Purchasing Electronic Equipment Responsibly: Check for Certifications

When purchasing new electronic and computer equipment, one way for companies to be more conscientious is to choose vendors that have sustainability certifications. The following are certifications used for electronic equipment and ensure that the product has met or exceeded certain requirements for energy, resource and toxic chemical use.

Energy Star is by far the most well-known environmental certification. It is essentially a energy starcooperative effort of the EPA and the DOE. Many think of refrigerators when they think of Energy Star ratings. However, the system extends to notebooks, desktops, monitors, all-in-one devices, and scanners. These electronic devices must usually meet two standards. First, they must automatically go into a “low-power” mode when they are not being used. Second, they can only use a certain maximum of power when they are being used. The DOE is promoting energy savings and the EPA wants to decrease greenhouse gases.

epeatElectronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) is an online tool that assists buyers to evaluate products using environmental criteria. It looks at 51 elements in eight different categories. It is derived from IEEE Standard 1680-2006. There are rating levels named Gold, Silver, and Bronze. A bronze rating is awarded when all 23 required standards are met. The upgrade to silver occurs when those criteria are met, along with at least half of the other 28 optional standards. Finally, the Gold award goes to products that meet the required standards and 3/4 of the optional ones. At the EPEAT website one can scroll to the product that they need and quickly determine specific items that are EPEAT certified.

Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) is a set of standards regarding roHSdangerous substances in electronics that comes from the European Union (EU). These standards do allow for “trace amounts” in some cases. It does set specific standards for limiting the amount of cadmium, mercury, lead, etc. that can be present in a product. Today, one can select the certifications that your organization wants to meet, and then locate the products that meet the standards.

Our consultants can guide you further in your pursuit of green products and how to choose them. Please contact us for further information.

Green Tech Companies in Boulder Area

Boulder, Colorado leads the way in high tech startup companies according to a recently released study from the New Engine/Kaufmann Foundation. Three of these tech companies based in the Boulder area provide energy saving services that most organizations could benefit from immediately.

tendril  Tendril offers smart energy technologies for both energy providers and consumers. Businesses may monitor and control energy usage in a variety of ways using Tendril’s efficient Cloud based technology. It is much easier to conserve and reduce energy when a company has more control and knowledge.

green garageGreen Garage services vehicles so that businesses and consumers save money and decrease their environmental impact. They go beyond traditional auto maintenance by offering technologies including nitrogen tire fills and silicon based windshield wipers. With a fleet maintenance program and employee discount offers, Green Garage offers businesses with vehicle fleets a real eco-friendly and money saving alternative.

Boulder Hybrid Conversions  converts Prius automobiles into plug-in electric hybrids, boulder hybrid conversionswhich curtails gas consumption. Colorado taxpayers get a generous tax rebate that increases the financial attractiveness of this innovative conservation technique. Eco-officiency converted their Prius hybrid to add a 10kw battery pack and was thrilled with the service of Boulder Hybrid as well as the reduced visits to the gas station.

For more information on how we help you navigate and implement energy conservation options contact us.

Top 3 Recommended Sustainability Resources for Company Examples

The following three recommended resources are international organizations that offer broad information on sustainability to assist organizations, businesses, governments and communities in being greener. Keeping your business updated with sustainable practices starts at being informed of what other companies and organizations are doing to minimize resource use. Each organization has good information on company examples and application to various industries.

WRIThe World Resources Institute is a think tank that gathers information on critical areas of environmental need throughout the world. Using this research to employ experts, volunteers and WRI members, the organization forms integral partnerships that work on sustainable projects throughout the world. The resources available to the general public include the ability to create Strategic Relationships and becoming a member of a Corporate Consultative Group.

The Global Footprint Network provides cities, businesses and institutions with the ability to Global footprint networkasses their ecological global footprint. The first step towards finding out your ecological footprint is to go to the “Footprint Basics” tab, which includes a wealth of information for different groups on how to assess their contribution to environmental degradation. This website relates your footprint to that of other nations and organizations in the world, contrasting the differences created by levels of consumption and affluence.

nbis logoThe Network of Business Innovation and Sustainability is essentially a giant encyclopedia which links companies and organizations to all of the knowledge that they need to stay updated on the future of sustainability. Their network includes partners from governments, non-profits, individuals, professionals and even students. All of these people work together to teach, learn and innovate techniques and ideas about sustainability through events, workshops and discussions.

