticides. In many cities, stormwater is incorporated into local waterways, so it really is extra important to keep it uncontaminated.

Paving

Keeping paving to a minimum enables water to soak into the ground, diluting contaminants that would otherwise end up in stormwater. At the same time, this reduces the risk of flooding and improves ground water supplies. Businesses can also reduce their use of water by sweeping paved areas clean instead of using a hose.

Fleet and Vehicles

Company vehicles and fleets should have leaks repaired immediately to stop oil and other liquids entering storm drains.

Appliances

Appliances that use water in the workplace should be water-efficient — dual-flush toilets, for example, where there is less use of water to flush urine.

Plants

Native and drought-resistant plants require the least watering and can significantly reduce water use for a company’s landscape.

Pesticides and Fertilizers

Pesticides and chemical fertilizers pollute surface water and ground water, presenting a health risk for employees and residents alike.

Cigarette Butts

Smoking areas should include a cigarette receptacle to dissuade employees from dropping cigarette butts on the ground, where they may be washed into storm drains.

Informing Others

Employers can make an even bigger impact by teaching staff about sustainability initiatives that workers can enact in their own homes. In addition to variations on the above, employees can do the following:

  • Never flush medicine down the toilet or drain. If the city has a pharmaceutical collection program, employers should provide staff with this information. Alternatively, it is possible to destroy pills in a bottle using water or vinegar.
  • Picking up after pets avoids waste-contaminating stormwater.
  • Non-toxic household products reduce the amount of chemicals being released into water supplies.
  • Installing a low-flow shower head and cutting the length of showers can reduce water use every day.

For businesses already working on other sustainability initiatives, expanding to water conservation and protection is a great opportunity to make an impact on the local environment. These few simple steps can help ensure that residents and workers in the area continue to have access to a sufficient amount of clean water for years to come.

Impact of Green Building Certifications on Real Estate Investments

Green Building CertificationsWhen it comes to sustainability initiatives, just how important are green building certifications? The answer comes straight from Deloitte’s Global and US Real Estate Industry Leader, Bob O’Brien. According to him in a recent interview for the 2015 Commercial Real Estate Outlook, “… there is an increase in awareness and implementation of sustainability initiatives aimed at energy, water, and waste efficiency as indicated by a growth in green building certifications. The combined demands of occupiers, investors, and regulators are such that tangible benefits can be derived from embedding sustainability into the full investment process. Going forward, adoption, measurement, and reporting of sustainability initiatives will be a business imperative, given the broader benefits on rental growth, yield premiums, total occupancy costs, asset values, and marketability.”

In other words, investors now consider sustainability as a significant value add to real estate transactions.  Properties granted with these green building certifications have proof of their track record to see their green strategies and practices through, therefore adding to their overall value.

The credibility of green building certifications comes with several benefits, such as:

  • Government incentives – Different kinds of incentives like tax deductions are available only to organizations that meet a certain criteria (e.g., 50 percent savings in projected annual energy costs).  Each state has its own set of incentives, which can be found on DSIRE (Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency).
  • Marketing buzz – Organizations can add their green building certifications to their list of credentials to attract more customers and investors, and also to draw interest to their projects. People are apt to support organizations that fight for a cause, especially a timely one like environmental awareness.
  • Anti-greenwashing – Some organizations have opted for greenwashing, which is the practice of falsely presenting a green image through the dissemination of false information. They have gotten so good at it that it has become difficult to distinguish the truth from fiction. However, green building certifications differentiate legitimate organizations from the rest.
  • Forward-thinking design – In their desire to get certified (and to maintain said certifications), organizations are actively thinking of ways to achieve their sustainability goals. This helps them to be more innovative with their ideas, which leads to improved efficiency in their building designs.

With these benefits, investing in getting green building certifications should automatically be a worthwhile cause, but this is not the case for smaller organizations. LEED, the most popular certification program for green buildings, is costly and difficult to qualify for as it requires buildings to be built with green materials right from the start. For organizations with existing properties, this calls for major renovations.

Fortunately, there are other respected certification programs like Class-G that focus more on an organization’s current practices and strategies. Through these programs, organizations that are already doing things right don’t have to start from scratch – just to get the recognition they deserve.

Could Reusable Packaging be the Solution to Ever-increasing Office Waste?

reusable packagingWhen people think of office waste, the first thing that comes to mind is paper. Offices are renowned for using reams of paper every day, for invoices, interoffice memos, and more — most of which inevitably ends up in the trash. For companies trying to become more sustainable businesses, this can be a major problem.

Fortunately, by implementing a recycling program, encouraging reuse, and simply relying more on digital files, companies can reduce paper waste considerably. But there’s another kind of office waste that often goes overlooked, which must also be addressed in order to create a truly sustainable work environment: packaging.

Any time an office orders new supplies, the package they came in is thrown away without a second thought. This can include anything from cardboard boxes to plastic wrapping to packing peanuts. This type of waste can equal or even exceed a business’s paper waste production and greatly increase their carbon footprint. But the solution to this problem is simple. Employing reusable packaging can help companies eliminate this type of office waste and grow one step closer to becoming sustainable businesses.

Using Reusable Packaging in the Workplace

There are a number of ways that a company can use reusable packaging to reduce their carbon footprint. For instance, many companies store mountains of cardboard boxes, containing things like old financial records, equipment that’s not currently in use, and more. Over time, these cardboard boxes will tear, break, and ultimately be thrown away. Replacing those boxes when they fail with (recycled) plastic bins and tubs for storage is a great way to implement packaging that can be reused for decades.

Another thing sustainable businesses can do to reduce their carbon footprint is to seek out suppliers who employ reusable packaging. Office Depot is one such company, having introduced an eco-friendly policy last year to help eliminate office waste. Rather than cardboard boxes filled with plastic air pillows, shipments up to 20 pounds are now delivered in recycled paper bags, and shipped in reusable tote bags. Other office supply companies have similar waste-reducing policies. Finding these companies and ordering from them in the future will greatly help a company to reduce their carbon footprint.

Office waste is a major problem that many organizations do not address properly. Being on the lookout for types of waste and implementing eco-friendly policies, such as reusable packaging, to eliminate that waste, are important steps towards achieving sustainability.