Before you know where you’re going, you need to know where you are. Once you understand what sustainability is and why it is important to your business, you can use that information to identify practices that you already support and those that can improve your business operations. Ask yourself some questions such as:
- How much trash does your business produce each month? Each year?
- What is your ratio of recycling and/or repurposing materials to waste? Is there room to improve?
- How much water did you use this year? How does that compare to previous years?
- How much electricity did you use this year? How does that compare to previous years?
- How do you and your employees get to work? What alternative options are available?
- What’s the carbon footprint of your business? [You can use the CoolCalifornia carbon footprint calculator to determine this!]
After you have had time to review your current practices and conduct a baseline carbon footprint of your business operations, identify the areas of opportunity. Consider contacting your local utility and ask if they will conduct a free energy audit of your business. What are some of the things you can change quickly and for little to no cost (see tips and eco-friendly ideas under Step 1)? What are things that may take several steps to accomplish? Break down a big goal into smaller, more achievable parts and prioritize your goals by what will have the biggest impact.
|Photo: Dr. River May shows a veterinary chart in his office at the Capitola Veterinary Hospital.
Accomplish Your Goals
Next it is time to identify some resources to help you accomplish your goals. One of the best sources for support is your community. Use these questions to help guide your search:
- What are other small business owners currently doing in your community to promote sustainability?
- Is there a green business certification program managed by your local jurisdiction or utility or chamber of commerce? If so, find the local coordinator and learn about the program!
- What eco-friendly initiatives outside of small business are currently in place in your community? These may be community/volunteer or government-based initiatives.
- Are there Facebook or LinkedIn groups where you can connect with other sustainability-focused businesses for a more organized effort?
- Are there any financial incentives (rebates, grants, low interest loans, etc.) available for your sustainability initiatives? [See Step 3. Find Support: Challenges and Incentives].
Just like any good business initiative, take time every quarter to review and assess your progress. What was successful? What failed? What could you have done better? Identify areas of improvement and adjust your timelines/initiatives as needed. Consider applying for a sustainable business award (e.g., People and Planet Award, the Indie Award, local chamber of commerce business awards, Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, etc.) and get recognized for your efforts.
For more information on sustainability planning, check out the resources presented below.