Environmental Sustainability in Small Businesses


Published on

Published in: Technology
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Environmental Sustainability in Small Businesses

  1. 1. Stockman 1 Ashley Stockman Professor DeVore English Composition 2 10 July 2013 Sustainable Businesses: a Goal for the Future There are many problems facing today’s society when it comes to the environment and human health. We are constantly coming up with new ways to make the earth a more sustainable place, while ensuring that the human population has their needs met as well. More specifically, with the rapid growth of our population, our resources are being used at a faster rate than we have ever seen before. Because of the heightened rate, our resources are being used faster than the environment can replenish them. Not only that, but when we are done using the resources, we are disposing of the waste in an irresponsible manner. Because of this, we are seeing rising prices of foods and materials along with dangerous levels of waste in our landfills. We as a society do not have the proper knowledge or education to make the changes to improve the all-around wellbeing of the planet and the people. I believe that if homes and businesses were to be informed about the impacts that they make on society and the earth, that they could make the proper improvements in order to create a more sustainable and, in turn, healthier community. Not only that, but by having a healthier and more knowledgeable society, our changes will make a more positive effect on the environment, for a cleaner and healthier earth. By everyone making small changes at home and in local businesses, we can make a huge difference when it comes to the amount of resources we are using. This will also lower the amount of greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere. In addition, we can learn to properly dispose of our unneeded materials so that we can reduce the demand for new products, which in turn will lower prices, along with reducing the amount of space
  2. 2. Stockman 2 being taken up in landfills. In order to narrow the topic a bit, the business aspect will be focused on, more specifically, the foodservice industry. I chose the foodservice industry as my example for many reasons: the restaurant industry is the most wasteful industry in the world ("A Vision for Sustainable Restaurants"). Not only is there a waste of energy from lights and appliances, but there is waste of energy from processing food and packaging as well. Another reason that I have decided to use this as an example is because it pertains to my major. Being a Culinary graduate, I hope to one day own my own business, and I would like to make my business as sustainable as possible. The last reason for choosing the foodservice industry is because of my current job. I am interning at a bakery this summer, so in order to get a better idea of costs and waste control, I conducted and interview with the owner, which will be seen later in this essay. Certain steps can be taken in order to achieve these goals. In an attempt to peak everyone’s interests, I have a few various ideas, ranging from food and appliances, to recycling and composting. I chose a variety of changes that can be made in order to show that it is possible, no matter what kind of business, that it is possible to make a change.These changes can also be made in homes. I hope that they are helpful and informational! In a foodservice setting, appliances are usually left on throughout the day to avoid the need to preheat the ovens multiple times in order to give their customers quality service. Because of the constant use of energy in the business, many greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane are being released into the air ("Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions"). The release of all these gases causes what is called The Greenhouse Effect, in which solar heat is absorbed by the earth, and that which is not absorbed is reflected back towards outer space. However, greenhouse gases trap some of this heat, which causes the earth’s temperature to increase. We need only some greenhouse gases in order to maintain a warm enough temperature to live, but with the excess use of energy, we are increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the air,
  3. 3. Stockman 3 which in turn, increases the earth’s temperature even more ("A Student's Guide to Global Climate Change"). By learning simple tricks, you can save energy and better control costs. Not only that, but switching to energy efficient appliances can save even more money and energy. First, the convection oven: one of the most commonly seen appliances in a kitchen, typically because of its faster cooking times and efficiency. Even if it is not energy efficient, there are things that can be done to cut down on the amount of energy being used by it. Simple practices such as filling the oven completely to avoid constant opening and closing, cutting back on idle time, and making sure seals are tight can save money. Switching to an energy efficient oven can save up to $190-$360 annually, depending on whether it is gas or electric. Next, one of the most cherished appliances in Wisconsin: the deep fryer. The deep fryer is one of the biggest wasters of energy because it is typically left on all day in order to avoid having to continuously reheat the oil over and over, which can be a painful waste of time. In order to cut back on energy use, cut back on the time it is left idle, which can save up to $250 dollars a year. By switching to an energy efficient fryer can save anywhere from $100- $450 annually, depending on whether it is gas or electric. The last appliance that I will be talking about is the walk-in refrigerator. Because it is constantly being opened in order to put in and take out food, much of the coldness is being let out, which is causing the refrigerator to compensate for the loss, which requires more energy. In order to help prevent this, strip curtains can be installed behind the door so that more of the coldness can be maintained, which reduces the refrigerators need to compensate for the lost temperature ("Putting Energy into Profit"). Switching from large to small, a huge energy consumer: light bulbs. By using a Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) instead of an incandescent bulb, you can reduce the heat output by up to 75%. According to the EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, if 945,000 restaurants in the United States replaced only one incandescent light bulb with a CFL, more than 630 million pounds of CO2 emissions could be avoided each year (the annual greenhouse gas emissions from more than
