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!

Water ScoreCard – A Data Tool for Businesses

When it comes to accessing the effectiveness of a water management strategies the Water ScoreCard – Tools for Businesses can be a useful tool for businesses.

The Water ScoreCard was initially created as a tool to help governments ensure better water quality, but many businesses are successfully using it to ensure their water management program is optimal. It is useful for any business that implements a water management program for sustainability and operates several different facilities.  The scorecard is a hosted program into which data about water usage is compiled and a company score is assigned based on the given information.  The Water ScoreCard can be used to:Water Score Card Guide

•  Create a snapshot of overall water usage across various facilities.

• Highlight facilities where water usage efficiency has been improved

• Easily locate facilities where improved efficiency in water management is needed.

• Compile data about water usage in cooling towers

• Quickly spread principles of water practices through staff

A guide to the Water ScoreCard was created in a joint venture between AT&T and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in order to help companies better understand how to create, understand, and manage the program.  The Water ScoreCard system has served to not only lighten the ecological footprint of business, but has allowed several companies to enjoy cost savings from reduced water usage.

The toolkit also contains easy-to-understand visuals about the importance of water and best practices in water efficiency at facilities.

To learn more about water reduction strategies and tools like the Water ScoreCard, please contact us at eco-officiency.

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.

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.

Defining Green Team Roles and Responsibilities

Happy team. Isolated.Green Teams are groups of green-minded co-workers and colleagues that can provide guidance and direction on sustainability initiatives within an organization. Often these teams are loosely formed and their role and responsibilities are not clearly defined. Providing clarity not only motivates the green team but can often help businesses go to the next level with their sustainability initiatives.

The following are possible roles and responsibilities your green team could have within your organization:

  • Conduct and analyze sustainability assessment/s
  • Set sustainability priorities and goals
  • Develop a sustainability project plan
  • Coordinate,  launch and support sub-task teams for sustainability initiatives
  • Advise on sustainability opportunities and innovations
  • Track, monitor and analyze sustainability metrics and measures
  • Address and manage challenges and constraints to the sustainability initiatives
  • Develop a sustainability communication plan and process
  • Recommend or provide sustainability education, support and offer advise to other employees

Green teams are an important asset to any organization and can be a source of motivation for innovation and business process improvements. According to Greenbiz.com, The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) released a not-too-startling report entitled “The Engaged Organization: Corporate Employee Environmental Education Survey and Case Study Findings” which confirms:

“By engaging employees, companies can spark innovative changes in everyday business processes that save money and reduce environmental and social impacts while also inspiring employees to make sustainable choices at home and in their communities.”

For more information about how to effectively build a green team in your organization, contact us.

Recommended Sustainability Apps to Track and Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

carbontracker_appThere are apps that are designed to measure business and individual carbon footprint from daily activities. These apps not only identify the environmental costs of your business activity, they also suggest ways to reduce your energy usage and other activities that you can do at home or work to reduce your carbon footprint.  Here are some recommended carbon tracking apps for business and individuals:

  • Carbon Track by SAP gives users an estimate of the CO2 emissions associated with key business activities such as travel, electricity  usage, and waste disposal and helps them understand their environmental impact.  For example, users can calculate the environmental impact of their next business trip and compare the CO2 emissions of different forms of travel.
  • Carbon Tracker by Softzilla is an iphone app that helps businesses measure carbon with certain business activities such as with different modes of transportation, switching off different types of office equipment and carbon effects of business waste.
  • Green Outlet is similar to Carbon Track but is designed for residential use.  Green Outlet helps homeowners discover which of their household appliances use the most electricity, predict their monthly electricity bill, and make informed decisions about their electricity use.  The app will also alert users when they have exceeded US guidelines for recommended carbon usage and connects users to options for purchasing carbon offsets.
  • Green You can help individuals take steps toward greener living.  Users begin by entering basic information about topics such as transportation, food, and housing to calculate their carbon footprint.  The app then helps users identify specific actions they can take for greener living.  The app tracks progress over time.

Contact us for more information on how we can help you reduce your carbon footprint and improve your environmental impact.

PedalSmart Bike Ambassadors Program in Boulder – Free Training on Biking to Work

PedalSmart_LOGO_WEBPedalSmart is a Boulder, Colorado based program used to encourage commuting to work via bicycle. PedalSmart Bike Ambassadors come to your place of business and give interested employees all the information and training they need to promote and inspire success. This is fully funded so the employer pays nothing. This program is sponsored by Community Cycles which has been promoting cycling in Boulder since 2006.

