Green Living Tips for Businesses


Tackling The basics

Recycle and compost

Ensure your business has the necessary bins and pick-up services: recycling, composting, and a cardboard bin, scrap wood/pallet bin, or scrap steel bin as applicable. Make sure bins, and smaller 'collector' bins, are in good locations to maximize their use. Do employees know what goes where? Has it been communicated that your business is serious about recycling? Has it been communicated to your after hours cleaning people where small recycling bins are to be emptied? (Check that it's going to the right place.)

Talk to your waste contractor about any other waste that may be recyclable through other avenues (eg. some special recyclers will take back used stretch wrap or clean plastic pails). Can another one of your locations use something that is waste to you?

Participate in a TerraCycle Brigade program for recycling select items not accepted in blue bin (eg. cigarette butts, foil coffee bags). Ship your collection in for free. They will tabulate and donate a corresponding amount to a non-profit organization of your choice!

Also, learn about Halton Region's waste diversion workshops for businesses here.

Reduce office paper use. Purchase recycled or FSC paper.

When you must use paper, use recycled or FSC certified paper (or paper with an equivalent certification indicating responsible forest management). Encourage employees to consider if printing a document is really necessary. Try to print/photocopy on both sides when possible. Use scrap paper for notes and "to do" lists (cross out the used side of the page to avoid mixing up with current documents).

Stop Receiving Unwanted Mail

If you are receiving unwanted flyers at your business, please notify your letter carrier or place a notice on your mailbox requesting, "No flyers please."

For addressed mail that you receive such as statements, catalogues, trade magazines, consider switching to emailed versions or access them online, where practical. Look for information within the item or on their website to find out how to make the switch.

Finally, for other addressed mail that you don't want at all, email or write the company to have your name removed from their mailing list. Include all the details on the mailing label so they can locate you on their mailing list for removal. Offices often receive mailings to multiple people unnecessarily or duplicate mailings to the same employee.

Green your office kitchen

  • Stock reusable dishware, cutlery and cups rather than disposable. You'll have to figure out a system for washing, perhaps on an employee rotation basis.
  • Avoid plastic cutlery and anything styrofoam – they are not recyclable in Halton.
  • Avoid cups & cutlery sold as "biodegradable", as Halton Region does not accept them in green bins due to the length of time to decompose. Nor are they accepted in blue bins.
  • Look for recycled or FSC, SFI, or similar responsible forestry markings on paper products like napkins, paper towels or other fibre-based goods. Look for products that use a low or alternate bleaching process. View Industry Canada's list of common environmental labels to learn more. Ensure all your purchasing people are familiar with this purchasing goal and the markings.
  • Outfit your business with biodegradable waste bags and eco-friendly cleaning products.

Discourage bottled water use

Provide pitchers of cool tap water for meetings along with reusable cups/glasses. Avoid selling bottled water in vending machines at work. Communicate to employees why we need to move away from bottled water, to get them on-board. Learn more on our bottled water page.

Keep grounds clean of litter and stray garbage

When garbage and litter is left on property too long, it becomes an eyesore and risks being blown around and ending up in nearby roads, fields, creeks and woodlands. Please keep grounds clean, and don't forget about behind your building, too.

When the city is kept clean and green, it looks nicer and there is a better chance of getting other people to care about it and keep it clean. This has broader social benefits as well. Maybe even organize a group cleanup at work or of a natural area somewhere in the city. Here are some basic safety tips for consideration when cleaning up litter.

Encourage transit use, walking, bicycling, and carpooling

If you are located in a reasonably safe place to do so, encourage the above modes of transportation for employees. Be sure to offer convenient, safe, and secure bicycle parking on the premises.

Check out the Smart Commute site by Metrolinx for suggestions and tools. Register to become a Smart Commute workplace!

If you have a large parking lot, consider designating some of the more desirable spots close to the building as carpool or Low Emission Vehicle parking only (eg. hybrid, electric car), as an incentive and reward for people choosing greener transportation.

Help protect migrating birds

Millions of birds die each year from collisions with office buildings due to disorientation caused by reflective glass, lights left on at night, and exterior lighting. High-rise buildings are particularly hazardous. Visit FLAP Canada to learn more about their Great Lakes Lights Out campaign. Help protect birds during migration season and save energy, too!

Ready For More?

Establish environmental policies & goals

Example: 10% electricity savings over the next year. A firm, measurable, and achievable goal is better than, "Let's all try to save electricity." Goals can also be made part of incentive pay packages, where applicable. Or, a green office party can be the reward for a goal met.

It is essential that management actively and visibly supports the policies and goals and has a strategy to get there. Otherwise, policies can tend to be 'feel-good' statements that don't go anywhere. Also, the companies that seem to have the most 'green' success are ones that take an inclusive approach with employees, where they can submit ideas of what they would like to see, as opposed to mostly top down directives telling employees what they have to do.

Learn what Canada's Top 100 Greenest Employers are doing. Read Canada's Green 30 list from Maclean's for examples of initiatives and green cultures in the workplace.

Start with easy projects that are low cost but still have impact, and not so burdensome that it will take too long to get done. Choose initiatives that have a good chance of success, in order to prove the value of your new environmental focus and keep employees motivated. If you can spot opportunities that save the business money while helping the environment, it can help get any skeptics on-board. (eg. eliminating a supply purchase that is really no longer needed and producing unnecessary garbage. Diverting enough waste so that you only need garbage pick-up every 2 weeks instead of 1.) 

