Hello, fellow Earthlings! In case you haven’t heard, today is Earth Day! That’s right! Today is the day we sit back, take a moment, and reflect on the bountiful blessings we receive from this blue and green sphere (or pancake, depending on where you get your news) on which we reside. Today is also the day we should consider the ways we can retain the natural beauty of our planet. Ideally, we want to leave it in better condition than when we sprang forth onto the lush terrain. One way we can accomplish this is to identify exemplary green businesses and mimic their models. Or, we could get wild and crazy and come up with our own green business ideas! Either way, being a green business is cooler than all get out, so get on board, or you’ll be left floating in a sea made of your own plastic litter.
Why Earth Day?
Now, I know there will be a few of you reading this who will ask, “Why do we celebrate Earth Day? Shouldn’t we celebrate every day?” Well, yes, of course we should! But do we? I’d guess no, for most people, anyway. Contrary to the way it may seem, I’m not throwing shade at anyone. Rather, I’m just calling a spade a spade. If the majority of us had been making a habit of practicing our ideals, then our planet wouldn’t be in the condition it’s in.
Not surprisingly, Earth Day was founded in 1970. The 1960s and 1970s were notoriously a time of awakening on many fronts. While the Industrial Revolution propelled the U.S. forward with the ability to incorporate new and improved manufacturing processes, it was at a cost. The environment paid the steepest price, and those who were alive during that time witnessed the planet’s decline. People became increasingly concerned for air and water quality, which were experiencing increased levels of pollution due to emissions, runoff, and toxic waste. In fact, studies show between 1965-1970, the public’s concern for the environment tripled.
How is Earth’s condition today?
Even though we began recognizing the effects of our actions more than 50 years ago, sadly, we are in worse condition than we were way back then. One could argue that despite our efforts to be greener, our planet is actually less green than it was then. Specifically, our planet is experiencing desertification. Let me rephrase: we are rapidly converting into a desert.
Nevertheless, most people are aware of the impact we have on the planet, and therefore willing to at least consider ways to change their behavior to align with their ideals. For example, we see more businesses moving toward becoming greener.
How can businesses be greener?
One of the best ways businesses can be greener is by being a leader in practicing being green. Clearly, no one is perfect, and business are comprised of groups of flawed humans. So, there will be waste, over consumption, and general carelessness on occasion—even for the greenest companies. However, the goal is to continuously be trying to find ways to become greener, mostly by paying attention to our actions. Let’s identify some green business ideas.
One way we are seeing greener businesses is in the decreased use of paper. More businesses are keeping digital records and emailing digital receipts, instead of keeping hardcopy records and printing paper receipts. Sometimes paper is necessary, but oftentimes we can find greener ways to accomplish the same thing. For example, my doctor’s office has us fill out our forms on a reusable sheet. Once complete, they take a picture of the information, then wipe the sheet so the next person can use it. Very green and innovative!
Use eco-friendly products.
No matter where your headquarters are (i.e. your home or office elsewhere), the building will require some type of upkeep over time. So, when the time comes to change out the lightbulbs or replace windows, consider using eco-friendly products. Also, remember to keep the thermostat in check. Keeping the temperature consistent—rather than at extremes— will only reduce energy usage.
Use silverware instead of plasticware.
This may be a huge inconvenience for some, but perhaps you could encourage people to use silverware instead of plasticware. Gasp! Employees will have to wash their own dishes?! In all seriousness, using silverware instead of plasticware will not only cut down on your contribution to landfills, but it will save you some moolah.
Many of these green business ideas incorporate an aspect of minimalism. However, there is one area of having a greener business that you can maximize: get more plants! Not only can plants improve air quality, but they can also boost your mood. Plus, what’s greener than vegetation? Nothing that I can think of!
Raise awareness about other environmental issues.
One of the big modern-day environmental issues is the impact of livestock and commercial fishing on our planet. Many people have started partaking in events like Meatless Mondays to show their solidarity with some vegetarian or vegan ideology. Being a part of greener movements like this allows you to learn about the benefits for our planet, without feeling like it’s an all-or-nothing choice.
Have friendly competitions!
Speaking of Meatless Mondays, what if you encourage your employees to compete against each other to see who can survive the most Meatless Mondays in a month? Or, which department can have the most participation? There are countless green ways your employees can band together for the sake of the planet. When the competition is over, encourage employees to continue holding themselves accountable to continue focusing on being a greener business.
Reuse toilet paper and paper towels.
Only kidding about toilet paper! No one expects you to reuse toilet paper EVER! However, could there be a way for you to safely reuse things like paper towels? Why not?! Did you ever think how wasteful it is to dry your clean hands on a paper towel and then throw it away? What if you placed those “clean”—but damp—paper towels into a bin. When it’s time to clean up a spill, grab a handful of those used paper towels, instead. If it makes you uncomfortable to touch them with your bare hands, put on a glove, or handle them with one clean paper towel. That’s just one way to eek a little extra greenness out of your day. That is, if you can stomach being that green.
If you think you are as green as you can be, don’t sit too comfortably. As we continuously discover new ways to recycle, reuse, and repurpose, there is always something we could put in our green business toolbox to further reduce our impact on the planet. To add a little green psychology, the goal should be to modify our behavior to fit our ideals, instead of modifying our ideals to justify our behavior.
Why not make Earth Day a thing and have greener businesses?
The sad truth about the current condition of our planet if we refuse to have greener businesses is that the way we are behaving is not sustainable. This means conditions will only worsen. Continents will continue to convert to desert. Marine ecosystems will become a swamp of plastic and fishnet. Natural habitats will be destroyed, and their endemic critters who live there will be forced to find elsewhere to reside. Most likely, they’ll just die. This isn’t a question of if, it’s just a matter of when.
Fortunately for us, the fate of our precious planet lies largely in our hands. As individuals, we make up our own minds about how we will impact Earth. However, greener businesses can inspire individuals, therefore, businesses have a responsibility, too. So, do your part. Figure out how you can operate a greener business. In the end, it will most certainly be worth your efforts.