Sustainability is all the rage these days—and for good reason. Businesses everywhere are racing to reduce their carbon footprints, save water and control how much pollution they spew into the environment. Even major law firms, not traditionally thought of as first adopters or eco-leaders, are getting in on the act.
How can your business do its part to protect the environment without spending an arm and a leg? Follow these five straightforward steps, for starters:
Embrace Industry-Appropriate Technologies
Ubiquitous technologies like email and scanning promote eco-friendly business behavior that cuts across industry lines. But there are plenty of sustainable technologies that apply to firms in specific niches. For instance, e-discovery saves untold thousands of trees each year simply by transferring sensitive legal materials from old-fashioned legal paper to secure, cloud-based files.
Recycle Your Old Electronic Devices
Electronics make the world go round, but they’re not actually that great for its non-human inhabitants. That’s because the typical electronic device contains dozens of toxins and heavy metals that pollute waterways, accumulate in wildlife and threaten the delicate environmental balance that we take for granted. Recycling your electronics — after thoroughly wiping sensitive data stored on them, of course — is one of the most cost-effective things you can do for Planet Earth.
Make the Switch to CFLs
Compact fluorescent lightbulbs, or CFLs, last many times as long, use far less energy, and burn even brighter than traditional incandescent lightbulbs. What’s the catch? They’re a little more expensive — though their prices are falling fast, and the cost per hour of use is actually lower than incandescents in most parts of the country. It’s easy to outfit your office with CFLs, too: Every time an old-school bulb burns out, just replace it with a newer, more efficient one. Who said energy efficiency had to be hard?
Control Paper Waste
When you stop to think about it, it’s shocking how much paper the typical American workplace uses in the age of smartphones, tablets and cloud storage. Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to control your office’s paper use:
- Use real kitchenware instead of disposable plates, cups and utensils
- Switch to double-sided printing and copying for documents that can’t be transmitted electronically
- Recycle everything that doesn’t need to be shredded
- Use emailed and scanned internal memos and documents (instead of printed or copied) whenever possible
- Have prospective and new employees fill out applications, new hire packets, tax forms and other paper-intensive documents online whenever possible
Invest in Sustainable Energy Infrastructure
Investing in sustainable energy infrastructure is probably the most capital-intensive step on this list and requires substantial control over an entire structure, so it could well be out of reach for firms without sufficient capital reserves, attractive credit profiles, or owner-occupied spaces. But it also offers the greatest potential benefit, both in terms of immediate energy savings and long-term ROI. Examples of sustainable energy infrastructure include:
- Rooftop solar panels or investment in a community solar garden
- Green roofing
- Energy-efficient windows and passive HVAC systems
- Geothermal water heating systems
Taken together, these sustainable “bones” could qualify your building for LEED certification, an important selling point (and real indicator of your eco-friendly bona fides).