Our journey to becoming a sustainable company
How to become a sustainable company
We are proud to announce that OWDT has officially been recognized as a Green Seal TM Green Office Partner. We are confronted everyday with images of smog over cities, glaciers melting, dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, overflowing landfills, garbage islands in the Pacific. As a country we all share some of the blame and yes there are systemic changes that need to be made at the highest levels of government to solve these issues on a macro scale, and we put our faith in these people and trust they will make the best decisions to address these environmental concerns.
This leads to the next question, what can we do as individuals to affect sustainability? We trust in officials to make the right decisions to protect the environment, but what do we all do on a day-to-day basis to contribute to the issues affecting our environment every day. This question is what lead our company to start on our journey to becoming a green company. From this point forward we were committed to finding a reputable non-profit that could guide our company towards becoming sustainable. On a micro-scale, we can all do something to affect positive change in our environment and help preserve nature.
Americans are less than 5% of the world population yet consume more than 25% of the world resources.
We all have contempt for the litterbug, we have all seen the person casually discard their gum wrapper to the ground or throw a McDonald’s bag out of their window. Seeing this makes most in our society feel a bit queasy because we all share the same high standard. We need to all as a community live up to these standards to maintain the quality of life that we want. The same thinking can be extended to small business owners and individuals. If we can make the choice to hold ourselves to a higher standard we will be able to ensure a sustainable future for our country and planet.
“We as Americans, according to the Scientific American are less than 5% of the world population yet we consume more than 25% of the world resources. We have created an unsustainable pattern. Therefore as businesses, we need a creative solution to cut down on our waste. We need to be the leaders that create ways to make sustainability a little bit more manageable. If we can make some small difference, we feel we must do what we can. One of the solutions that we have implemented is reducing our paper consumption, reducing our electricity usage, we have created ways for our employees to reduce their greenhouse gases by carpooling on their commute. We are proud to have made a lot of the changes that Green Seal, specified to and help us in our goal of sustainability.”
Kyle Mani – CEO, OWDT
Go green ideas for companies
At OWDT, we already were implementing green practices for the office, but we wanted to make it official by incorporating them into our company-wide policy and incentivizing employees who participate. Employees are already taking advantage of the new green policies like, Tyler Stavola and Justin Nowroozi who carpool (daily) to the office which reduces our contribution to transportation emissions. Andrew Mani spearheads our recycling, in where he drops off our recyclables to Westpark Consumer Recycling Center due to our buildings waste management company not offering to recycle. We have remote employees like Dennis Ghyst who work from their ‘virtual offices’, which reduces our emissions from transportation. There are millions of blogs that talk about ways to make your company green, but we wanted to go with a credible non-profit that could really guide us to becoming a sustainable company. That is why we decided to partner with Green Seal to codify what we were already doing, and to receive direction as well as third-party verification. Under the direction of Fernanda Cabrera being appointed as our fearless “Green Leader,” we have made great strides towards the goal of sustainability by meeting Green Seals partnership requirements. Seth Leitman, better known as the ‘The Green Living Guy®‘ lends his support, “Having any company become a Green Seal Partner is always a great thing. So when OWDT web design company (first in this type of genre) became a member I said two thumbs up!” Our next action was to create our own unique commitment to sustainable business practices with the direction of Earth Forward Growth a sustainability firm that specializes in small business solutions.
OWDT’s commitment to sustainable practices
We believe that good environmental stewardship is a personal and corporate responsibility and that we can all contribute to tackling the global challenge that climate change presents. OWDT is committed to incorporating environmentally positive policies in our business model, to ensure day-to-day operations minimize our environmental footprint, and reflect our core values. OWDT supports the generation of clean, renewable energy in Texas and will purchase 100% of our electricity needs from recognized renewable energy providers in the state. We commit to purchasing all equipment and materials locally, to support the regional economy and mitigate transportation emissions.
We believe responsible energy use benefits us all, so we will adopt smart technology to reduce our daily energy demand, while purchasing only appliances and equipment that are energy efficient and track our overall energy consumption and emissions via the US Environmental Protection Agency Portfolio Manager system. We will regularly audit our performance to ensure we are in compliance with our targets.
