Sustainability 101

Here’s Your 5-Step Sustainability Checklist. How Many Have You Completed?

The beginning of a whole new year is a great time to review your sustainability strategy, and set the tone for the months ahead. What should you do?


1) Check on new and upcoming regulations

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Ensure you are in compliance to avoid fines.  Make sure your staff and tenants are aware of the changes. Take note of the date a law goes into effect, and the date at which enforcement (fines) starts. Give yourself enough time to get ready to be in compliance. Here’s a 4-step guide to avoiding fines.

Unsure of regulations in your state/city? Check our regulations page,  updates on our blog, or call your Great Forest representative. NYC clients, this Q&A will be a useful refresher on the new and updated regulations that went into effect last year.

2) Do a program review

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Review all your sustainability programs with management and your sustainability team so you can plan improvements for the year. Are your programs working? Did you achieve your goals last year? What else can you do to increase operational efficiency and reduce costs?

For example, a review can help you spot where your renewable programs and virtual PPAs (power purchase agreements) are growing in affordability. It can also help find and identify the newest energy incentives.

3) Conduct a waste audit

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Part of your program review should include a waste audit. A study based on over 100 waste audits conducted nationwide revealed that 77% what is usually thrown out as trash is really NOT trash at all but recyclable materials.  That is a lot of lost value.

Effective waste management has one of the most direct impacts on the environment and your business operations. So understanding your waste stream is key.  A waste audit can help you quantify the effectiveness of your current recycling or purchasing programs, identify improvements that can be made, verify your data, meet certification and regulatory requirements, and more. In this case study, we show how  a waste audits helped to uncover a sizable revenue stream for a global brand

4) Communicate the impact of your  sustainability programs 

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The start (or end of the year) is a great time to communicate the success of your sustainability efforts to staff and management. You will be competing for company resources so make sure your work continues to be supported by reporting your impact.

You could kick off your efforts every year with something as simple as an email message reminding everyone of the programs in place, and the importance of their their collective impact on sustainability. Make sure they understand how to use the programs and have access to educational resources such as recycling instructions, flyers and these 30-second videos on how to recycle paper and cardboard.

Keep the communication going throughout the year. Plan on organizing events on key dates such as Earth Day in April,  Daylight Hour in June, and America Recycles Day in November.

5) Consider small changes

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There are always new and inventive ways to enhance sustainability programs.  Even small changes can have big effects. Moving to an all centralized waste bin system as part of a waste management strategy is one example.  This could increase program compliance and reduce janitorial and materials cost (eg: bin liners) in one easy move. See how one client was able to divert an extra 11,000 pounds of compostable materials away from landfills each month with just one simple change.

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