Materials

As a business owner, you have a product or service that you must sell and in order to be successful, you have to manage a variety of business operations related to that product or service.

The product or service that you offer may itself be considered green. But even if not, you can make decisions on a daily basis about your day-to-day operations that reduce your impact on the environment, and possibly save you money at the same time!

Carefully choose how you use, reuse, and dispose of the materials that go into the production and packaging of your product/service. Also consider the "hidden" byproducts, like the water you dirty or heat in the process, and what waste you send to landfill. Lastly, consider incorporating green building techniques into renovations and new construction.

Packaging

Today businesses can choose from a wide variety of packaging materials to protect their products as they move through the supply chain: corrugated cardboard boxes, molded Styrofoam, packing “peanuts”, shrink-wrap, bubble wrap, plastic bags filled with air, metal drums and wooden pallets. Packaging also serves to communicate important product information.
By reducing the amount of packaging, you may decrease costs, minimize waste, and garner increased customer satisfaction.
Consider taking the following steps to reduce packaging waste at your business:

  • Analyze your packaging design to see if there are ways to reduce material use without compromising product protection.
  • Consider reusing or recycling excess packaging material.
  • Use packaging that has post-consumer recycled content.
  • Ship your products in packaging that is made from biodegradable materials, like unbleached paper, cellulose foam, or bio-plastics.

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Waste

Waste comes from purchased materials that are rendered useless by inefficient processing. Business owners must then pay again to have wasted materials collected and hauled away. Waste hurts your business’s bottom line and its image. Customers and employees favor businesses that reduce waste. For these reasons, many business owners are working toward operating zero-waste businesses.

Reducing waste is also good for the environment. It slows consumption of resources, thereby lessening the pollution that is caused by shipping and processing those materials. Reducing waste also reduces landfill use.

Hazardous waste is difficult to handle properly and safely, and businesses that create hazardous waste must deal with expensive and time-consuming monitoring and reporting duties. Reduction or elimination of hazardous waste from your business activities provides reductions in costs, risks, and compliance requirements while increasing the health and safety of your employees and the environment.

Here are some tips to help you begin reducing waste at your firm:

  • Have an EMAP Environmental Consultant perform a free waste audit at your facility.
  • Review your production processes for potential waste areas and practice preventive maintenance.
  • Ask your employees where waste can be eliminated – they often know best!
  • Purchase equipment from suppliers that offer extended warranties and reliable repair service.
  • Rent equipment that will only be used occasionally instead of buying it.
  • Replace toxic materials with less-toxic substitutes like soy-based ink, water-based markers, and low-VOC paints.
  • Order from suppliers who minimize packaging and maximize recycled content.

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Water Use

We can easily take indoor fresh water availability for granted. But it requires energy to treat the water, pump it to your building, maintain pressure at each sink and shower, and heat the hot water. Then it takes additional energy to pump the waste water back to the treatment plant. In short, the less water you use, the better.

This section of the site provides tips for using water wisely to meet the needs of your business. You can begin by:

  • Reading your water meter to determine your baseline usage.
  • Inspecting pipes and equipment regularly and fixing leaks.
  • Installing water-saving faucets, toilets, and shower heads.
  • Reducing your washing of pavement, buildings, and vehicles.
  • Cleaning windows only as required.
  • Mulching plant beds and using soaker hoses for irrigation.
  • Educating your employees about the importance of conserving water.

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Building Materials

If you are in the process of renovating, rebuilding or constructing a facility, consider the unique position you are in to have an impact on the very materials you choose to "consume" in this process. That can include everything from the actual bricks and mortar, which could be comprised of recycled or recyclable material, diverting waste from landfill, to choosing local vendors and therefore reducing the carbon footprint of transportation.

A thorough green building project incorporates sustainable design, construction, and operation strategies. Use of environmentally friendly building materials in the construction phase of your project can offer the following benefits:

  • reduced environmental impact associated with the manufacture, transport, use, and disposal of the materials
  • lower ongoing energy and maintenance costs
  • improved indoor air quality
  • improved occupant health and productivity
  • credits toward LEED certification

Green building materials are diverse, affordable, and widely available. When purchasing, look for locally manufactured, recyclable products made with post-consumer recycled content. Select non-toxic materials with low VOC (volatile organic chemical) emissions.

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