We believe responsible energy use benefits us all, so we will adopt smart technology to reduce our daily energy demand.
OWDT supports the work and recommendations of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and we will voluntarily disclose our energy consumption data annually, which can be used by the scientific community for research, analysis and long-term energy planning scenarios. We are committed to achieving our target of an 80% reduction in our carbon footprint by 2050.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: OWDT policy is to be a zero-waste company and therefore we will recycle and repurpose all our business materials to ensure we avoid contributing to the waste stream. A safe and healthy work environment for all our employees, customers and suppliers is of paramount importance to us all. We will ensure indoor air quality use by using certified low-emitting products with the Green Seal® and office furniture with the Green Guard® or those that are made from certified renewable resources. At OWDT we pride ourselves on our environmental commitment and look forward to helping our customers do the same.
About Green Seal
Green Seal TM, a nonprofit organization founded in 1989, is the nation’s premier eco-label, symbolizing transparency, integrity, and environmental leadership. It is most widely-known for its flagship Certification Program, which develops life-cycle-based environmental standards and certifies products and services that meet these standards. Green Seal standards cover 450 categories – from janitorial supplies, paints, and windows to restaurants and hotels – and are specified by countless states, agencies, schools, and institutions. The Green Office Partnership is one of its many other initiatives and was developed to help companies green their office operations and receive third-party recognition for their improvements.
A Green Economy. One that is as sustainable as possible – renewable, with minimal impact – so that our environment, all forms of life, and our natural resources are protected, and our social needs and values are honored.
Green Seal is a nonprofit organization that uses science-based programs to empower consumers, purchasers, and companies to create a more sustainable world.
Green Seal is a pioneer in promoting a sustainable economy. In 1989 there were no non-profit environmental certification programs in the US. During this year, our founder had the foresight to recognize the need for a tool to help shoppers find truly green products. Green Seal was developed as a nonprofit to stand for absolute integrity. Over the years the reputation of the Green Seal brand has grown to symbolize environmental leadership, and it continues to represent proven-green products and services.
What is the Green Office Partnership Program?
Whether you own your office space or lease it, as an office manager you make operational and purchasing choices every day that can significantly reduce the footprint of your office and provide a cleaner, healthier environment for your staff.
The Green Seal™ Green Office Partnership Program is designed to guide offices in the straightforward steps they can take to become more sustainable. The program focuses only on those areas that are within the direct control of office managers, including:
- Waste reduction and recycling
- Office supplies
- Kitchen and pantry supplies
- IT equipment and management
- Operational systems
- Training and education for staff
How to help your company go green?
The U.S. small business administration (SBA), US environmental protection agency (EPA) and ENERGYSTAR(r) are a great starting point when looking for information on green ideas for small and medium-sized companies. Becoming a green company starts with small steps, and once you start on the journey of sustainability all you need to do is rinse and repeat. Here are a few suggestions you can use to start the process of becoming a green business.
Pro tip #1 – Start an employee recognition program
In regards to greening the office, purchasing paper with recycled content is an easy way to help your company go greener. Choosing recycled paper has a multitude of environmental benefits, including a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and protection of biodiversity and native forests. Work with your procurement folks to phase out the use of virgin paper (paper with no recycled content) and adopt a minimum standard of 30 percent post-consumer waste (PCW) recycled content for all office supplies. Ideally, all offices should be using 100 percent recycled paper–there are a variety of choices of high-quality paper, guaranteed to work in any printer or copier without jamming. However, since 30 percent typically does not cost more than virgin paper, and 100 percent does have a cost premium, take a baby step and start with 30 percent. If you implement the double-side copying, typically you can save enough to offset the additional cost of 100 percent recycled paper. One of my most popular posts is Green Campaign Ideas for the Office.
Promoting sustainable food is a great place to engage employees. Eating less meat and purchasing local, sustainable food are easy ways to reduce one’s carbon footprint. What we eat has a big impact on the environment. When our food is shipped thousands of miles, it leads to a big carbon footprint. Raise awareness of the link between what we eat and the environment by hosting one of the activities suggested below:
- Encourage employees to pick one day a week where they will only eat vegetarian food. See Meatless Monday for more ideas.