  4. 4. Stockman 4 52,000 passenger vehicles), and the restaurant industry could save about $42.5 million annually ("Putting Energy into Profit"). Just from a light bulb! Not that hard, right? On the subject of reducing the amount of heat put into the business, there is a revolutionary product that I hope to be able to put into my own business, which is called a Green Grid Roof. I first heard about this product at the beginning of this year while watching a Ted Talk, where a woman named Majora Carter talked about making the ghetto a more environmentally sustainable place. She had mentioned that her company was getting involved with this product, and had described it as an alternative to petroleum-based roofing, which is broke down under the heat, releasing chemicals that we in turn breathe in. Intrigued by this product, I did some more research about it. Green Grid Roofing Systems can be put on essentially any flat roofing surface, and vary in size and types of plants that can be grown and harvested. Not only do they absorb solar heat to keep down cooling costs, but they retain 75% of rainfall to cut down on watering costs, plus the plants help remove contaminants from the atmosphere, which leads to cleaner air for breathing ("Green Grid Roofing Systems"). Not only that, but you can grow your own produce for your business. By growing your own ingredients, you are cutting down on your purchasing costs and reducing demand for more products, which helps lower CO2 emissions from all the trucks that are needed to carry the materials. And one of the most important effects of growing your own produce is that when you use it in your menu items, you can be sure that what the customers are getting is healthy, nutritious, and organically grown food rather than genetically modified foods, which are very controversial, and can be unsafe to consume. Customers that eat your food will feel better and know exactly what they are putting into their bodies. In a phone interview with Green Grid General Manager, Kurt Fischer, we discussed the various designs of roofing that can be installed, types of plants that can be planted, and pricing information. There are many factors that determine pricing, but the average cost is usually about $15-$20 per square foot, depending on types of plants, location, business size, etc. (Fischer) .
  5. 5. Stockman 5 Along the lines of organic gardening, thetopic of discussion is compost, and the various benefits that it has on your business and the community. There are so many benefits to compost, it is hard to believe. Composting is easy, and does not require a lot of effort to make. It is especially easy in a restaurant setting to make compost because there is so much leftover waste from food preparation and disposal. Composting uses natural materials, such as coffee grounds, fruits, vegetables, peels, seeds, shells, and skins ("Materials for Composting"). All of these are found in the foodservice industry, and can be easily composted, rather than thrown in the garbage. Along with these food items, other materials from your lawn can be used (if you have one at your business) such as grass clippings, leaves, branches, pine cones and needles, and wood chips. Avoid putting anything in the compost bin that may attract pests, such as meats, bones, dairy products, fats and oils. These items do not decompose as fast, cause rancid smells, and may contaminate your compost. When in doubt, always check various sources to make sure that what is being put into the compost is safe and decomposable ("Composting for the Homeowner"). Compost eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers, so you can use it on your Green Grid Roof, which will help increase the yield of your produce, and eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers, all while eliminating the excess waste put into landfills. And obtaining a bin for compost is no problem at all. One can be purchased, or make your own out of wood or reusing a plastic bin that will not be used for anything else. And finally, one of the most commonly misused practices: recycling. Recycling is extremely important to us as a society, and how it can help the earth in many ways. Recycling is simply the process of converting waste into a material that can be reused for other products. There are tons of materials that can be recycled, such as plastic, glass, paper, metals, and cardboard. However, always make sure that these materials are properly rinsed so that they do not contain contaminants that may prevent them from being reused. There are also certain things that should not be recycled, such as Styrofoam, trash bags, wax paper, pet food bags, dryer sheets, trash bags, Ziploc bags,