Go for ISO 14001 certification

Consider aligning your business with an Environmental Management Standard like ISO 14001. Demonstrate to your customers, employees, and suppliers a formal commitment to environmentally responsible management of your business.

Make 'being green' a fun challenge for your workplace

Why not invite your staff to wear green one day a week, pack litterless lunches with locally grown food, carpool or use public transit to get to work. Limit energy use for the day and celebrate the green challenge day with a green prize such as planting a tree in the community!

In addition, you can help promote various awareness days at work. Register your workplace to show your support.

Also, see our Environmental Awareness & Action Days page for a full list of days you can help promote.

Consider the environment in all purchasing decisions

When you have the option of choosing from multiple items or multiple sources for a purchase, consider which one is more environmentally friendly. Help your purchasers work this into their daily decision-making.

  • Buy from locally owned businesses where possible and preferably from ones that will take back their packaging for reuse (eg. pallets, boxes, pails). Or, convince them to take it back if they've never done it before.
  • Check for environmental certification markings on supplies purchased. (eg. FSC)
  • Consider if the item you are purchasing can be recycled when done with it, whether by you or your customers (eg. fibre-based packing vs. styrofoam packing peanuts, paper liner sheets vs. plastic sheets).
  • Is the item necessary at all, or is there something else you can reuse to meet the need? Is there a more efficient method that would eliminate the need for that item altogether?

Have an energy & waste audit done

Consider hiring a consulting firm to audit your facility. Their experts can analyze your power, gas, and water use, lighting, building drafts, and waste streams to determine opportunities for improvement and saving money. You may be eligible to receive a 50% rebate on the cost of an energy audit (see Burlington Hydro's saveONenergy audit page).

Conserve Electricity

  • Ensure your office HVAC unit is on a programmable thermostat and the time settings are suitable to conserve energy.
  • Consider replacing T12 fluorescent fixtures and sodium lighting in your plant or warehouse with more efficient types (eg. T8 or T5 fluorescent fixtures, LED lighting). Your electrical contractor or an energy auditor would be a good source to start with to find out the best options for your workplace. See Burlington Hydro's saveONenergy lighting page for financial incentives.
  • Consider having your electrician install light switch motion sensors in office rooms, and motion sensors for lighting in low-traffic areas of your plant or warehouse (also eligible for rebates through Burlington Hydro).
  • Drop in on your business on a down day (eg. Sunday) and do an informal audit of what is drawing power unnecessarily (eg. AC left on high, lights, equipment, computers left on). Employees often have other things on their minds when leaving on a Friday afternoon and forget to 'power down' the workplace or think someone else will take care of it. Or, your cleaning crew may have come in and forgot to turn off the lights after leaving, affecting your conservation efforts.
  • Consider replacing standard bulbs in emergency exit signs with LED bulbs. Please check with your emergency lighting inspector first for the best option. (Also eligible for rebates)
  • Industrial: consider adopting a policy of purchasing premium efficiency motors when existing motors need replacing or as part of new equipment specifications. Take advantage of Burlington Hydro's SaveONenergy rebates.
  • Industrial: Stay on top of fixing compressed air leaks, to save overburdening your air compressor, which is a heavy power draw item. Or, upgrade your system. (Financial incentives available.)

See Burlington Hydro's saveONenergy rebate pages for a wide variety of financial incentives to help make your business office, plant, and warehouse more energy efficient.

(See also energy conservation links listed above.)

Green Your Fleet

If your business has a fleet of employee vehicles, maintenance vehicles, delivery vehicles, transport trucks, etc., review your fleet for opportunities to reduce your ecological footprint and save on fuel costs. Consider upgrading to such options as electric, hybrid, propane, or natural gas powered vehicles, as applicable. Don't forget to examine your forklift fleet as well. Natural gas powered trucks are available, if you have suitable access to refueling stations (learn more here and here).

You can also reduce fuel consumption by up to 35% simply through driver training. Visit Natural Resources Canada's FleetSmart pages to learn about free workshops and online training for drivers and fleet managers.

If you use contracted delivery services, you can compare the emissions/km of various freight and courier companies on NRC's SmartWay page here, to help choose ones that reduce your ecological footprint. SmartWay is a network connecting over 3,000 companies with a shared goal to save fuel, lower costs and reduce harmful emissions.

Use renewable power (eg. solar, Bullfrog Power)

Consider taking advantage of Ontario's FIT & MicroFIT programs to install a renewable power generating source at your business using wind, sun, water or bioenergy. If you are unsure about making the investment in solar panels, there are companies that will rent your rooftop from you and take care of the rest. This option can still provide a nice income stream, without tying up precious capital or having to worry about maintenance.

If you're not able to install renewable power, consider offsetting your electricity use through Bullfrog Power. For a reasonable fee, they will add renewable power to the grid on your behalf, at an amount equivalent to your usage.

Offset what you can't eliminate

As you take action on all of the above suggestions, consider offsetting your remaining ecological footprint by donating to environmental funds. There are a variety of funds that help communities plant trees, do restoration work, advocate for the environment, protect land and wildlife, or promote and improve green transportation like cycling and transit. Consider signing on to the 1% for the Planet campaign, where companies contribute 1% of sales to environmental causes. Or hey, how about donating to BurlingtonGreen?

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