Simple, smart sustainability goals for your business or workplace

Published Tuesday, May 10, 2016 in the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal and the Fredericton Daily Gleaner.

For businesses, striving to be more sustainable can be a challenge.  That’s partly because businesses are busy doing business – but also because sustainability is commonly perceived as complicated and/or costly.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  Many sustainability actions are simple and money-saving.  As with many things in life, success begins with SMART – IE Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, Time-bounded – goals.  

Here are a few goals that can help any workplace get started on the path to sustainability.  Just add timelines to suit your situation, and they’re ready to use!

For starters

We will set our photocopiers and printers to print double-sided.

We will use only paper that is FSC certified or high in post-consumer recycled content.

We will adopt an idling reduction policy, asking all drivers to idle no more than 30 seconds for the first start of the day and ten seconds for subsequent starts (with common sense flexibility in very cold weather); and we will ask drivers to limit the use of automatic car starters.

We will post stickers or signs asking everyone to turn off lights, computers and appliances when finished using them.

We will purchase only ENERGY STAR rated equipment and appliances.

We will strive to eliminate the use of disposables, particularly those made of plastic or foam, and provide reusable mugs, plates and utensils.  

We will encourage everyone to bring litterless lunches.

We will include one sustainability tip or idea in each staff newsletter and at each staff meeting.

Level two

We will install power bars or smart strips to eliminate phantom power.

We will encourage efficient driving by circulating hypermiling tips (such as the list at www.tinyurl.com/DriveLite).

We will discourage the use of bottled water by giving free refillable water bottles to all staff, explaining the benefits of tap water and showing how much plastic we can avoid.

We will hold a sustainability contest, with prizes for the best actionable tips received. 

We will fix leaky faucets and install flow restrictors.

We will fix or replace leaky toilets.

We will recycle everything possible, including electronics, printer cartridges and batteries.  We will provide clear direction on what goes where, and make it easy and convenient for everyone to do the right thing.

We will host a sustainability lunch-and-learn.

For leaders

We will develop a sustainable purchasing policy that prioritizes environmentally-friendly, minimally-packaged and locally-produced products.  

When replacing fleet vehicles, we will choose the most fuel efficient vehicle that meets our everyday needs.  We will rent for those infrequent times when larger capacity is needed.

We will encourage environmentally-friendly forms of commuting – walking, cycling, carpooling, using public transit.  We will make it easy by installing bike racks and making showers available.  We will offer incentives such as free transit passes or preferred parking spaces for carpoolers. 

We will appoint an Environmental Committee, clearly outline its responsibility and give it resources to work with. 

We will purchase voluntary carbon offsets – and gently brag about it in our advertising, on our website and through social media.

We will participate in a community cleanup – and gently brag about that too.

We will conduct an energy audit, then prioritize recommendations and act on them.

We will regularly update everyone on our energy and waste reduction goals and our progress toward meeting those goals.  We will celebrate our successes together to build commitment.

We will develop an environmental vision and statement of values (like the awesome one here: www.tinyurl.com/EnvVisVal); we will post it where everyone can see it.

Ready - set - go!

The above list is far from comprehensive.  But if you’ve been wondering how to improve the sustainability of your workplace, why not use it as a starting point?  Just email me if you’d like an electronic copy.