  6. 6. Stockman 6 bubble wrap, and soiled materials like cardboard, napkins, and paper towels ("Non-Recyclable Materials"). The restaurant industry is responsible for a large portion of waste that is thrown away improperly. Even though Wisconsin laws ban recyclable materials from entering the landfill ("What is Required to Be Recycled in Wisconsin"), many businesses see it as more of a hassle, and therefore, disposal laws are not properly followed, which leads to excess materials in our landfills. This causes landfills to fill exponentially faster with unnecessary materials that could be disposed of in a better way ("Recycling and Waste Reduction in the Restaurant Industry"). In a brief phone interview with a Waste Management employee, we discussed different types of disposal programs that they offer. I used my job as an example, because it is a small, local business. For weekly waste pickup, the average monthly fee is around $90, and to include recycling only costs about $50 more a month ("Communicating with Your Waste Hauler"). By enrolling in their recycling services, you can put all of your recyclables into one container, and from there the company picks it up, brings it back to their facility, where each product is sorted into their own category (metal, plastic, glass, etc.) and then resold to companies who use the materials to make new products (Waste Management). When it comes to recycling plastic, it can be reused and put into various types of products like carpet fiber, t-shirt and jacket fabric, and fiberfill for sleeping bags, winter jackets, and pet beds. One of the companies that I am more familiar that uses post-consumer materials is called Bottle Boxes. We use these boxes at the bakery to package the sandwiches and salads that are then sold at an internet café here in Eau Claire. I did some more research on them and discovered many interesting facts, including how their containers are made, using anywhere from two and a half to five bottles depending on the size container that they are producing. The boxes are made using PET plastic, or polyethylene plastic, which is the most common, and most preferred because it is safe, strong, durable, and of course, recyclable ("What is PET?"). Making a simple switch from Styrofoam containers to something more ecofriendly, like Bottle Boxes, can reduce the amount of waste going
  7. 7. Stockman 7 into landfills, and reduce the amount of CO2 emissions being released into the atmosphere ("Communicating the Benefits of Recycling"). My boss has recently been doing a small part to reduce the amount of waste going into the landfills. Rather than throwing away old cupcakes and pastries, we now give them to hunters so that they can be used as bear bait.While it is not the most orthodox method, we are actually preventing pounds of unneeded waste from entering the landfill weekly, which adds up to about 50 pounds per month, depending on what is sold and used. In an interview with her, I asked her about her average electricity costs, and if she had any plans to reduce this cost or any methods of being more sustainable. She replied “My average electricity bill is about $400 a month, and I’d love to get an energy efficient oven for the bakery, but being a small business makes it hard to be able to afford those things outright. And while it always seems like a good idea to be green from an outside perspective, it’s not always as easy as you’d think once you actually have your own business”(Stafford). I can’t say that I disagree with her; I know that it can be difficult when you don’t have the proper funding, but at least she is trying to do her part, which is important. None of these practices are impossible, and while they may have slightly higher startup fees, the end result will result in a greater profit in the future. Not only that, but you will be helping the overall health of your community, creating more jobs, preventing toxic emissions, saving energy, and reducing the demand for unnecessary products. When you think about it, the small difference in money that you pay to accomplish all these goals actually ends up saving more money in the long run. Not all of these changes can be made overnight, but with some effort and support of your community, you can achieve every single one in order to make your business more sustainable, your community more healthy, your earth more plentiful, and your future even brighter. Works Cited: "The Bottle Box."The Bottle Box.N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Jul 2013. <http://www.thebottlebox.com/>.
  8. 8. Stockman 8 "Communicating the Benefits of Recycling."EPA.N.p., 05 Apr 2013. Web. 17 Jul 2013. <http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/tools/localgov/benefits/>. "Communicating with Your Waste Hauler."UWM.N.p..Web. 17 Jul 2013. <http://www4.uwm.edu/shwec/recyclingtoolkit/PDF/CommWithYourWasteHauler.pdf>. Fischer, Kurt. Telephone Interview. 17 Jul 2013. "Green Grid Roofing Systems."Green Grid Roofs.N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Jul 2013. <http://www.greengridroofs.com/><http://www.greengridroofs.com/inspired/galleries/rooftop .htm> "Materials for Composting."Web.Exension.Illinois. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Jul 2013. <http://web.extension.illinois.edu/homecompost/materials.cfm>. "Non Recyclable Materials."LAUSD-OEHS.N.p..Web. 17 Jul 2013. <http://lausd- oehs.org/docs/Recycling/Non_Recyclable_List.pdf>. "Putting Energy Into Profit." energystar.gov. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Jul 2013. <http://www.energystar.gov/ia/business/small_business/restaurants_guide.pdf>. "Recycling and Waste Reduction in the Restaurant Industry."DNR.N.p..Web. 17 Jul 2013. <http://dnr.wi.gov/files/PDF/pubs/wa/WA1536.pdf>. "Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions."EPA.N.p., 21 Jun 2013. Web. 17 Jul 2013. <http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/sources.html>. Simply Cakes, Photo from Ashley Stockman, July 2013 Stafford, Kathy. Personal Interview. 25 Jul 2013. "A Student's Guide to Global Climate Change."EPA.N.p., 21 Jun 2013. Web. 17 Jul 2013. <http://epa.gov/climatestudents/basics/today/greenhouse-gases.html>. Waste Management Employee, .Telephone Interview. 17 Jul 2013. "What is Required to Be Recycled in Wisconsin." DNR.N.p..Web. 17 Jul 2013. <http://dnr.wi.gov/files/PDF/pubs/wa/CE2017.pdf>. "Wisconsin Business Recycling Toolkit."UWM.N.p..Web. 17 Jul 2013. <http://www4.uwm.edu/shwec/recyclingtoolkit/bus_plan_int.html>.
  9. 9. Stockman 9 Potts Dawson, Arthur, dir. "A Vision for Sustainable Restaurants." 10 Dec 2010. Television.<http://www.ted.com/talks/arthur_potts_dawson_a_vision_for_sustainable_restaurants .html>. "What is PET?" Napcor.N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Jul 2013. <http://www.napcor.com/PET/whatispet.html>.