Green Building: Funding Options for Renewable Energy Projects

Few business owners would argue that green building practices are ethically the right step and will prove to be cost effective in the coming years. However, funding a green building project up-front can prove to be a challenge for many entrepreneurs and small to mid-size companies.  energy-efficiency

Consider the following funding options for your green building project:

  1. Research grant opportunities.  Grants for green projects are available at both the state and federal levels.  The Department of Energy, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Veteran’s Affairs and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development branch make funds available to both business owners and homeowners. The Environmental Protection Agency also has a list of funding sources for homeowners, industry and non-profit organizations. Grants.gov and mrsc.org are additional grant-finding resources.
  2. Rebates from the local utility company.  Utility companies often offer rebates on energy conservation and green building projects.  There is also a host of rebate programs available through Xcel Energy that can defray costs for energy conservation efforts.
  1. Energy Efficient Mortgages.  If you are taking out a mortgage on your business property, ask about an energy improvement mortgage. This special lending arrangement allows you to borrow a larger amount of money to fund green improvements, without having to increase your down payment.
  2. Federal Tax Credits. Similar to homeowners, business owners can get tax credit for qualifying energy-saving purchases, including air conditioners, furnaces or construction materials. The Business Energy Investment Tax Credit, is the corporate tax credit enacted in 2013 and provides up to 30% tax rebate for solar and wind and PTC renewable technologies.
  3. State and Local Tax Credits.  States and local municipalities often provide incentives for business owners to build green. In Colorado there are many opportunities with the Governor’s Office of Energy Management as well as other organizations.

Don’t let cost of renewable energy prevent you from building green.  Investing in renewable energy will save your business money over time and leave less of an environmental footprint.

Three Common Hurdles to Greening your Business

Planning and implementing a sustainability program for your business is a lot harder than it may initially seem. There’s no shortage of little snares and pitfalls that can hinder your plans for environmental friendliness. Here are 3 of the most common hurdles small and medium sized businesses face when trying to implement sustainability efforts:

  1. Lack of Information: One of the most commonly cited issues with small and medium Hurdlesbusiness sustainability is lack of information. Employees may not have enough information on how to implement green programs, or may not be properly informed that such a program is in place to begin with. Trying to make heads or tails of local and federal incentives and subsidies also makes it hard to know exactly what the most efficient path to take may be. Make sure to plan research time to understand the benefits and challenges of various sustainability initiatives.
  2. Too Much too Tackle: Many small businesses attempt to tackle sustainability initiatives with too large a scope or scale. And while the enthusiasm is helpful, failing to get a project off the ground can be a big morale killer. Most importantly, especially with new project managers, the experience needed to implement larger and more complex plans isn’t there yet. Instead, businesses should focus on building a sustainable foundation of smaller, easier to implement initiatives that can be built on into larger programs in the future.
  3. Lack of Leadership Support: When switching to sustainable business practices, it is vital that leadership, both the CEO and the executive team, support the initiatives. If employees don’t see the leadership on board, they often will sidetrack the efforts. Leadership should support initiatives by talking about them in staff meetings and be a visual example to sustainability initiatives that require behavior change.

Implementing a successful sustainability program takes time and experience. eco-officiency helps business owners throughout Colorado and nationwide plan and implement sustainability initiatives and train and educate staff on the best ways to implement these new practices to both improve office sustainability.

Sustainable Product Design: Designing for Abundance

The business world is driven by competition: to produce more for less, to sell more than your competitors, to make more money, to sell to more countries, and then there is a slightly different type of competition – to come up with the best idea or design a new way of doing something.

UpcycleCover_webEarlier this year, William McDonough and Michael Braungart, sustainability product design consultants,  published a book with an interesting challenge to the future of industry. Titled “The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability – Designing for Abundance”, the focus of the book is a discussion of how businesses might become part of a regeneration cycle in which there is no waste or cost for ecological measures.

This book builds on their book “Cradle to Cradle: remaking the way we make things” published in 2002, calling for industry to completely let go of the production of non-recyclable productions in favor of ones that are completely non-polluting. The authors are not just idea men, they both have been working on making their ideas realities, one idea at a time.

Businesses need to find ways to eliminate dependence on non-renewable products or byproducts containing pollutants that increase costs through special handling and disposal requirements. Eco-consultants can be part of the solution to help companies think about how they manufacturer, package and dispose of product.

Creating a Sustainable Business: Hiring a Sustainability Consultant vs. Forming an Internal Green Team

By now it is well known that corporate social responsibility is important–both to consumers and for the businesses themselves. Creating sustainable business provides short and long term benefits, in everything from attracting a wide base of socially conscious customers and earning their loyalty through green practices to minimizing operation costs and producing higher revenues. The question facing business owners now is how to become more socially responsible and sustainable. What is the most effective method to transition to sustainable business practices without disrupting the basic, essential flow of business?

Many businesses will choose either to create an internal team responsible for making the transition or higher an outside consultant. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, so let’s explore which method would be best for your business.

Happy team. Isolated.Creating An Internal Green Team

Change comes from within, and one of the best ways to inculcate the necessary culture of sustainable practice and keep employees consistently aware of its importance is to have the employees do it themselves. Having the opportunity to directly effect change is inspiring and will not only give employees more value in their work, it will lead to inspired effort and the cultural spread of this inspiration. An internal green team can provide a steady structure for change over a long period of time and maintain focus as the initiative grows and evolves.

That said, taking this approach has its downfalls. Internal employees often do not have the necessary expertise to create and execute an effective sustainability plan, and adding this to their existing workload may leave them with little time to bring the focus that is necessary for such a change. And while their efforts may be noble, creating cultural change requires a certain level of expertise. What starts as an exciting initiative can turn into a dud if the team doesn’t have the knowledge to create a sustainable culture within the organization.

