Whether you own or lease your facility, you have many options for reducing your environmental impact.
- Locate your facility on a bus route, bike path or walkable distance from employee housing.
- Build your facility with or choose furnishings made from reused, recycled or sustainably-harvested materials.
- Find out if your facility can receive solar energy generated elsewhere or if heat pumps could reduce costs and impact. Efficiency Vermont‘s free consultations can advise you on how to increase your energy efficiency and educate you about financing options and the ROI of efficiency investments – whether it’s a new facility or a retrofit.
- Low-interest loans and rebates are available for energy efficient solar, heat pumps, or other efficient HVAC.
- When designing or renovating your facility, use environmentally friendly or LEED-certified practices.
- Design production areas to minimize waste, use of energy and water (e.g., use warehouse strip doors or add an airlock entry to conserve heat by doors that open frequently).
- Use natural lighting to boost energy (and attitudes) while saving expenses; use motion–detector lighting.
- Strategically designed roof overhangs, planted trees or window shades can provide shade during warmer months and reduce the need for air conditioning. Green roofs can also help regulate temperatures as well as offer other environmental benefits.
- Using rain barrels, dry wells, permeable pavers and other tools can reduce stormwater runoff.
- You can also purchase carbon offsets to balance your organization’s carbon usage.
- Low flush toilets and low flow showers can reduce water usage and also educate employees and customers about reducing water use elsewhere.
- Create a sustainability team to set goals, educate staff and track and report results.
- Set HVAC equipment for efficiency during the day/night, winter/summer etc.
- Make recycling and composting processes easy for all employees and customers.
- When wastewater is reusable, e.g., “graywater,” it can be used for landscaping, gardens or other uses.
- Install rain barrels, impervious surfaces, green walls, rain gardens, and other ways to mitigate runoff.
- Educate customers as well as employees with signage, blogs, to encourage widespread adoption of your practices.
- Encourage all to avoid using single use plastic bags, straws etc. in your workplace.
- When you have events or meetings:
- use reusable name tags
- serve organic, local and vegetarian options when possible
- avoid handouts and excess paper by displaying content digitally or on posters
Furniture & furnishings
- Switching to energy-efficient lighting and appliances can be done one unit at a time if budgets are tight.
- Purchase used furniture, paint, tools and equipment.
- Donate used items to a nonprofit or re-store (e.g., ReStore or Goodwill; some will pick up large items) or sell them to a used furniture dealer to keep them out of the waste stream.
- Sites that provide on-site coffee and tea can help reduce the use of single use containers and save employees’ money.
- You can avoid a great deal of incoming/outgoing paper and plastic waste by eliminating single use items (e.g., paper towels, plastic bags, straws, takeout containers) and instead providing reusable plates, cups, towels, napkins, flatware, as well as borrowable and reusable coffee or takeout containers.
- Examine each step in your production process for potential reduction (e.g. Best Practices Checklist):
- product design that minimizes use of raw materials and the need for toxic finishes such as painting, plating, etc.
- production processes and supplies that minimize use of energy, water and toxics
- potential uses for by-products, cleaners or gray water
- packaging design that minimizes use of materials and emphasizes reusable/recyclable materials
- packing processes with lower environmental impact (e.g. reuse shipping containers, pallets discarded by other companies)
- delivery processes that minimize environmental impact (group deliveries to conserve fuel and carbon emissions; delivery locally via bicycle, avoid overnight shipping by air to nearby locations)
- customer return/reuse policies that emphasize greening.
- Recycling is mandatory in Vermont, and yard debris and clean wood may not be mixed in with regular trash. On-site composting (mandatory in Vermont as of July 1, 2020) can reduce waste and provide useful materials for gardens, landscaping, or office plants. In some regions, compost pick-up services are available; some companies offer the compost to employees who are gardeners. (Once Act 148 is fully implemented in 2020, Vermont’s recycling and composting rate is expected to double, to 60% of waste, which would make it one of the greenest states in the country.)
- Activate electronics standby/sleep/hibernation settings and power them off completely (or unplug them to use no power) when not in use.
- Encourage paperless practices (establish digital filing systems, don’t print emails, invoices or drafts of documents, etc.). If paperless isn’t possible, encourage double-sided printing or printing on the blank side of old non-confidential documents; reuse paper to replace phone message pads, notepads or single use sticky notes.