7 Sustainability Tips to Green Your Business

Share this article! By Lisa Appel Portland is one of the most sustainable cities in America, and the Port of Portland strives to make it even better. In sustainability, recycling is a great place to begin, but there is much more to being “green.” Sustainability is a catalyst for innovation in how you do business, … Read more

By Lisa Appel

Portland is one of the most sustainable cities in America, and the Port of Portland strives to make it even better.

In sustainability, recycling is a great place to begin, but there is much more to being “green.” Sustainability is a catalyst for innovation in how you do business, creatively engaging employees to think differently about processes and efficiencies to deliver a positive economic, social and environmental impact.

Here are 7 sustainability tips to green your business, and ways the Port incorporates these practices into its business:

1. Build Green—Green construction is transforming the world and minimizing the impact of buildings on the environment. Completed in 2011, The Port headquarters built at Portland International Airport is Platinum certified in Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Design. It features geothermal heating and cooling as well as a radiant ceiling panel system. The building is made of non-persistent, non-toxic materials procured from recycled, renewable or abundant sources, and it was built upon previously developed land.  

Initial investment in LEED reaps rewards, minimizing operational costs related to heating, cooling and water consumption. Green buildings promote a healthy lifestyle with natural light and opportunities for outdoor access. New construction at the airport is on the horizon, including PDXNext terminal projects and a new rental car cleaning and fueling facility, which will incorporate similar strategies.

2. Minimize Waste—Waste generation is a major culprit of negative environmental impact. To minimize waste, consider human behavior, waste collection systems and their integration. Offering a small garbage can and a large recycling container encourages employees to recycle. At meetings, serve lunch “family style” to eliminate individual packaging for sandwiches, and encourage participants to bring their own cup. Work with caterers that offer reusable plates, utensils and napkins, or stock these items in the office kitchen.  

At the system level, evaluate waste stream collection. For example, provide a separate container for food to compost. Donate uneaten food from events to community pantries. Find a common area to stockpile and share unused or discarded office supplies; one department’s folders may save purchasing needs in other sections.

3. Increase Energy Efficiency—Reducing power consumption positively affects the environment and results in significant cost-savings. To reduce electricity use, install power strips with personal occupancy sensors, so electronics like monitors, speakers or heaters shut off when not in use. Or more simply, set monitors so that screens power down after a period of inactivity.  

4. Reduce Emissions—Transportation is linked tightly to greenhouse gas and diesel emissions. To reduce emissions, consider how people, equipment and supplies travel, and investigate options to do it more efficiently. To encourage alternatives, offer employees transit subsidies, improve facilities to encourage bicycle use, promote carpool programs, provide alternative work schedule options, and offer electric vehicle charging stations.

5. Conserve Water—While freshwater is plentiful in the Pacific Northwest, it’s not always simple to manage, due to its seasonal cycles of heavy rain and drought. The challenge is having water available when people need it, and using it wisely plays an important role in meeting that goal. To conserve water, add aerators to faucets or upgrade to water efficient fixtures to reduce water consumption. Evaluate irrigation needs and make sure operations are timed efficiently and targeted precisely.

Port landscaping uses native plants, requiring less frequent watering. PDX toilets use water-saving flush valves, and rental car wash facilities reuse rinse water.

6. Create a Management System—A documented systematic approach will maintain and grow sustainable practices over time. Organizations may already have a sophisticated environmental management system that goes beyond regulatory requirements through evaluation and control of impacts and continual improvement. However, for small business, or the service sector, a certification may offer the most efficient way to document and build a program.  

The City of Portland recently recognized the Port’s headquarters building for environmental excellence through the Sustainability at Work certification program. It takes 45 actions to achieve “Gold” status and the Port achieved more than 60. Program information is available through the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.  

7. Engage Employees—Given the impact human behavior has on resource consumption, creating a culture of sustainability to reduce it can be just as important as infrastructure investments. Organizational leadership sets expectations for workplace norms. Include sustainability training in employee orientation to provide foundational knowledge. Brown bag workshops educate employees in a collaborative way, bringing people together with similar interests. Offer a reward system, and publically recognize sustainable behavior or new innovations.  

The Port has a dedicated email address for environmental suggestions, and employee ideas influence and prioritize future environmental projects and goals. Reporting progress annually also shows the importance of sustainability to the organization’s success.

Learn more about Port sustainability projects at the PortCurrents blog.