Hiring an Outside Consultant

Any company serious about becoming sustainable should consider this option. sustainability-consultant2Sustainability consultants have specialized knowledge and expertise about the functioning of a company as it relates to sustainability, and can create informed directives that will affect the most positive change. Working with a sustainability consultant provides the opportunity for swift and effective change. Comprehensive sustainability plans that can be clearly developed, put into practice and a consultant will provide the expertise and tools necessary to implement them.

The only drawback here is the additional cost. Some business owners are hesitant to spend the upfront cost of hiring a consultant. However, it can be costly with employee labor and investment costs of sustainability if not done correctly and strategically.

The Best of Both Worlds

Why not do both? In fact, many sustainability consultants are aware of the positive impact of an internal green team and assist in creating one as part of the package. This way, a truly effective plan can be put in place by an expert and then put into action by the employees themselves.

Whatever you determine is best for your company, pat yourself on the back–going green doesn’t just save you money or build a loyal customer base, it’s the right thing to do. Whatever approach you take to doing so, be proud of your good effort! Whether you are committed to making this next step or simply intrigued, please feel free to contact us for more information.

Environmental Sustainability Resources for Small Businesses from EPA

An essential small business resource is the Small Business Environmental Home Page. Funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Asbestos and Small Business Ombudsman (ASBO), the Small Business Environmental Home Page was developed in 1996 and serves as a comprehensive directory of sustainable business information and environmental compliance specifically targeted to small businesses and assistance providers.SBA Resources

The collection of resources is extensive and organized per the following:

Environmental Compliance. Locate updates, publications, and factsheets regarding environmental compliance regulations and new rule implementation. This includes links to state specific regulations, timelines, and agencies.

Sector-Specific Compliance. Sponsored by the EPA, sector-specific, web-based National Compliance Assistance Centers were formed to assist regulated entities (e.g., combustion processes, automotive recycling, food processing, paints and coatings, printing, etc.) with issues and language unique to each industry. The Small Business Environmental Home Page links to each of these assistance centers.

Sustainability Resources. Find helpful portals to EPA-sponsored resources related to recycling, landscaping, energy use, pest control, waste management, refrigeration and AC, and more. Users may also identify grants, funding, and incentive opportunities for sustainable business practices. Links to state-specific agencies, guidelines, and opportunities are provided when possible.

Environmental References. Extensive assistance is provided in the form of a searchable database of EPA publications and factsheets, videos, website links, funding opportunities, and more.

Performance Measurement. Small business owners and assistance providers will also find guidelines for performance measurement for measuring compliance, including logic models.

Shared Information, Events, and Conferences. The website includes a searchable database of upcoming events and trainings. Access state and national newsletters and listserves. Identify national conference schedules, including the SBO/SBEAP National Conferences and Trainings.

FTC Revises Green Guides on Sustainability Marketing Claims

FTC logoIn response to businesses making unsubstantiated claims, the Federal Trade Commission attempted to level the playing field for the honest businesses by implementing revisions to their Green Guides on marketing claims, toughening standards for marketing products as green.

Looking around, it’s easy to find companies using broad, unqualified general environmental benefit claims such as “green” or “eco-friendly”. The FTC is encouraging businesses to avoid such broad statements as they can be difficult, if not impossible, to substantiate.

When marketers do make product claims, the FTC is requiring marketers to substantiate those claims. For example, if a product is marketed as “degradable”, evidence must be provided that it will indeed entirely break down and return to nature within a year after disposal.

The new Green Guides revisions also include sections on certifications and seals of approval, carbon offsets, free-of claims, non-toxic claims, made with renewable energy claims, and made with renewable materials claims.  On the other hand, they have declined to take any stance on the use of the terms “sustainable”, “organic” or “natural”. For example, in the case of “organic“, guidance for use of the term has already been provided by U.S. Department of Agriculture.

By marketing with these new guidelines in mind, you are taking part in the promotion of honest business practices at the same time. Please contact us if you want more information on how the FTC’s new Green Guides will impact your business.

2 Degrees Sustainability Network – Best Practices and Connection to Other Sustainability Professionals

2 degrees sustainability networkIf you’re a sustainability professional, an excellent resource is available for you from 2 Degrees Sustainability Network, and it goes far beyond simple social media. It’s a true network of professionals and experts with programs, platforms and engagement methods that bring measurable results.

This network is free to join and offers avenues of engagement with peers online, as well as in-person, within the industry in a variety of valuable ways, including:

  • Forums and Discussions: interact, share knowledge and collaborate with sustainability professionals from all around the globe
  • Specialist Suppliers Marketplace: featuring sources for carbon management software, behavior change resources, renewable energy consultancy, etc.
  • 2 Degrees Live Events: offering face-to-face discussions, where participants share and tackle sustainability challenges
  • Resource Library: offers beneficial toolkits, webinars, case studies, legal documentation and more
  • Client Programs: thought leadership and managed services to facilitate cost and risk reduction, enable growth and increase sustainability

2 Degrees offers practical problem-solving especially suitable for sustainability-committed companies desiring to exceed compliance, address resource inefficiencies and scarcities, meet customer expectations and leverage scale. Free membership provides access to over 31,000 international like-minded professionals.