In today’s political climate, the question of the need for environmental protection feels uncertain because of retracted federal policies and refused international agreements. While climate change and global warming have remained contentious subjects, as business, perhaps the motivation to recycle, reduce and reuse can be understood through more mutually agreed upon terms.
If we consider the environment as what we visually see then we can likely agree that litter-free places appeal to our aesthetic senses. Whether walking down a main street or taking in an ocean view, the sight of strewn trash and detritus creates an unpleasant experience. Alongside the negative qualitative effects of litter, the quantitative cost for cleanup, according to the Keep America Beautiful initiative, is more than $11.5 billion each year in the US. And businesses pay about 80% of this cost or roughly $9.1 billion.
As a business-owner, there is an immeasurable benefit to clean streets. Local governments across the country appear to concur, offering a variety of Beautification Grants to promote high quality neighborhoods and business districts.
Inherent to recycling is the habit of placing items in receptacles; inherent to reducing is the decrease in items to litter; and inherent to reusing is the repurposing of an item rather than flinging it to the ground.
Every year, Americans create 258 million tons of trash according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That’s the equivalent of over 1,500 pounds per person (newborns included)! Is this amount of waste necessary?
Consider stats from the University of Southern Indiana: the U.S. is the number one trash-producing country in the world. This means just 5% of the world’s people generate 40% of the world’s waste. Each year, we as a nation discard 25 billion Styrofoam coffee cups, 1.6 billion pens, 220 million car tires, and enough aluminum to rebuild the U.S. commercial air fleet four times over. WasteZero, a benefit corporation, reports local governments combined spend about $200 billion a year on solid waste management. This is roughly the size of Singapore’s entire economy. As WasteZero illustrates we are in essence throwing away more teachers, improved roads and better opportunity.
As a producer of goods, a service-provider or simply one who works in these professions, we can certainly take measures to reduce our waste footprint through more conscientious choices. The EPA promotes behavior like considering the amount of material for packaging. This effort is supported by industry with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, a working group including conglomerates like Unilever, dedicated to a more robust environmental vision for packaging. According to the EPA, simple contributions by employees can also make a difference, such as bringing in silverware and cups to work rather than using disposable items. And finally, the EPA also promotes buying used. You can find almost everything used, even building materials at specialized reuse centers. Acet Recycling, a company headquartered in Port Orange, has for over 25 years found customers in those who choose to buy used. Acet, with several offices throughout Florida, specializes in full concrete and asphalt recycling services. Owner Scott Drewry says, “We are recycling the past to literally rebuild the future.”
DOLLARS ARE GREEN
While China surpassed the U.S. in 2010 to become the world’s biggest energy consumer by country according to the International Energy Agency, the U.S. remained the biggest energy consumer per capita. According to IEA, the average American consumes annually five times more energy than the average Chinese citizen.
In our home lives we see monthly the price we pay for electricity and water. As we increase our usage so goes our bills. So as a business-owner, conservation efforts can also reflect positively to the bottom line.
John Wanamaker, partner at Coldwell Commercial AI Group in Orange City, is both a commercial real estate broker and developer. He found implementing simple measures in his office resulted in positive results with limited effort. Wanamaker installed motion-activated lights that turn on and off based on when people are actually in the room which helped ensure electricity was better utilized. And installing low-pressure toilets and low-flow spouts limited the amount of water usage. Wanamaker expressed, “As a business owner, I’m constantly analyzing how to either increase revenue or lower expenses. Making these green improvements were a smart long-term way to reduce operating expenses year-over-year. I have certainly made back what I invested.”
Amir Malek, Principal of MetaWorld Civil Consulting, LLC in Daytona Beach, has seen in his business a variety of efforts towards green practices. His firm has been assessing and permitting solar systems including PV arrays, solar water heaters, and solar AC units (Malek himself makes his own solar panels for fun). MetaWorld was recently commissioned to repurpose a shipping container into a barn. “I’ve personally enjoyed working on projects that take an item already in existence and find an interesting way to reuse it.”
According to the first Bureau of Labor Statistics Green Technologies and Practices survey, published in June 2012, fifty-seven percent of businesses in the U.S. used green technologies or practices to improve energy efficiency within their establishments in August 2011, and over half used green technologies and practices to reduce or eliminate the creation of waste materials as a result of operations. With positive impacts to the bottom-line, likely this trend will only continue.
ABILITY TO DO WORK
The U.S. Energy Information Administration defines energy as the ability to do work. Sources are either renewable (and easily replenished) like solar, wind and biomass or they are non-renewable and cannot be easily replenished like petroleum, natural gas, nuclear and coal. These sources are familiar as they impact our daily lives. Fuel for cars and buses allow us to commute to work, heat during winter keeps us comfortable in the office, and electricity is needed for everything from lighting to running copy machines to powering our computers.
Energy and materials provide the ability to do work. And in the Daytona metropolitan statistical area, with over 200,000 individuals employed by local businesses, this ability to do work is crucial to our economic stability.
Undoubtedly, we need resources – both renewable and non-renewable – to fuel commerce and support burgeoning societies. Yet it seems productivity comes at a cost. The more urbanized and industrialized a country becomes, the more waste it produces according to the World Bank’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice.
However, industry needs not be in opposition to the environment. Rather, private sector innovation and improved methods are critical components to addressing waste reduction and energy conservation. For example, an entire new industry emerged creating thousands of jobs based on alternative energy solutions and the technology associated with it. Business has the opportunity to be on the forefront of solving problems and enhancing quality of life.
Like the old adage goes, “waste not, want not” – if we use our resources carefully and without extravagance, we will not only want not, but we may also profit from our efforts.