There are several benefits to having your employees bike to work:

  • Easier parking. No bike racks? Community Cycles can provide them at a very low cost.
  • Healthier employees means less sick time.
  • When biking, workers tend to arrive on time and in a good mood.
  • By promoting a bike-to-work program, you can apply to be part of the Bicycle Friendly Business program that presents awards and national recognition to businesses.
  • Earn prizes–As part of the program, your employees are given tools they can use to track their mileage. By keeping a record of how much they ride, they become eligible for prizes.

The City of Boulder provides excellent bike path maps and route finders. Would you like assistance integrating this and other alternative transportation programs into your entire sustainability plan? Contact us.

Recycling non-Traditional Business Materials

When we think about recycling today, EPA Graphwe typically think about regular recyclable items such as plastic bottles, aluminum, glass and tin cans.  There are also now resources to recycle other office items such as Styrofoam, batteries, cell phones, CD’s and electronics. With our landfills becoming full, toxic and more expensive it is important for businesses to do their part to recycle as much as waste as possible. Here is a list of resources and office items that you can recycle. Don’t see an item listed? Visit our full list of recycling and donation resources for more recycling resources for businesses.

  • Styrofoam Packing Peanuts

Thanks to groups like the Plastic Loose Fill Council, the ways in which we recycle styrofoam are finally moving into the 21st century.  They have created a program in which used packing materials are repurposed for other business to use.  So, rather than adding those packing peanuts to the landfill, consider sending them a box full.

  • Batteries

The worst thing about batteries is how toxic and damaging they are when left to decompose in our environment. First, check with the battery manufacturer as many times they offer recycling programs for their products.  You can also contact Call2Recycle for locations that accept batteries for responsible recycling.

  • Cell Phones

You probably have see the cell phone recycling bins at your local big box electronics store or in the lobby of the cell phones stores but, did you know that there are other alternatives?  A cell phone can be a huge blessing to those in our third world countries so Collective Good can make that happen.  Domestic violence victims would also be very appreciative of your old phone so the NCADV will happily take it off your hands and put it to good use.

  • Bio-Plastics and Bio-degradable Materials

These are plastics made from lactic acid, soy protein or vegetable starches.  Through naturally occurring processes these plastics will break down over time, completely and without releasing toxins into our soil. If you need to find a recycler for these items contact FindAComposter.com and they will help put you in touch.  By making the effort to compost these products we will encourage the industry to continue to produce earth-friendly bio-plastics.

  • E-Waste (Computers, Printers, Monitors)

KOPEG (Keep Our Planet Earth Green) has an excellent recycling program that can also serve as a way to raise funds.  Encourage recycling of items like old cell phones or MP3 players, broken digital cameras, obsolete PDAs and more, and they will help you turn it into cash.

If you aren’t sure how to recycle a material, Contact us to find out more!

Promoting Sustainable Behaviors in Your Organization

Businesses often overlook one simple fact concerning sustainability education, human behaviors are not always rational. Behaviors tend to be based on emotion and culture. A classic example of this is cigarette smoking. Despite the clear negative effects of smoking and the highly visible warning labels, every year people still choose to start doing it.

When attempting to promote sustainable behaviors among employees, you can learn from this recognition that people do not always make rational decisions. When educating employees about your sustainability program, you not only need to give them facts and information but also identify the behaviors you want to change.  This is where the concept of social marketing to promote green behaviors will benefit your business.

According to Doug McKenzi-Mohr, author of Fostering Sustainable Behavior: Community Based Social Marketing, he cites three 3 steps to getting the change you want:

  1. Identify the Behaviors: Organizations need to clearly identify the behaviors they want changed as it relates to their sustainability program. For example, do you want your employee to turn off their computer at night OR do you want them to turn off the power strip that turns off all their equipment.
  2. Identify the Barriers and Benefits: Once a behavior is identified, then it is important to understand what barriers they are to doing that behavior. If we take the example of turning off their computer, a barrier might be that IT department encourages employees to keep their computer on so they can do updates to systems. Identifying benefits, is being clear to see what is in it for the employee and/or organization. With our computer example, an organization can save over $100 per computer, per year if turned off at night.
  3. Develop Strategies: Once behaviors have been identified with the barriers and benefits, then building a strategy and plan of action to adopt those practices is the final step. A successful plan will change the culture and the types of behaviors that are emotionally gratifying to your employees.

Here at eco-officiency we are at the cutting edge of fostering sustainable behaviors and understand the psychology behind promoting real change. Contact us for more on how we will help craft and implement a successful plan.