The Green Team: How Eco-Responsibility Can Pay for Itself

You’ve probably had the following questions come to the fore when pondering the inception of a “green” program: What is green? How do we do it, and do it right? How much work will it entail? Who is going to do the work? What is the cost? How can we afford it with the recession narrowing already slim margins? How do we get our building management company on board with what we’re trying to accomplish?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. These questions and many more seemed to make the task of “greening” your company a daunting one. Read on to learn how you can green your company AND make it pay for itself.

Form a Team and Do Your Homework
Kermit the Frog once said, “It’s not easy being green.” Well, we hear you, Kermit. That’s why this is something you shouldn’t have to go at alone. Reach out for volunteers among your staff to form a Green Team. The 20-somethings entering the workforce have an ever-increasing awareness of, and concern for, the environment. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at their response. Try to limit the team to a maximum of three members. More than that will lead to too many opinions and dissipate the focus of the team, i.e. too many cooks spoil the broth! Once the team is together, give the members several months to research and develop potential initiatives.

Heed the Three Rs
There are three basic principles to follow when implementing a green program-”Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Recycling items that can be recycled is good. Reusing or repurposing materials in your workplace is even better. Reducing your consumption of natural resources is best! For example, being in the food service industry, we have always offered hot and cold beverages to our staff while they are working. As part of the Green Team’s year three initiative, we installed a soda fountain machine to reduce the more than 55,000 cans and water bottles used by employees who get free beverages while working. By installing the machine, Tasty Catering is helping the environment while reducing beverage costs by about $6,500 with all employees now using reusable drinking vessels so there is no cup waste or expense.

Start Somewhere, Anywhere
It can be overwhelming to do the research, develop the plan, and go green with the flip of a switch. This is what causes many companies to abandon their eco-responsible plans before they even launch them. It is best to start with low hanging fruit like a recycling program. Everyone is familiar with and, more importantly, is used to recycling in their homes. Within two months of incepting our recycling program, we reduced our waste-to-landfill stream by 60 percent. There have been many improvements in the recycling business over the past few years, so be sure to check with your recycler to get the latest list of recyclable materials. Not only do we recycle common items such as cardboard, aluminum, tin cans, toner cartridges, office waste paper, and pallets, but we also get paid for recycling materials such as glossy waste paper (magazines, marketing pieces, etc.) and PET plastics. Once your recycling program has been incepted, continually add to it with other programs such as employing energy reduction initiatives, purchasing carbon offset, and using products with recycled content.

Enlist Your Property Manager on Your Green Team
If your company leases its space, this is a great time to go green. Property managers are desperate to keep their leased space percentages from slipping and are eagerly trying to retain tenants. Now is the time to ask what they can do to help you achieve your initiatives in exchange for keeping you as a tenant. In many instances, building tenants have banded together to push property managers to green entire buildings or complexes. Strength in numbers in this case!

Being Green = Making Green (Dollars)
At our company, we were willing to put aside a modest budget for the green program. Much to our CFO’s delight, our Green Team actually created a profit center in our company! The dollars saved by the 60 percent reduction in waste hauling costs, and the funds we receive for our recyclable materials more than offset the cost of the labor and equipment needed to execute the recycling program. We use some of these funds to buy Terrapass carbon credits that offset the carbon emission of every mile our delivery fleet travels through a series of donations. The carbon offsets make our fleet carbon neutral and at no cost to the company.

See, Kermit. It pays to be green!

Kevin Walter is chief procurement officer for Tasty Catering – Greater Chicago area. He can be reached at [email protected].

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Richard Blanchard
Rick is the Managing Editor of Corp! magazine. He has worked in reporting and editing roles at the Port Huron Times Herald, Lansing State Journal and The Detroit News, where he was most recently assistant business editor. A native of Michigan, Richard also worked in Washington state as a reporter, photographer and editor at the Anacortes American. He received a bachelor of arts from the University of Michigan and a master’s in accountancy from the University of Phoenix.