Author Archives: Kate Harveston

Embracing sustainability

Embracing Sustainability in the Business World

Embracing sustainability

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Sustainability is a buzzword that’s thrown around a lot when it comes to being environmentally friendly, but it’s often overlooked in the business world. We set computers aside when we don’t need them anymore, toss toner cartridges into the trash and use more than 90 million tons of paper every single year at U.S. businesses alone.

How can businesses embrace more sustainable practices?

Go Paperless

We’ve already mentioned how much paper Americans use every year. The easiest way to combat this kind of wastefulness and embrace sustainability in your office is, obviously, to go paperless.

We can translate most of our papers into digital formats seamlessly. We can even sign and digitize documents that require a signature, like a contract. Paper checks should be a thing of the past, and we can share hourly statements and bills digitally rather than printing them.

Storing interoffice documents in the cloud not only eliminates paper in the office, but it also facilitates collaboration with employees both inside and outside of the office. If security is a concern, you can lock the files with both a password and location — the latter means users can only access data on computers or devices that are in a particular area.

Going paperless is not something you’ll be able to do overnight. Instead, set up a plan over the course of one year or five years — or however long you think it will take for you to go completely paperless.

Water Dispensing Systems

Even if you have humidifiers in the office, these environments are inherently dry, so many people carry water bottles to stay hydrated. Encourage employees to ditch the disposable water bottle by offering filtered water refill stations throughout the office. You can even opt for refill stations that fit on top of your existing water fountains, which have a vertical filling spout so you don’t have to tilt your water bottle sideways to fill it.

You can even go one step further by offering branded water bottles with your logo and information on them — you’re doing something good for the environment while getting some free advertisement in the process.

Opt for Green Energy

Switching to green energy is one of the best ways to embrace sustainability, but it isn’t always the easiest step. Start by talking to your power company — they may have green energy programs you can opt into at little to no cost.

Depending on your building location and local building regulations, you may be able to install solar panels that will offset your energy usage. This is quite an investment, but if you’re committed to going green, it can be a great way to get away from traditional power grids that burn fossil fuels for power.

Sustainability was once thought to be the enemy of profit, but more and more examples are emerging that show that sustainable businesses can not only turn a profit — they can also thrive.

Encourage Carpooling

Just one person commuting to and from work five days a week generates nearly 7500 pounds of CO2 every year. Multiply that by the number of employees you have.

Encouraging carpooling or using public transportation can help to reduce the carbon footprint of your business exponentially. Even getting just five people to stop solo commuting can help reduce your carbon footprint by more than 35,000 pounds of CO2 every year — and that’s assuming your employees are only driving 15 miles to work and have a car that gets decent gas mileage.

Go Green — Literally

Office spaces are generally drab and bare, but they don’t have to be. Adding greenery to your office — especially if you have windows — can be an excellent way to improve morale in your office. It’s also an inexpensive way to improve office air quality. Most of these plants are easy to keep alive and remove chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde and ammonia from the air.

Having greenery is better for your employees in more ways than one, and it doesn’t take much to add some plants to your office.

Work From Home

Telecommuting is becoming increasingly popular in a host of different industries. It’s easier for employees to work from home, and it helps to reduce their carbon footprint by eliminating their commute.

If your employees could complete their work from home, consider offering it as an option for at least a few days a week. You might still want to meet in the office regularly for meetings or collaborative projects, but it’s beneficial to the environment to allow your staff to work from home when possible.

Sustainability is a lot more accessible than it was a decade ago, and business and sustainability are no longer mutually exclusive. Even in developing countries, we are beginning to see stories of business owners and consumers alike prioritizing clean energy and other environmentally friendly practices that will, in turn, only serve to help the health and wellness of their people.

If countries that are still sometimes struggling to meet their citizens’ basic needs can make sustainability a priority, America can definitely afford to step it up. Even small steps can help make your business more sustainable overall. If you’re committed to the path, you can work up to the bigger ones. Take it one day at a time — what’s important is that we are trying to make a difference.


Environmental Risks Associated With California’s Cap and Trade Bill


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The changing climate is a popular topic all over the world. Whether people choose to acknowledge that the climate is changing or not, there are major shifts happening because of human behavior and decisions. If we’re not making conscious choices to put an end to emissions, we’re only making the problem worse.

As part of its duty to help reduce the number of emissions, California has decided to extend its cap and trade program. This program focuses on reducing greenhouse gases. However, while the bill means well, it may have some environmental risks associated with it.

What Is California’s Cap and Trade Bill?

California’s cap and trade bill, known as Assembly Bill 398, is unlike any other bill in the country. With this piece of legislation, California requires companies to purchase permits if they’re going to release greenhouse gas emissions. However, it is the only state that has introduced a bill like this.

With the bill in place, California allows for a certain amount of permits that can be distributed throughout the state. If a company will be releasing greenhouse gas emissions, it must apply for a permit or purchase one in an auction. This limits the number of companies that can release greenhouse gas emissions, taking more control over pollution within the state.

The bill has already been in place for five years. However, it was set to expire in 2020. Recently, California has voted to extend this bill for another 10 years. Now that the bill has been extended, it will not expire until 2030.

Although the bill received bipartisan support, it may not be all it is cracked up to be. While the bill aims to lower greenhouse gas emissions to improve the environment, it may actually have some environmental risks attached.

Environmental Risks of California’s Cap and Trade Bill

This cap and trade bill has helped California reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. However, many feel it hasn’t done enough to really make a big difference. Because time is so important when it comes to fighting climate change, stronger protections need to be put in place immediately.

