It may seem like a silly question but after working with some of the oldest and greenest companies in the country, as well as some of the smallest and newest, I have noticed some great discrepancies between what a green company says or in many cases what they “sell,” and what they do or “buy.”
“Who are you when no one is looking?” is an old adage that fits quite well in today’s world of sustainability. I am not talking about the green product or sustainable process that everyone sees or notices, and of course we all love the spot light and awards that often accompany green innovation. No, the question really is, do you make it a point to green up the part of your business where no one is likely to notice?
Your beautiful rooftop garden can be seen by airplanes landing at the nearby airport and is swarmed with reporters every Earth Day like bees after pollen, but what about the water heating system, lighting and plumbing that does not enjoy that same visibility? Did you compromise between the greenest alternative and the low bidder on portions of your building project? Are you paying a little more for the company that recycles your manufacturing and office waste or a little less to the company that takes it to the nearest landfill?
Not Green Guilt but Green Responsibility
The purpose of these questions is not to focus blame but to identify inconsistencies and, more importantly, opportunities. We are all guilty in one form or another so let’s get beyond that and zero in on the areas that can easily and inexpensively be made greener. Here are a few to consider:
Automobiles – Hybrid and eco friendly cars have come a long way and include a wide variety of makes, models and accessories far beyond a Toyota Prius with basic options. Keep in mind the only way to fuel the continued development of that auto category into electric and beyond is to buy them.
Travel – Are all those trips and miles really necessary? Much of what we do can be done so efficiently on the phone or over the internet that flying to meet with a client or prospect is rarely truly necessary. We are all strapped for time as well as cash so doesn’t it make sense to minimize the expense as well as our carbon footprint?
Office Furniture – Where was your desk made and what is it made of? Many are convinced they have few domestic options but that is not true, in all parts of that industry. If you ask customers to buy green or buy USA, doesn’t that also apply to you?
Services – What type of chemicals does the company use that cleans your offices? How green is your accountant, attorney, or even your web designer? If sustainability is truly important to you, you have the right to ask the questions that will encourage positive change in the support and professional services you buy.
Packaging – (Come on, you know I had to include this one) – Yes, the boxes and envelopes you use do make a difference and they are noticed by your green-minded customers and clients. We regularly meet companies that create marvelous green products that are packaged in horribly un-green primary and secondary packaging.
The last question we try to ask ourselves is do we try to buy from and support small green businesses whenever possible? The last few years have been brutal on many businesses including and, perhaps, especially the green ones, because so many of those businesses are relatively new. The owners of those businesses have often times been disappointed by consumers who talk green but buy the lowest cost option.
I believe they should expect more from green businesses like ours and I doubt we require a headline seeking activist to remind us that if we make our money in the green market; we have a strong obligation to spend some of the profits there as well.
Dennis writes in the area of sustainable packaging with his work appearing in numerous blogs and magazines, including his own blog, Inside Sustainable Packaging. Dennis and his company provide custom eco friendly packaging solutions through Salazar Packaging and stock green packaging products via GlobeGuardProducts, which is the first internet store featuring all eco-friendly packaging supplies. Recently Dennis also made news by launching GreenPackagingGroup, which is a B2B packaging blog and directory for eco-minded buyers. He is president and co-founder of Salazar Packaging.