Tag Archives: sustainability

HR Focus: August Is National Water Quality Month

As summer’s hottest month heats up, the country celebrates National Water Quality Month. This month is a time to educate individuals and companies about steps they can take to protect the country’s sources of fresh water.

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State, federal, and local regulations govern the wastewater that companies can dump directly into water supplies. These regulations do not provide perfect protection—witness the 2014 coal ash spill into the Dan river—but they prevent companies from deliberately disposing of their waste products into the water.

The more insidious impact, however, comes from the way that people add chemicals to the water supply without even knowing it. This happens through rainwater runoff, when water from rain storms collects in storm drains, bringing with it all the chemicals on buildings and sidewalks that it has encountered along the way. These storm drains then empty into water supplies—still carrying environmental pollutants.

Cities—and the companies that are located there—generate five times more rainwater runoff than forests or fields. The rain washes pollutants like oil, antifreeze, pet waste, fertilizers, and pesticides right into the water supply. To avoid contributing to poor water quality, follow Clean Water Action’s fact sheet:

  1. Don’t use antibacterial soaps or cleaning products.
  2. Don’t put anything except water down storm drains.
  3. Avoid using pesticides or chemical fertilizers.
  4. Choose nontoxic household products whenever possible.

Sometimes water pollution is visible, like in the case of toxic algal blooms. More often, however, poor water quality is not visible to the naked eye. To make sure your office water supply is safe, check where your water comes from with the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s “Surf Your Watershed” tool, and buy a water quality testing kit. These standards from the General Services Administration provide good guidelines on making sure your water supply is safe.

How to Encourage Better Recycling in Your Company

Sustainability Focus: Recycling

Modern materials recycling—converting paper, metal, and plastics into reusable materials—got its start in the 1970s, along with the rise of modern environmentalism. The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, and in 1976, Massachusetts received a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to pilot a curbside collection program for mixed materials collection. By 1992, there were 5,404 curbside recycling programs, and by 2017, these programs—most of which offer single-stream recycling—are nearly ubiquitous in municipal areas.

How to Encourage Better Recycling in Your Company

The aim of recycling programs has always been to recycle more: to divert more waste from landfills. To that end, recycling companies have focused on making it easier to recycle common materials. The accessibility of recycling receptacles makes it just as easy to recycle materials as it is to throw them in a regular trash can (one that sends waste to a landfill rather than a recycling center). Now, the act of recycling paper, metal, and plastic has become a habit for many people.

The EPA recommends that everyone “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.” These three commandments are ordered hierarchically; you should first reduce the amount of resources you use—then reuse whatever you can. When all else fails, recycle what you can. Recycling is certainly an important component of being environmentally responsible. However, recycling should not be an end in itself; it should be seen as a means to the end of reusing materials. Running recycling programs is expensive; for-profit materials management companies make their profit by selling the feedstocks—recycled materials—that result from the recycling process.

But the economics of recycling are changing dramatically, especially in the area of plastics. Plastics make up a larger percentage of the waste stream than ever, due to technological advances in the manufacturing process. However, many of these new plastics, especially flexible plastic films and pouches, are not recyclable. They contaminate the waste stream and make it more expensive for materials processors to create high-quality feedstocks. At the same time, global financial trends, like lower oil prices and a slower Chinese economy, are reducing demand for plastic feedstocks. This is creating an economic “perfect storm,” in which recycling companies are having trouble staying in the black.

How can your office recycling program help? Make sure employees understand what is recyclable and what isn’t, especially when it comes to lightweight plastics and films. Provide recycling receptacles with signs showing best practices. Consider adding a composting program if possible. And remember, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!

 

 

Logistics Focus: Sustainable Transportation

When you bite into your sandwich at lunch today, ask yourself: “How far did this food have to travel to get to my desk?” With today’s global logistics, the answer could be more complex than you might think, with some types of food being transported thousands of miles before they are eaten. And consumers—especially millennials—are increasingly concerned with the sustainability of the food they eat.

Sustainable Transportation

Aside from the health benefits associated with sustainable food choices, making food transportation more sustainable can have an impact on the environment and on world hunger. According to The World Bank:

  • Up to 50% of harvest is wasted between farm and fork—the moment we actually consume food.
  • Transport-related emissions account for about 15% of overall greenhouse gas emissions. And 60% of those emissions are coming from road transport.
  • Logistics costs affect small farmers disproportionally (up to 23% of their total costs).

To help companies make their supply chains greener, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the SmartWay program in 2004. The program, which is completely voluntary, has helped its partners save over 7 billion gallons of fuel, lower fuel costs by $24.9 billion, and reduce carbon emissions by 72.8 million metric tons. SmartWay, which is a public-private partnership among the EPA, state and local governments, and the transportation industry, accomplishes several things:

  • It provides a comprehensive and well-recognized system for tracking, documenting, and sharing information about fuel use and freight emissions across supply chains.
  • It helps companies identify and select more efficient freight carriers, transport modes, equipment, and operational strategies to improve supply chain sustainability and lower costs from goods movement.
  • It supports global energy security and offsets environmental risk for companies and countries.
  • It reduces freight transportation-related climate change and air pollutant emissions by accelerating the use of advanced fuel-saving technologies.

