Smarter Business: Greening Advisor
Benefits to the environment
There are many reasons for incorporating environmentally intelligent policies into your company’s operations. They provide a variety of benefits. Among them are:
Response to the Threat of Global Warming
Since the beginning of the industrial age, people have been burning fossil fuels such as oil and coal, releasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. As these compounds accumulate in the atmosphere, they trap more and more heat. Scientists agree that our world is heating up and that human activity is a primary cause. They predict that global warming will cause increases in droughts, hurricanes, floods, and other severe weather events; significant rises in sea level; and the spread of diseases once confined to the tropics. Whole industries, from farming in the Midwest to skiing in the Northeast and the Rocky Mountains, are threatened.
The projected costs of global warming to our economy and public health are staggering. Fortunately, solutions exist. Smarter procurement practices, improved energy efficiency, and greater use of renewable energy can help reduce the threats of this global crisis.
Improving the environmental performance of your building operations helps to protect public health. Fossil fuel–generated energy and transportation produce air pollutants that can cause respiratory illness and increases in hospital visits. In addition, coal-fired power plants are the world’s number-one emitter of mercury, a neurotoxin that is now found in rivers and streams throughout the world. Mercury can cause developmental and neurological disorders, especially in children. By improving the efficiency of your building, your business will contribute less to these environmental hazards.
Reducing your company’s environmental footprint can improve public health protection in other ways as well. Cutting paper consumption helps reduce the toxic chemicals emitted by the paper industry, including dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals known to humanity; using less-toxic cleaning products and low-emissions paints can improve the indoor air quality of your office and the health of your employees; installing low-flow faucets and toilets can help ensure that there will be enough clean water for future generations.
The transportation and energy sectors are the two biggest causes of global warming, acid rain, and smog. Cars and power plants also release into the air small particles that can impair respiratory function and cause cancer. By increasing energy efficiency, promoting alternative transportation, and supporting renewable energy, your company can contribute to cleaner air.
Almost half of the world’s population lives without access to a reliable source of clean water. In the United States, water pollution affects many of our nation’s rivers, streams, and lakes. Two of the biggest causes of water pollution in the United States are agricultural and urban runoff. Agricultural runoff contains pesticides, fertilizer, and sediment. Many pesticides can cause cancer and other illnesses, and the nutrients in fertilizer can deplete oxygen in water, making it unsuitable for fish and other aquatic life. Urban runoff occurs when rain flows over impervious surfaces like roads, roofs, and parking lots. Runoff collects industrial pollutants, including oil and gasoline, trash, and toxic heavy metals like mercury and cadmium. Agricultural and urban lands are not the only sources of water pollution. Mining, forestry, and other industries also make significant contributions.
Your business can make a difference by purchasing products that cause less water pollution. Organic foods, for example, are made without pesticides and fertilizers and therefore cause less water pollution. Buying renewable energy reduces the amount of water pollution associated with coal production, and purchasing recycled paper reduces water pollution from virgin paper mills, which are among the most polluting factories in the world.
Your business can also help prevent water pollution by controlling and capturing rainwater and preserving water-permeable surfaces (such as grass and gravel), which can reduce urban runoff.
Preservation of Biodiversity
Since the rise of life on earth, the planet has experienced five major periods of global extinction. Now we are entering a sixth major extinction, but this one is being caused by humans. As urbanization and agriculture encroach on natural habitats, there is less habitat and sustenance for the millions of other species that coexist with us. These threats to biodiversity are made worse by the threat of global warming.
By responding to the threat of global warming—through energy efficiency, renewable energy, and transportation innovations—your company can help preserve biodiversity. Buying paper made with postconsumer recycled content reduces pressure on natural forests and water supplies. By implementing polices that protect and conserve water, your company can help reduce the risk to aquatic species. And by promoting these policies, your business can help raise awareness and inspire others to do the same.