Each day millions of people around the world celebrate Earth Day with small gestures and gifts to the planet. Some cities encourage commuters to take public transportation and other areas promote tree-planting initiatives.
As significant users of the planet's natural resources, businesses have a responsibility to the planet and its citizens to reduce waste and ensure a green, healthy world for future generations. Some ideas are very small but inspire significant change when everyone participates. Other gestures are transformative and inspire entire industries to change their behavior.
Here are a few notable sustainability success stories from around the country that may inspire you to make eco-friendly changes at your own business.
DuPont Reduces Its Landfill Waste By 81 Million Pounds
Landfills receive millions of pounds of trash each year, and it may seem like an impossible task to reduce or even eliminate the non-recyclable and non-biodegradable trash that invariably ends up dumped in the ground at the nation's landfills. However, chemical company DuPont undertook a significant initiative to reduce its waste in 2012. An announcement from the company that year showcased an impressive effort:
"After three years of focused effort, DuPont Building Innovations has become completely landfill free, reducing its environmental footprint from 81million pounds of landfill waste annually to zero. Now, through the “Drive to Zero” landfill program, none of the waste generated by the business from the manufacture of DuPont™ Corian® solid surfaces, DuPont™ Zodiaq® quartz surfaces, DuPont™ Tyvek® weatherization systems products and geosynthetic textiles is sent to landfills."
Not only did this initiative help prevent millions and millions of pounds of waste from heading toward landfills, but the company enjoyed a boost in its reputation by giving its eco-conscious customers something to consider. The company was able to boast a complete elimination of landfill waste associated with some of its biggest selling products.
Nike Reduces Waste with Advanced Engineering
One of the primary focuses in the development of athletic shoes made for running is the elimination of unneeded weight. For decades, Nike has been developing new shoes in lighter and lighter versions, but a recent innovation goes further by introducing a sustainable element to the manufacturing of the shoe. In an announcement about the technology, the company revealed that its new Flyknit technology created a shoe that was 19% lighter than the shoes worn by the top three finishers of the marathon at the 2011 World Championships.
The sustainable feature of the company's Flyknit technology comes from its manufacturing method:
"An additional environmentally sustainable benefit to Nike Flyknit is that it reduces waste because the one-piece upper does not use the multiple materials and material cuts used in traditional sports footwear manufacture. Nike Flyknit is truly a minimalist design with maximum return."
What can we learn from Nike's efforts? A truly sustainable company isn't focused solely on the outcome of what it sells but also on the development and manufacture of sustainable products. Recycling initiatives that come after-the-fact can only take a business so far in sustainability. A truly sustainable business examines every facet of the production process from concept to manufacturing to sale to eliminate waste and engage in sustainable practices.
The Citizens of Portland, Oregon
Businesses that utilize sustainable business practices offer hope for the future and encourage other businesses to do the same. However, it's not just businesses that showcase efforts at increasing sustainability. One of the problems that develops in communities of all sizes is the appearance of "brownfields," which are underused or abandoned properties or locations that breed criminal activity.
One notable sustainability success story comes from the transformation of an old, abandoned gas station that would experience a community-led redevelopment effort. The process was not brief and took many years of effort from community members and various groups connected with the City of Portland. In fact, the city was responsible for removing the roadblocks associated with redeveloping the area:
"Portland, in particular, helped move individual components of the project forward. This helped the community overcome the permitting process, which often stifles the implementation of innovative sustainability features in favor of approving conventional measures. In all, the combination of determined community leadership to address a longstanding blight to the neighborhood and committed government support allowed the project to overcome barriers to sustainable development."
As far back as 1999, citizens began advocating for the rejection of a liquor license connected to the property. Over the next decade, community members would hold meetings to plan a transformation of the brownfield to a shared community space. Neighbors living in the vicinity of the former gas station raised almost $50,000 during their efforts and would eventually see the grand opening of a new community space in August of 2010.
The City of Asheville, North Carolina
Many cities around the country not only engage citizens in sustainability efforts, but they also create departments like Asheville, North Carolina's Office of Sustainability. We often think of waste and unsustainable business practices as a problem of megacities, but smaller communities like Asheville can also see problems develop.
A recent initiative from the City of Asheville showcases the impact city government can have on the community's carbon footprint. The city introduced a plan to replace all the city lights with energy-efficient LEDs that would help save the city millions of dollars on its utility bills. One of the important facets of the plan was that it wasn't something that could be completed quickly, and it required sustained financial support from the city.
"The great streetlight switch to LEDs, a more energy-efficient light bulb, took place starting in 2011 in the River Arts District and Kenilworth areas. [The City's Chief of Sustainability] said the project’s 12-year financing costs will total $1.9 million. Twelve years of savings will combine to reach $4.8 million, which will put a little under $3 million back into a fund for more sustainability projects."
With a timeline exceeding a decade, the city would need to plan for several years of gradual migration from traditional streetlight to efficient LEDs. The lesson to be learned from Asheville's effort is that introducing sustainable measures often require time and initial investment but are designed to offer environmental and financial rewards down the road.
Environmentally Friendly Packaging Solutions from Howard Packaging
Are you looking for ways to introduce sustainability to your business? Are you interested in methods that are easy to adopt and offer additional benefits for branding and marketing? Find out what Howard Packaging can do for your business. Request a Free Catalog and Sample Kit Today!