Who's Your Supplier?

Product Lifespan

With the new wave of environmentalism and the desire to lessen the individual and the company's impact on the environment, it can be hard to balance this desire with the actual costs of doing so. Instead of trying to make a big change all at once, try starting strong and making small steps in the right direction instead.

This applies to your personal life as well, but business-wise, most try to take a "cradle-to-grave" approach to how their company fits within the the supply chain. This approach looks at where a product starts at the raw material stage, and what happens all the way through the end user to its eventual discardment. Most of the time this focuses on the energy put into the creation of the product as well as the waste accrued along the way. The "cradle-to-cradle approach however, goes one step further to examine what happens to a product beyond the "grave." In most cases, this means making sure that the product can be fully recycled or possibly repurposed.

Understand Your Source

In addition to examining the product itself, it is important to understand the source of your product's packaging, and not just the product itself. Packaging can often result in as much waste as the discarded product itself, especially for small packages. However, there are many things you can look for in product packages to help reduce your impact on the environment. Here are just a few to help you get started:

  • Avoid products with polystyrene or styrofoam as both are difficult to recycle.
  • Avoid plastics with no number on them (ex. 1-7) as this means that they cannot be recycled through a conventional recycling facility. Most 'thin' plastics such as trash bags, ziploc bags, and chip bags fall into this category.
  • Strive to buy products with simple packaging. Complex packages, although they may be made of many recycleable materials, are difficult to separate into their individual components during the automated recycling process.
  • Avoid single use plastics if possible, especially plastic straws and cutlery. These cannot be recycled due to contamination from food and are especially susceptible to being mistaken for food by wildlife due to their size.
  • Choose packages with easily-recycleable materials such as glass, aluminum, or paper where available. These three, relatively common materials are some of the most easy-to-recycle materials and save energy that would have otherwise gone into the process of creating more virgin material.

Your Paper Footprint

Another key area to address in order to minimize your company's impact on the environment is to minimize your use of paper. If your company's office is like most offices, it's likely that you use a lot of copy paper every day. Finding ways to reduce paper waste can not only streamline your process, it also helps reduce your footprint as well. However, at some point, odds are that you'll still have a need for paper. In this case, you can still make an effort to ensure that the paper that you do buy ends up in the recycling bin, and that it comes from a sustainable source. With so many confusing labels and certification out there however, making sure that your paper is sustainably manufactured can seem like a daunting task. With this in mind, not all certifications are equal either. A good place to start is looking for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification on the paper that you purchase. The FSC ensures that suppliers work with indigenous peoples to protect their customary rights and protect against the cutting of old-growth forests. Ultimately, it's up to you and your company who and what to trust, but making the effort to reduce your impact on the environment is the first step to making a cleaner world.

Image courtesy of Robert Spielmann from Unsplash.com

Saving Green

Going vs. Saving Green

Many people feel a strong desire to improve the effect they have on the environment, but in the majority of cases it's simply the seeming mountain of effort and financial strain that keeps them from making a change in their lifestyle. However, there's no need to fret. There are millions of easy and free ways to help the environment (and plenty more that can even save you some money as well!).

1. Budget

Probably one of the most important steps is to create a household budget. Start with the total net monthly income of the household. Then, write down what bills you are responsible for and the date they are due. Mortgage or rent, utilities, car insurance, car payment, gas, cell phone, food, miscellaneous (personal hygiene, household supplies, school supplies) and any other bills you may have. Most of these numbers do not fluctuate too much, but estimate a little higher than your average costs for each. Also be sure to pay attention to the costs of your base bills. It may seem like things such as your car maintenance and utility bills may be fixed, but making sure you to do things such as preventative care on your car and installing energy-efficient devices in your home can save you a lot of money in the long run.

Once you have subtracted your bills from your net income, you can budget out for other things. You may also want to have an emergency fund where you specify an amount that you contribute to monthly. Remember, you can have an entertainment category too; managing your physical and mental well-being is just as important as managing your wealth. The remainder should go into savings account for the future. Ask yourself about your purchases: do I need it or do I want it? Will it help me in the long run? Live within your limits and be responsible, but make sure that you also set aside some money for yourself and your family.

2. Conserve

Well you have a budget, now where else can you save a few extra pennies? For those of you who have read our Green Tips, there are numerous ways to save money and help the environment. One tip that I am constantly reminded of (thank you mom) is if you aren’t in a room, turn off the light… There’s no reason to waste electricity. Something so little can make such a huge difference. Additionally, make sure your house or apartment is sealed. Another thing my mom used to do is time our showers. We had a kitchen timer set for 3 minutes and that was our shower time. There really wasn’t a reason to go much longer, plus all that water saved is money in your pocket. In the summer months, open a window and use a fan to bring cool air in at night instead of using the air conditioner. Use a blanket in the winter instead of the heater. Think of cost effective options. Look into Energy Star approved appliances; they will pay for themselves in the long run. Also, replace all light bulbs with Compact Florescent Bulbs; they have a longer life and save energy!

3. Recycle

Did you know every time you purchase aluminum cans of soda or plastics that can be recycled, you are charged the redemption value? Therefore if you do not recycle it, you are losing that $0.05 per can. That can add up over the span of a year. So say you use 1 can a day (ex. soup cans, beer/soda cans for an entire year 365 cans x 0.05 = 18.25! That’s 4.5 gallons of gas (at $4/gal). For a family of 4, it amounts to $73.00! And that may not seem like a lot, but over the span of 10 years that’s $730. Not too shabby for recycling! Besides the money aspect, you are helping to conserve earths natural resources and reduce our carbon footprint.

Here are a few links to help you find local recycling facilities as well as some other recycling FAQs:

California Recycling Search

United States Recycling Search

Now get out there and save some green!

Image courtesy of Avantgarde Concept from Unsplash.com