The Importance of Electronics Recycling and e-Stewards Certification

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), TVs, computers, computer accessories, and cell phones equaled approximately 2.37 million short tons of U.S. waste in 2009. The problem is compounded by both the toxicity and the accessibility of materials used in electronics–lead, nickel, cadmium, and mercury, for example. When disposed of improperly, such materials leak toxins into air, soil, and water. Additionally, mining the elements for new production depletes natural resources.

Even so, your business relies on properly functioning and up-to-date technology. “Out with the old; in with the new” is part of operations. By reusing, repurposing, and recycling your office electronics, you help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, save energy, and use fewer raw materials from the earth. For good reason, electronics recycling is an important consideration in green business operations.

e stewardse-Stewards is an important resource for any business wishing to conscientiously dispose of outdated electronic equipment. The e-Stewards Initiative originated in 1997 with the Basel Action Network (BAN), a non-profit organization committed to stopping international trade for toxic waste. Through advocacy and investigations, BAN revealed that much of U.S. toxic waste, including that of electronic waste, was sent for “recycling” only to be illegally (and cheaply) dumped in poor communities and developing countries ultimately polluting soil, water, and food supplies.

In 2008 the e-Stewards Certification for electronics recyclers was developed. Today, this stands as a rigorous, internationally recognized certification program that enforces best practices in electronics recycling.

It is important to keep your business on-pace with developing technology. It is equally important to dispose of outdated electronics responsibly. Several businesses, large and small, rely on trade-in and buy-back programs to dispose of old office electronics. To be certain your e-waste will be recycled properly, look for an e-Stewards certified recycler that operates by the Electronics Recycler’s Pledge of True Stewardship. The e-Stewards website features an interactive map locating e-Stewards certified electronic recyclers in your area.

For more information about environmentally responsible electronics disposal, contact us.

 

 

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.

Sustainability Resources in the Colorado Rockies

There are many beautiful reasons to live in the Rocky Mountains: 14,000 foot peaks; lush mountain valleys; abundant wildlife; and epic winter snow! And these are all the same reasons why sustainability is important. Making your business green and sustainable will help preserve the environment so many Coloradans love to get outside and enjoy.

allianceHere in Colorado, the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado brings together community and leadership to promote a Colorado that values environmental, economic, and social wellness. The ASC works through their Alliance Center, policy, and education and outreach. The have a fantastic events calendar which provides a catalog of all the sustainability events being held in the Colorado area.

The city of Denver has an Office of Sustainability, which recently finalized its “2020 denverSustainability Goals.” The document, which is available online, highlights goals for the city and Colorado businesses in multiple categories including resource conservation, environmental and social sustainability topics.

catamountThe Catamount Institute has been inspiring ecological stewardship since 1997. Although most of its programs are in the Pikes Peak/Colorado Springs region they are definitely open to anyone in Colorado. Every year, the Catamount Institute hosts the Colorado Sustainability Conference in Colorado Springs which focuses on raising awareness of sustainable best practices and empowering attendees to “lead the way to positive change.”

At eco-officiency, we love the Rocky Mountains and enjoy working with clients in Colorado and around the country. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your business be more sustainable!

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.

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.

Five Recommended Articles on Sustainability from 2013

Recommended articles on sustainability include a broad range of topics, from global warming to leadership to ideas on creating a sustainable business.articles

The World’s Best Sustainability Ideas by Susan Adams

This article was published in Forbes Magazine and rewards businesses and organizations who are implementing the best ideas in sustainability. Among the businesses on the list include those who have learned to help others irrigate rain water, create building materials from local soils, and a medical company which created biodegradable injection needles.

The companies are inspirational, and many of them started with a simple idea. Many businesses who have a small idea can glean inspiration from those who blazed a path before them.

Adding a sustainability standpoint, the article argues, will give clients and contractors an idea of who the business is as an entity. The article does go on, however, to remind businesses that sustainability must be proven, and not just stated.

Sustainability Trends 2013 by Environmental Leader

The Logistics, Carbon and Business Data Book: Fall 2013 Sustainability Trends provides sustainability executives, decision-makers, and research teams a collection of charts presenting logistics, sustainability and sustainable business-driven data.

Sustainability and the C-Suite: Who’s Engaged, Who’s Not, and How to Gain More C-Level Support by University of Oregon

In partnership with the Sustainable Industries Magazine and University of Oregon Sustainability Leadership Program, this 2013 CXO Study reviews C-level management engagement in sustainability and survey findings with sustainable leadership.

Teaching Climate Change to Skeptics by Carmen Nobel

This article, originally published in Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge, is an acceptable read to encourage all office personnel to improve their sustainability efforts. The article states the fact that many American businessmen either believe climate change is man-made but there is nothing we can do or businessmen believe climate change is man-made and we should take action now, with a small percentage citing not enough evidence over time to make an educated decision about climate change overall.

Carmen Nobel moves forward to present facts for those who feel there is a shortage of long-term evidence. There is strong evidence, gathered over five decades, which prove a correlation between CO2 levels and human activity. The writer also cites data collected from ice cores in Antartica over thousands of years. The data proves that most CO2 damage began soon after the Industrial Age.

The article continues to argue that businesses which address climate change can build stronger brands, erase negative press and possibly save money.

Global Warming Finally Reaches the Last Arctic Region by Kathleen Ruhland

This article, published on The Conversation and reprinted by Scientific American, will further push businessmen to understand why they need to be sustainable now. The article states that the Hudson Bay area of Canada referred to as the Lowlands is the last arctic region on Earth to experience global warming.

Many skeptics were pointing to this area as proof that global warming was false, but their frigid arguments are quickly melting. The Lowlands were able to maintain steady, cold temperatures until the middle of the 1990’s. The ice of the Hudson Bay provided a natural freezer to keep the Lowlands cold and the biological communities stable.

Over the last few decades, however, the area is warming up at alarming rates. The ecosystems, from the polar bears to the humans living in the area, are falling apart faster than ever before. If businessmen want to improve their image, they will gear their business toward the fact that the world is working on its very last arctic ice region.

Here are more resources on sustainable business from eco-officiency.

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.