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.

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.

Sustainable Packaging: Innovative Solutions to Learn From

Sustainable packaging is a $150 billion industry that is expected to grow over the next three years as consumers gravitate toward businesses who consider the social and environmental impacts of their operations.

Here are a few well-known corporations who have made changes to their packaging:mcdonalds bag

  • McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants have switched from bleached napkins and bags to natural paper with water-based dyes. The new designs are easier to recycle and healthier for both young and elderly customers.
  • Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Tim Hortons sell re-useable mugs and tumblers to their customers. These options not only reduce packaging costs, but also promote their brands and increase customer loyalty through discount programs. Starbucks has also committed by 2015 to have 100% of its cups made from recycled-content.plantbottle
  • Coca-Cola has been selling Dasani water in its trademarked PlantBottle packaging since 2011. PlantBottles are created with plant-based materials and require less petroleum to produce than traditional plastic bottles. (The company has also been in the news recently for their new commercial showcasing soda bottles made of ice.)
  • Dell has saved over $18 million dollars and eliminated 20 million pounds of packaging waste through reducing the size of their packaging by 12% and increasing its recyclable content. Dell is an innovator worth following when it comes to sustainable supply chains; they have committed to 100%-waste-free packaging by 2020.

Your business can learn from these global mega-corporations and leverage their innovations to save money, reduce waste, and turn packaging to be more environmentally-friendly. Consider hiring a sustainability consultant to help you with your packaging and purchasing practices.

Innovations in Plastic Packaging to be More Sustainable

packaging More than 25 million tons of plastic packaging is sold in the US every year, less than five percent gets recycled. Although plastic packaging is not always recyclable it is lightweight and thus, reduces transportation emissions when product is distributed. Changes are slowly being made in the plastics industry to help reduce waste, improve recycled content and use of materials.

 According to one article, Innovations in Plastic Packaging Help Lighten Environmental Footprint the changes will result in:“lighter packaging, less fuel to transport products, reduced use of natural resources, fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and less waste.”

A company called SmartCycle processes recycled content from beverage bottles to make packaging for food, box or thermoformed applications. Through creating a use for recycled bottles, the company is able to support recycling efforts while utilizing energy-saving manufacturing process.

Of course, reducing plastic materials altogether in packaging is ideal but not necessarily feasible for some manufacturers. If plastics packaging must be used it is important to choose plastics that can easily be recycled, such as resin numbers 1, 2 and 5. Or utilize plastic packaging that uses recycled-content. And finally, consider reducing the amount of plastic content used in the packaging as the bottled water industry started to do back in 2011.

 For more information about sustainable packaging and other eco-friendly trends for your business please contact us.

 

 

Four Packaging Design Considerations to Improve Sustainability

packagingChoosing sustainability packaging can have its challenges. Businesses want packaging that protects their product that also is environmentally friendly and reduces waste. When choosing sustainability packaging, there are four areas to consider:

  1. Material Type. Consider packaging that is made from recycled content, is compostable, or recyclable. According to a Dupont study of packaging professionals, 65% say their efforts are focused on design for recyclability or use of recycled content; 57% are focused on weight reduction; 41% rely on renewable or bio-based materials and 25% say they are focused on compostable materials.
  1. Elimination and Reduction. Determine whether packaging materials can be reduced or eliminated to increase efficiency. Other ways to impact material efficiency are to design reusable and recyclable packaging.
  2. Production Process. The production process is another critical consideration. This includes renewable energy use, efficient water use, and efficient manufacturing processes, throughout the production of the packaging.
  3. Package Formats. It is important to consider package format in packaging design such as bottles, cartoon, pouch, cans, or bag in the box as some examples. In choosing packaging materials, more and more companies are looking at options with greater recyclability, such as bottles and cans.  Currently, non-recyclable packaging currently has very limited end of life choices outside a landfill or incinerator, and leaves consumers with fewer options for environmental stewardship.

For more information on sustainable design considerations, download Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s Design Guidelines for Sustainable Packaging

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.