Environmental responsibility includes a significant spectrum of actions a business can take to reduce their impact on the planet. Investing in a fleet of eco-friendly shuttle buses or simply turning down the lights brings measurable benefits for the world (and the bottom line). If more businesses employ these methods, the benefits will grow exponentially.
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Many well-known corporations now contract private shuttles for their employees to ride to work, instead of each driving their own vehicles. According to research done by Stamen Design, approximately 7,500 workers ride private shuttles each day to major corporations in Silicone Valley. San Francisco County Transportation Authority estimates that these shuttles save about 28.7 million VMT (vehicle miles traveled). Using the EPA’s average carbon dioxide gas emissions from a passenger vehicle of 423 grams per mile, these shuttles save more than 12 billion grams of CO2, not to mention other emissions, in San Francisco County alone.
The top ten Fortune 500 companies have a total of 3,536,415 employees. Using available data about CO2 emissions saved by employee shuttles, we can figure that if just 25% of those employees were to use a shuttle service instead of driving a passenger vehicle to work, emissions would drop by roughly 1.5 trillion grams of CO2—more than 1 million metric tons. This would help offset the trend of increasing CO2 emissions attributed to transportation.
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GM is a leader in reducing waste. The baffles in a number of their vehicles are made from recycled test tires. They reused booms from the Gulf Oil Spill to create air deflectors for the Volt™. Even businesses who don’t manufacture can take action to reduce waste and positively impact the environment. The first step is conducting a waste audit to determine how much and what types of waste a company produces. Depending on the size of the company, this could be done by either an employee or a privately-contracted waste auditing consultant.
Due to differences in waste, it’s difficult to calculate the impact that could be made across a variety of organizations, but the EPA’s WasteWise program includes successes in more than 54 industries. Some of these companies have created millions of dollars in revenue, reduced disposal costs, and saved paper using waste reduction techniques.
Energy Efficient Improvements
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Not every energy-saving action has to be drastic. Energy consumption can be cut significantly simply by swapping incandescent or fluorescent bulbs for energy-efficient ones. LED lighting is a new step in energy saving measures that is even better than the popular CFL light bulb. LEDs are cool to the touch, more efficient than CFLs, and have a significantly longer lifespan. LEDs don’t contain mercury like fluorescent tubes and CFLs do. How much difference could changing a light bulb really make? The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that LEDs will cut electricity consumption by 35% in the commercial sector by 2030. From 2010 to 2030, the EPA expects LED lighting in industrial settings will save 88 terawatt-hours of electricity—enough to power 7 million households for a year.
Significant attention is given to corporate social and environmental responsibility initiatives such as zero-landfill manufacturing and carbon offsets, but not every business has the resources to launch these initiatives. While these initiatives are indeed important, businesses of all sizes, employing effective actions on an individual scale throughout the world, make an even bigger splash. As Howard Zinn put it, “Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”