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10 Sustainable New Year's Resolutions for Businesses

Join the growing number of business leaders who are stepping up their efforts to be green in 2012.

1) Ask employees to turn off their computers when they are away from work. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, users can save energy by turning off monitors that won’t be used for 20 minutes and CPUs that won’t be used for two hours. In case you’re wondering, computers with the very best power-down features still use 30 percent of the power that they use when in normal operation.

2) Pay employees a living wage. Much attention has been paid of late to fair trade issues, which are couched almost exclusively in terms of international commerce, but the basic tenants are applicable to domestic workers as well. By paying employees well enough that they can afford to live, employers will lower attrition rates and improve productivity, thereby recovering a portion of the additional cost. The Society for Human Resource Management has a turnover cost calculator that may help employers determine how much they could save by decreasing attrition.

3) Ban bottled water at work. Plastic water bottles are the epitome of waste.  Enticing people to buy bottled water might just be the greatest marketing coup of all time. Do you realize that water costs $5.33 per gallon when purchased in 12 oz. bottles priced at $0.50 each? And we think gasoline is expensive! The worst part is that bottled water is often less pure than tap water. If employees complain about chlorine taste in water, install a filter on your tap.

4) Ban space heaters at work. Although employees may be tempted to use electric space heaters to keep warm, they are a bad idea for several reasons. They are often left on when offices are vacant and may be used to raise the temperature above what is really needed. Furthermore, they use 1,500 watts of electricity, making them prone to overloading standard 15-amp circuits. And they are a common cause of fires. Consider issuing fleeces with corporate logos to workers to help them keep warm.

5) Encourage recycling. Many communities have single-stream recycling available for residences, but still lack recycling for commercial properties. Nonetheless, recycling generally saves money because it can reduce dumpster tipping fees by an amount greater than the cost of having recycling hauled away. Try placing a recycling bin next to every trash can in your workplace and explain why it’s important to make the effort. Recycling one 12 oz. aluminum can saves enough electricity to power a TV for three hours.

6) Consider allowing flexible work schedules. By allowing employees to vary their work hours, employers can benefit in many ways. Higher employee morale will increase creativity and productivity. By avoiding the peak rush hours, employees’ commuting costs may be reduced and their quality of life improved. Often employees granted flex time will be better able to balance their work and personal lives, leading to better attendance and fewer distractions at work.

7) Offer healthier snacks to employees. Consider substituting several healthy choices in snack vending machines. Typical snacks are great for taste buds and horrible for the rest of the human body. They are full of simple sugars, salt and cholesterol. Try replacing the least popular items with nuts, dried fruits and trans-fat-free, whole-grain crackers.

8) Hold virtual meetings. Airline travel is the least energy-efficient form of transportation, yet it is often used by business travelers. Often business representatives fly to distant cities simply to attend a meeting. Now that free, internet-based video conferencing tools, including Skype, have evolved to a point where the meeting experience is quite satisfactory, it makes less sense to travel. Save time, money and the environment by staying put more often.

9) Inspire your customers with incentives. Offer discounts to clients who have demonstrated green achievements. Programs of this sort have a two-fold benefit; they position the sponsoring company as a leader in sustainability, and it inspires customers to go out and do good things.

10) Say no to polystyrene. Every year, Americans throw away 25 billion polystyrene (Styrofoam) cups. Benzene, a known carcinogen, is used to make Styrofoam. When stored or heated, Styrofoam may leach the possible human carcinogen styrene into foods, according to www.ehow.com. Most polystyrene products end up in landfills where they will never decompose. Many firms are establishing their facilities as polystyrene-free zones where cups, lunch trays, packing peanuts and plates are banned. Alternatives to Styrofoam include paper food containers and biodegradable eating utensils made from corn and sugar.

Happy New Year!

This article first appeared on www.GreenBusinessMatters.com

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

oldtwnlaurel January 03, 2012 at 01:56 AM
Ohai, your lack of understanding real economics, rather than your "market driven" flights of fantasy only illustrate why we have ended up where we are. People tend to change jobs because of child care needs or because a job has cut back on their hours, not because they are moving up the ladder.
MG42 January 03, 2012 at 02:52 AM
oldpwnedlaurel- we ended up where we are as a nation because we were too market driven? You're too funny! I think we have the two party scam in DC to thank for that. http://dailycapitalist.com/2011/11/03/capitalism-death-by-a-thousand-cuts/ And if people are changing jobs because their hours were cut back, do you think it's likely that their employers can afford to pay them more? Do you even think these things through at all? And the reason childcare is so expensive is because of government regulation. Go research the laws and regulations involved in starting a child daycare- it's enough to make your head explode.
MG42 January 03, 2012 at 03:09 AM
Oldpwndlaurel- if it's true that only a few companies offer living wages, is it logically true then that most people are living in poverty? That is verifiably false. I think some people in this country need a lesson in what poverty is. Unfortunately, thanks to our bi-partisan national debt and Keynesian spending orgy, that lesson is going to come.
oldtwnlaurel January 03, 2012 at 04:16 AM
Ohai: That we reduced everything to the false god of the "Market." We, as a society, reduced people to resources to be exploited. the Objectivists who created this mess in the 80's and 90's are now closing the noose to reduce the American populace to serfdom, all in the name of squeezing a few more dollars out. Blaming the governments attempts at assuring safety just shows your bias: Poor people don't need help, they need to be crushed. You're a fool and a tool. I hope that your Neo-Feudalism keeps you warm at night once the forces you cheerlead turn on you and you end up in penury since it will be "for your own good."
MG42 January 03, 2012 at 12:46 PM
The objectivists who created this mess in the 80s and 90s (I assume you mean Reagan and Bush I who were not objectivists but whatever) and who are apparently still in charge somehow to "close the noose"? Really, blaming Ayn Rand? You have a screwy worldview. Governments have done anything but attempt to assure safety. Look at Social Security. That is a ticking timebomb that will harm millions of people. If a private company started that Ponzi, every executive involved would be in the slammer. Blame Wall Street if you want, but the real culprits are down in DC.

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