- Promote a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program at work. By joining a local CSA, employees can receive the freshest vegetables, fruits, meats, and eggs straight from the farm. See Local Harvest for more information.
- Host a “Farmers Market Experience” to promote awareness of sustainable food. Print out a list of local farmers’ markets around your area and provide information highlighting why shopping local is good for the environment.
- Bring in actual fruits and veggies from a local farmers market for employees to try and take home to their families.
- See Environmental Working Group’s top fruit and vegetables to buy organic for more information.
- Give employees a small seedling they can grow at home.
- Plant a small garden on-site if space is available.
Build a green business budget
Lately, due to hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, environmental concerns have become greater than ever. Lots of us already recycle at home and have made the decision to change our behavior. Although several companies from large corporations to small mom and pop shops still believe that going green is too difficult and too expensive. The truth is that there are many easy ways that businesses can be sustainable and reduce their footprint on the environment. Going green at its essence is about reducing waste, and being conscious of your business’s impact on nature. The curious thing is that going green in many ways can save a company money over the long run.
Pro tip #2 – Creating a sustainable business model
Greening the workplace is not only the right thing to do for global well-being, but also has strong linkages to employee well-being. If done well, it’s also pretty good for the business’ budget as well! Studies have shown that choosing to adopt waste reduction or multi-modal incentives for employees has benefits to physical and mental health, and also encourages building a sense of community and connectivity within the workplace. And happy employees are more productive employees.
Further, many of these waste reduction strategies and tips are fairly easy to adopt, and less product waste can equate to less fiscal waste. Purchasing fewer office materials, reducing your energy bill, and contributing to the local economy where possible all builds into a green budget and alleviates the stress of unneeded extra costs. This will help promote environmentally sustainable options through practical and realistic programs and solutions.
Justin Quigley, Program Coordinator at Green Action Centre
Pro tip #3 – “Start small” when going green
- No company is too small to go green! In fact, it might be easier to propose and implement official policies or programs when you have more direct access to leadership.
- Find the influencers who are well connected in your organization and are committed to championing the change in the workplace. They’ll help get everyone excited. If possible, have them present at all-hands meetings with what’s going on with their green initiatives or send out a monthly email (or within your own newsletter) with a short blog or a quick “Go Green” tip (i.e. Remember to turn off the lights after you leave conference rooms!)
- Start small. Implementing big changes among so many people might be difficult for some to adapt to, especially for the first couple of months. We started out by placing signs above our recycle bins and garbage cans in the kitchen that tell us where we should dispose of some of our most popular office snacks. Eventually, you can move up to implementing bigger changes.
Alejandra Guillen, Digital Marketing Specialist at meltmedia
Green office ideas
- Start recycling
Find a way to recycle your recyclable goods even if it is not offered in your location. Recycling is a stable of sustainability across the world over the last few years. People want corporations that do not focus solely on short-term profit maximization, recycling helps. People want these businesses to be responsible and have the policy to keep waste in check. Cutting down on waste is another way of making your company green. Use biodegradable packaging along with recyclable materials. This simple change reduces waste dramatically. Your company may be able to recycle, paper products too. So instead of making physical copies of everything, try to transition to working digitally as much as you can. Writing out schedules, memos and copy via digital programs instead of on paper will lead to less waste. Keeping files stored digitally reduces waste and improves the organization.
- Build an effective green team
Green teams are often at the heart of a company’s successful sustainability efforts. Engage employees from all areas and all levels of the company. Identify a team leader who can help provide a process and methodology to help the team identify, quantify, prioritize, and address potential environmental and cost savings to the company. Leslie Barland, Green Business Network Program Manager Bridging the Gap. “To engage your staff in environmental initiatives and work towards changing behaviours, it’s important to involve everyone at all levels and lead with the culture, in addition to this, it’s key to put forward both the rational and emotional reasons for eco-initiatives in order to achieve the biggest impact,” explains April Sotomayor, Sustainability Consultant at Investors in the Environment. “In addition to this, it’s key to put forward both the rational and emotional reasons for eco-initiatives in order to achieve the biggest impact.”