Although it does put minimal protections against the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted into the air in California, it is still created with the interests of businesses first — not the environment. There simply aren’t enough crackdowns on these companies to make a sizeable impact on climate change.

The bill also gives these companies a loophole so they don’t need to change their practices. Rather than forcing businesses to adopt cleaner processes and procedures, they can simply pay their way to keep the same greenhouse gas-emitting plans they’ve been following. While the fee can prevent smaller businesses without the budget from practicing poor habits, it does little to stop major companies that have the money to spend.

California’s cap and trade bill also benefits companies by giving them a tax break through the bill. Even if the company does not practice clean procedures, it may be able to get a tax break. This encourages businesses to continue making poor choices and hurting the environment.

The bill also stops local air districts from enforcing regulations on the amount of carbon dioxide emissions for companies under the cap and trade. Not only can this be dangerous for the community, but it also allows companies to bypass systems put in place by the local system. In addition, it puts restrictions on the California Air Resources Board, or ARB. This may slow the push for smart, clean practices by businesses.

Overall, it seems that the bill doesn’t put the environment first. Instead, it considers some ways to encourage businesses to use cleaner processes without truly forcing them to make smarter decisions. With the environment still on the backburner, changes will be too small and too slow.

Fighting Climate Change

It will always be difficult to make both the environment and businesses happy. When companies are trying to get the most bang for their buck, they will be less inclined to make environmentally friendly changes. However, proper education is the first step in getting everyone on board with fighting climate change.

When it comes to making big changes to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, we need to start putting the environment first — not big business. If we stop trying to accommodate business owners and their bottom lines, we can put the health of the world first and see benefits more quickly.

While California’s cap and trade bill may not be the best solution to reducing gas emissions, it is doing more than the other states. If other states can get on board with legislation like this, we can start to see at least some positive change in the state of our climate.


The challenges of waste management in the shipping and transportation industry


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Today, individuals and businesses can send and receive shipments from almost anywhere. With enough time and resources, you can find the right channels to get things where you need them to go.

The shipping and transportation sector is a thriving industry that helps power the global economy. It also generates a large amount of waste, and dealing with that waste is a major concern for shipping companies, government agencies and environmental organizations.

Waste Management in Transport and Shipping

The logistics industry creates waste through transport materials, warehouse activities, vehicle maintenance, packaging and office waste. Some of this waste is hazardous. Waste produced while a ship is in transit must be stored on board until the next time the ship comes to port.

Shipping waste management today is highly regulated by governments around the world. In the United States, for example, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) are the main laws regulating this sector.

For many years, state laws for managing shipping waste closely resembled federal laws. However, some of these federal laws, such as CERCLA, are older. Since the laws went into effect, states have changed their regulations, leading to a mismatch in expectations. Differences in laws among various countries can also create challenges. Shipping companies have to pay close attention to make sure they follow all existing regulations.

Fraud and Mismanagement

Sometimes though, companies break these rules — both incidentally and intentionally.

For instance, a company that imports computer cable assemblies recently settled violated claims to the tune of $1.2 million that it underpaid customs fees on goods imported from China and broke federal customs laws. This is certainly not the only instance like this.

Some of this management stems from the oil and gas industry, a sector that’s closely linked to the transportation industry. The state of Massachusetts, for instance, recently recovered $7.9 million through an investigation into claims that Shell Oil misused a fund meant for the cleanup of contaminated gas stations.

Oil spills, and incidents involving other hazardous materials, are another common issue within the shipping industry. According to U.S. law, the organization responsible for an oil spill must pay for its cleanup, although the Coast Guard works on the spill first and is repaid by the company later. The cost of oil spills is nearly immeasurable in terms of environmental damage, and climbs easily into the tens of millions of dollars in cleanup charges and legal fees. Purposeful dumping of hazardous materials is another common issue regulators continue to try to crack down on.

Environmental Impact

Spilled oil is poisonous to marine life. It can smother small fish and other creatures and coat the feathers and fur of birds and sea mammals such as otters, inhibiting their ability to maintain their body temperature. Spilled or dumped hazardous materials can also destroy marine habitats and persist for long periods of time in the water.

Shipping things long distances also requires a large amount of fuel, increasing the amount of greenhouse gases that enter the atmosphere. Emissions are an especially big issue when it comes to ocean transport, as shipping fuels contain much higher amounts of sulfur than the fuel used in cars. One environmental expert estimated the world’s 16 largest ships emitted more sulfur than all the cars in the world combined.

The European Union estimates maritime shipping accounts for 2.5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and that emissions will increase by as much as 250 percent by 2050. When factoring in ground and air shipping, that number soars even higher.

Revising Waste Management Norms

As environmental concerns become even more central, governments around the world are attempting to double down on reducing emissions and waste from shipping. U.S. states are finding shipping waste between states is not cost-effective, and are instead focusing their efforts on reducing the amount of waste they create.

The EU has called for a global approach to curbing shipping-related emissions led by the International Maritime Organization. To meet the goal laid out in the Paris climate accord, many nations are looking to shipping as a way to reduce emissions.

In addition to a push from government and environmental concerns, some shipping companies are also seeking to reduce waste as a cost-saving measure. They’re reusing more materials to avoid purchasing new ones, and cutting waste-management costs by reducing the amount of waste they produce.

The shipping and transportation industry is an important part of our global economy, but it also has a significant effect on the environment and presents other challenges as well. Now, governments, shipping companies and individuals must work to balance the need to transport goods with waste management needs and environmental protection.