Go Green: Being Proactive Pays Off
Of course you can wait until tighter regulations require you to make environmentally-friendly changes, but why be reactive when you can be proactive? Not only will you impact the environment sooner, but you'll be able to plan for changes that can also help your business, you'll be more likely to get greater cooperation from environmental agencies, you'll avoid potential fines or sanctions if you can't comply in time. And just as importantly, you can show you customers you care about the environment.
If that's not enough incentive, if you are found in violation of clean air laws, pollution control laws, waste water quality laws, etc., you could face stiff penalties and even be forced to shut down operations while you bring your business into compliance.
Even if you don't have to worry about environmental control regulations and policies, why not make your workplace greener? It's good for the environment, good for your employees, good for the community, and some customers (or potential customers) may choose to do business with you because of your "green" practices.
Get Help to Meet Environmental Regulations
Government agencies regulate a number of pollution-control situations. To show you the power of being proactive, let's look at amendments made to the Clean Air Act in 1990. Among other changes, the amendments extended federal air quality guidelines and restrictions to small businesses and not just to large, industrial-level companies.
How does the Clean Air Act work in practice? The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, establishes overall guidelines and standards for air pollution levels and controls. Your State government manages and monitors compliance to those standards.
How can you find out requirements for your area? Contact your State or area Pollution Control Agency. For contact information, visit www.epa.gov . You can also contact the EPA Asbestos and Small Business Ombudsman; search the EPA website for contact information. Not only can they help you understand air pollution guidelines, but they can provide information about asbestos removal, waste water treatment, chemical waste, solid waste, in short, any form of waste or pollutant. You can even ask for general information.
You can also contact a small business ombudsman in your state. For example, in New York State, the Small Business Environmental Ombudsman (SBEO) provides free, confidential assistance to businesses interested in understanding and complying with air quality regulations. Your business qualifies for free assistance if it is independently owned and operated and you employ fewer than 500 workers. Inquiries are confidential.
Other states also provide general assistance. In Georgia, the Georgia Small Business Environmental Assistance Program provides:
- Permit assistance
- On-site compliance assessment visits (determining compliance without the threat of enforcement actions)
- Help addressing air quality problems
- Accidental waste and pollutant release prevention and detection
- Help creating compliance strategies and plans confidential assistance in developing compliance strategies
- Advice for preventing pollution and waste
- Guidance on new regulations
- Workshops and seminars on air regulations to trade and industry groups
Most other states also offer free, confidential help. What do you have to lose? It's free!
Other Sources of Assistance
Government agencies aren't the only places to turn for information and guidance. Also check out:
- Trade associations. Trade groups are in constant contact with federal and state agencies and stay up to date on regulations and policies. They can also guide you to the right experts for your industry or business.
- Trade shows. Not only can you learn about the latest products, equipment, and technique, but you can also network with others in your business to find out what alternatives they have taken advantage of.
- Industry professionals. Environmental control specialists can serve as a consultant for your business either on an occasional or an ongoing basis. Firms can help you conduct testing, file required paperwork and reports, and implement changes to ensure compliance, both now and in the future.
Create a Greener Workplace
Complying with federal regulations is certainly important, but why stop there? According to the Sierra Club, business offices consume approximately 20% of all commercially-consumed energy.
And it gets worse; studies indicate the average office worker in the U.S. uses 10,000 sheets of paper a year.
That's a lot of trees.
So where can you start? Here are some easy to implement changes you can make to create a greener workplace:
- Copy and print on both sides if you need to copy or print at all!
- Turn used paper into scratch sheets
- Don't print pages you don't absolutely need
- Proof documents before printing
- Invoice digitally you can send and file e-invoices electronically
Lighting and Energy
- Turn off lights, switch to fluorescent bulbs, and take advantage of natural light
- Install motion detectors so turning off lights is automatic
- Set office thermostats at 78 degrees in the summer and 68 degrees in the winter; in areas with lots of physical activity, consider bigger changes
Equipment & Supplies
- Turn off office equipment like computers, printers, and copiers at the end of the day
- Choose energy efficient equipment and appliances when it's time to upgrade or replace
- Buy recycled products
- Make recycling easy place recycling bins in convenient locations
- Don't forget to recycle unusual items like printers, computers, cell phones... even office furniture