- Conserve energy
Turn off the lights after you leave a room. Also, as a company, you can switch to energy-efficient compact fluorescents (CFLs) and fluorescent tube lighting throughout the office. This change alone can make a major impact on your energy usage. Investing in energy-efficient electronics, appliances, and lights will make big difference. Installing these energy-efficient products will most certainly cost money up front, but before long this will all pay for itself, and in some cases, purchasing these products make small business owners and corporations eligible for tax cuts – so what’s not to like about that? Saudia Davis, CEO of GreenHouse Eco-Cleaning adds, “There are a number of ways businesses large and small can “go green.” An easy one is to power down non-essential equipment and lights after business hours. You can set up computers to automatically power down at night, and invest in SmartStrips is a good start. You should also replace older equipment with Energy Star compliant equipment. Not only is this environmentally beneficial, it will also help save the business considerable money annually. Setting up conference rooms and offices with motion-sensor light switches will help minimize wasted energy consumption.If possible, use LED lights in the office. Though the bulbs cost more than CFL bulbs, they also last longer. How much longer? Well, CFLs uses 25-35% less energy than incandescent bulbs, but for the biggest environmental impact on the environment, choose LEDs. For example, residential Energy Star LEDs uses 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting.”
- Turn off electronics
To take this thinking a step further it is recommended to turn off all the computer equipment at night. A great way to implement keep an eye on this is to install energy-management software that can track the impact. Try turning off computers, printers, lights, and equipment at the end of the workday or when not in use, you can immediately make a positive impact on your company’s bottom line. Computer monitors should be turned off when not in use. Other smart hacks like unplugging mobile phone chargers after use helps because they use energy even when they are not charging mobile devices. Even adjusting the office temperature by a degree here and there saves a lot of money, and most people will not feel the difference of a few degrees. It is this type of involvement that makes a difference when you add it all up in the end.
Pro tip #4 -Ways to make office air clean
Indoor Pollution: One of the biggest stress triggers at work is low productivity and believe it or not indoor pollution has a lot to do with it. The air in your office is not the healthy oasis you may think it is – while we spent 90% of our time indoors. In general indoor pollution is 2-5 times higher than outdoors. The sources of office pollution are super complex which makes it difficult to manage them: air-tight offices with poor ventilation, emissions from office equipment and machines, building materials, insulation and paint, cleaning products, office furnishing, indoor temperature regulation … and finally even office stationary like whiteners, markers, highlighters, air freshers contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which accelerate office pollution.
Make the office air more healthy and clean.
- Make it a green office– literally & metaphorically by putting up plants in your office that only beautify it but also clean the air. Research – most prominent being the NASA Clean Air Study – has found that some plants help fight indoor air pollution more than others. We have developed a comprehensive indoor plant guide for offices with partners ProFlowers, enlisting 15 best plants for combating office pollution. These have been organized by categories like best for removing pollutants, low maintenance, and best for low light so each one of you can choose the appropriate solution depending on your office.
- Another very helpful thing is the green product- AIRY plant pot which enables plants to clean air more effectively- and it doesn’t run on energy or batteries.
- Limit the use of whiteners, markers, highlighters, air freshers as far as possible. These contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which accelerate indoor pollution. VOCs are a large group of chemicals that easily evaporate at room temperature. They can have short and long-term adverse effects on your health. So in your green office go for dry correction tape instead of liquid correction fluid. Use water-based and scentless markers.
- If you are a start-up and about to furnish your office don’t use carpeting. The American Lung Association says new carpet – as well as the adhesives and padding used during installation – can be a source of VOC emissions and act as a “sponge” for chemical and biological pollutants.
Mirela Orlovic, Founder of UrbanMeisters.com
- Let employees work virtually
Virtual offices are the way of the future. With video chat, email and the good old telephone, employees can help make an impact by cutting emissions and city gridlock while remaining highly active in their roles. Nicole Fallon, Managing Editor at Business News Daily is a proponent of virtual working, she says, “One simple way a business can become more eco-friendly is by letting employees work from home, whether it’s once or twice a month or a few times a week. Remote work policies not only promote a culture of trust and flexibility, but they also help the environment. You and your team will reduce your carbon footprint by avoiding the commute to the office (fewer gas emissions from cars) and cutting down your office building’s energy consumption (fewer people in-office means less electricity and water use).” Simple initiatives like encouraging employees to go green while at work can lead to a large decrease your business’ impact on the environment. Brie Weiler Reynolds, Senior Career Specialist at FlexJobs agrees, “One of the biggest things companies can do to become more sustainable, and also to help encourage their team members to do the same, is to utilize remote work. By allowing employees to work from home, even occasionally, companies can immediately eliminate one of the biggest daily components of their carbon footprints. According to the 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. report, existing telecommuters (only 3.9 million workers, or 2.9% of all workers) reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of taking over 600,000 cars off the road for a year. If everyone who had a remote-compatible job (56% of all workers), the greenhouse gas reduction could be the equivalent of taking over 10 million cars off the road for a year!”