Look for the SmartWay logo to know that your food is being transported according to the best available efficiency technology and carbon data.

 

USConnect and Route 66 Partner with Life in Green to Provide Eco-Friendly Coffee Solutions

USConnect’s premium coffee service, Route 66, is pleased to announce its new partnership with Life in Green packaging and accessories. USConnect, the United States’ only nationwide wireless integrated food service network, provides the highest quality fresh food through a variety of customized dining services, fresh-food vending services, unattended retail services, and office coffee services.

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For many years, USConnect had purchased coffee for its office coffee services from other vendors, but in 2013, USConnect CEO Jeff Whitacre started thinking about how USConnect coffee could stand apart as its own brand: a brand that reflected the company’s values. Recognizing the iconic power of Route 66 in American culture, Whitacre and the USConnect team chose Route 66 as the name for its new coffee line. “There’s nothing more American than Route 66,” says Whitacre. “It represents the American spirit of adventure, of travel and experiencing new things in new places. As people travel along Route 66, they stop in coffee shops and diners all across America. This coffee celebrates that journey and the spirit of those travelers.”

Indeed, Route 66 roasters scour the world in search of the best beans and blends to create the most flavorful coffees. Each American Heritage coffee (see full list below) is named for a different stop on Route 66, representing the scope of the American experience. But for USConnect, it wasn’t enough to just embrace the American spirit of adventure. In order to help keep America great, Whitacre and USConnect felt that Route 66 should be an eco-friendly company. To that end, Route 66 is partnering with Life in Green to provide cups and accessories with the smallest possible environmental footprint. It’s about celebrating what’s best about America!

From the sunny shores of California to the Lone Star State, Route 66 coffees will magically transport coffee drinkers from their desks to some of the most notable places of our great nation:

California Blonde: A light, lively, perfectly balanced cup that’s easy to drink all day

Rocky Mountain Blend: From the heights of the Andes to the heights of the Rockies, this 100% Colombian coffee is fresh and heady.

Lone Star Select Roast: This 100% pure estate-grown coffee is as rich in flavor as the Texas soil.

Sonoran Desert Decaf: This seductive blend of the most flavorful coffees carries a unique, rich flavor without the caffeine.

St. Louis Doughnut Shop Blend: This medium roast is a great way to start the day with a smooth, clean taste and delightful aroma.

Chicago Dark Roast: Every sip of this rich, deep, robust roast is as vibrant in flavor as Chicago’s great heritage.

The Demand for Sustainability

The growing interest in environmentally sensitive packaging comes from a growing awareness of the impact that our choices may have on our planet. This may be reflected in the demand for sustainabilityan organization’s corporate responsibility policy, or it may be important to the message that a company is trying to convey to its own clients.

Sustainable packaging is packaging that may be recycled, reused, or composted. It also may include using less materials for the packaging, such as reduced layers or a smaller package, or including recycled content. Sustainability also includes how the product was made. The energy efficiency of the manufacturing process as well as the transportation of the final product are both significant.  Whether the energy and resources came from renewable sources are also potential factors.

Products advertising their sustainability or environmental sensitivity must make specific claims as to their recycled content and recyclability. Producers cannot claim an item is recyclable unless recycling facilities are available to at least 60% of consumers or communities; otherwise, the product must have a disclaimer that it may not be recyclable in your area.  Similarly, there are regulations on claiming a product has been made using renewable energy or contains recycled content. More information about environmental marketing claims is available from the FTC.

More products are now available in their own recycled and recyclable packaging.  Water bottles made of thinner plastic and compostable bags for snacks are already available, and companies continue to find new technologies.  For example, the Coca Cola company has a product called PlantBottle, a recyclable PET plastic bottle made partially from plants. Odwalla, a subsidiary of Coca-Cola, switched all of its bottles to an HDPE plastic made of up to 100 percent plant-based materials derived from sugarcane.  According to the American Chemical Society, the technology for creating edible packaging already exists, and companies are experimenting with food wraps made from mushrooms and nuts.

Of course, sustainability does not just apply to the packaging. In the current “foodie” culture, consumers are increasingly conscious of the route that food traveled to get to their table. In addition to seeking food choices that are nutritionally sound, many employees may be interested in understanding as much as they can about what they are consuming.  Along with the interest in healthier choices, they may want to know about its origins—are the vegetables locally sourced? Is the coffee fair trade? Organic products, while sometimes considered healthier,  are also understood to have a smaller environmental impact and are considered socially responsible choices.