- Empower employees to make sustainability personal
Sustainability isn’t just recycling and resource management, it’s healthy workspaces, eating right, exercise, and being in nature. Employees who work in cubes and under manufactured lighting need to be able to get away from their desks and be rejuvenated by natural elements. Encourage health breaks throughout the day to increase cognitive ability, productivity, and employee satisfaction. In addition, creativity is often bolstered by standing or walking and being outside. Get outside of the conference room for meetings once in a while to break the monotony of “business as usual” and watch innovative ideas grow. Miles Hoffman, Product Development Program Manager at REV
- Start an employee recognition program
To keep the ball rolling forward on your sustainability journey, make green goals part of your meeting agenda items. Keep the conversation going. An employee recognition program is a great way to empower employees to make suggestions for improving operations, reducing waste, and conserving energy. Credits can be given to a company story or dollars donated to a favorite charity. Engage employees in health and wellness program like “Green Heroes” at UH in Cleveland where employees share their actions and behaviors to improve healthy eating. You can even create a Chairman’s Club program where employees are given financial awards and in person recognition from the C-suite. It is all about getting your people involved in driving sustainable change. Kristina Kohl, MBA, PMP Principal at Becoming Sustainable
- Go paperless
Over the years OWDT as a company has spent too much on paper and ink toner. One of the quickest ways for a company to go green is to shift to electronic methods of payment with customers, suppliers, and billers. Katie Gannon, Founder at Eco Friendly Fashion is a big supporter of this method. “My main business is freelance graphic design. While it is tempting to print all briefs, inspiration & drafts on paper, I try to keep a rule of only printing when absolutely necessary. Any other paperwork is stored in applications such as Pinterest for inspiration, Google docs for briefs and Dropbox for interactive commenting on draft designs. With so many great applications available, why waste ink, paper & power unnecessarily printing? This is how we minimize waste and keep our office green.” Diane MacEachern, Founder & CEO at Big Green Purse adds, “One way companies are going green is by reducing the amount of printing they do. What with electronic file sharing and apps like DropBox, there’s less and less need to waste paper and ink on printed documents. That’s especially true when it comes to sharing rough drafts of documents that are going to be revised several times before the final printing. Other companies aren’t printing business cards anymore or cutting the size of the standard card in half. And it goes without saying that whatever you do print should be on 100% recycled paper. Recycled paper quality these days is excellent, even for high-end design. Buy recycled, and then recycle as much as you can at the other end.”
Pro tip #5 – Ways to cut down on paper usage
Concern for our environment and sustainable practices have never been as important and popular than now. As this awareness increases and stakeholders become increasingly sensitive to efforts made to help our environment, more sustainable printing practices should be on the top of the list. TreeZero encourages you to “Think Before You Print”. Here’s TreeZero’s list of four simple and practical printing tips that you can start implementing today at home or at your office to make your printing more sustainable.
- Use tree-free paper Using tree-free paper is not only environmentally friendly and it’s usually as affordable as recycled tree-alternatives. (Did you know that using one pallet (40boxes) of TreeZero paper saves 24 trees?)
- Print on both sides of the paper If you need to print, this is about as simple an environmentally friendly idea as you can get. Do it and you’ll have your paper costs and cut down on your carbon footprint.
- Maximize your margins Many people default to standard margin settings out of convenience, but by expanding your margins you can significantly cut down on the number of pages printed, while still maintaining a professional look.
- Use it again You printed a test sheet and are about to toss it in the recycling bin, but there’s a whole side of blank paper just waiting to be used. Pop your non-confidential documents back into the printer and use the other side of the page next time.
Laurie Berkin, Marketing Manager at Treezero
- Purchase Green office equipment and supplies
When purchasing equipment for the office, look for brands that dedicate themselves to having a sustainability policy and history of producing green-friendly products. Examples of office supplies that will fall into this category are monitors and toner to equipment and workstations. If you can set a policy to only purchase products from other companies that offer green products and have a public sustainability policy, then you can be assured that your company’s purchases will contribute to environmental protection and sustainable growth. Tom Permatteo President of Green Business Bureau adds, “Not only can going green help the environment, but it can also help your business cut down costs and save money. Some easy things you can do to make your company more sustainable is to focus on the following: conserving energy, investing in eco-friendly work materials that produce less pollution, replacing outdated appliances and upgrading to more energy-efficient options, and practicing waste segregation to encourage employees and customers to recycle. These four, simple tasks can easily help any business begin to take steps toward being more eco-friendly.”
- Solar Power – produce your own energy!
As energy bills continue to soar, and as we understand the real strain we are putting on the earth’s resources, it’s now more important than ever to stop burning fossil fuels for our energy and look at alternatives. Harnessing the sun’s energy with solar allows you to save money on bills, produce clean green energy – and now with the option of backup battery storage, this energy can be stored and used in the evenings too. For more information, see why businesses must really start to think about going green. Lily Veale, Marketing Assistant at Solar Plants
Pro tip #6 -Track Your Sustainability
Data Tracking & Analytics
- Track Your Sustainability Data: As the adage goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. This principle applies heavily to sustainability. Before you make any changes around your office, monitor how you’re currently operating. By collecting data, you can accurately identify your existing operations to better address challenges you face instead of taking educated guesses at what you need to do to improve sustainability. Plus, you’ll be able to prove ROI by establishing a baseline, making a change, and tracking how much you improve.
- Analyze Your Data: Once you have collected your sustainability data – being any metrics related to sustainability or non-financial operations of your company – you need to take a deeper dive into the information. By analyzing your data, you’ll be able to identify trends and make targeted improvements to the status quo. This will prevent unnecessary spending on projects that won’t make a tangible difference.
- Switch to LEDs: While this seems straightforward, the savings can have tangible impacts on your organization. LEDs last up to 25 times longer and use up to 80% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. One Measurabl client has saved $1M in the first year in light bulb replacement costs alone after retrofitting its portfolio with LEDs.
- Water Efficient Appliances: Water efficient appliances such as low flush toilets and automatic faucets can save an incredible amount of water – and, therefore, money – without a change in bathroom experience. The EPA estimates that if every home replaced existing faucets and aerators with “WaterSense” labeled models, we would cumulatively save $1.2B in water and energy costs and 64B gallons of water.
- Plug Load Management: Plug loads are becoming a significant part of commercial building energy demands, accounting for up to 50% of a building’s electricity use. Use efficient or “smart” power strips to help reduce this electricity use.
- Building Management System: By utilizing a Building Automation System (BAS), Building Management System (BMS), or Energy Management System (EMS) empower property managers to take direct control of how the building is run. With these sorts of data and operations tracking system, a property manager can identify areas of inefficiency and improve existing operations to make them more efficient and sustainable.
- Recycling Program: If your building doesn’t already have recycling programs onsite, campaign for one. So much waste we produce on a daily basis can be recycled. Having an onsite recycling program makes being sustainable that much easier.
Kelia Cowan, VP of Marketing at Measurabl
Whether you own a small business, are an employee or a large corporation, going green is about reducing our impact on the environment. This process may seem difficult first but there are many resources available to small businesses. With a few small changes, you can greatly reduce your business’ carbon footprint in several ways. Doing this shows a certain amount of vision and innovation to understand that going green is the smart thing for business. On top of saving the environment, much of what is recommended by Green Seal and the overall process will reduce spending by thinking smarter and planning for the future.
Like Ray Cycle the ‘superhero of recycling‘ once said, ”There’s so much trash, there’s so much waste, it’s polluting our water and taking up space”. We ask that more companies take a step forward like OWDT has and implement a green program. Please start the initial steps to bring your company towards sustainability.