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Street Smart Sustainability

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Go Green While Making Green

You already know why your company should go green. This comprehensive guide tells you how to do it profitably. It details every step of the process—from getting employee buy-in and conducting a current sustainability audit to developing a plan of action and measuring progress. Nuts-and-bolts guidance helps you make continuous, cost-effective improvements and shift the prevailing business culture by infusing green practices into your organization’s very DNA.

Through illustrative examples from a wide variety of industries, this book shows how to:

• Design sustainable products

• Green your facilities

• Find green vendors

• Use renewable energy

• Reduce harmful emissions

• Recycle waste products, and more

The emphasis is on practicality—stand-alone chapters you can read when you need them and tools you can use to implement change in any area of your organization.


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20 Chapters

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1 Leadership Greening from the Top


No single factor is more important to successfully greening an enterprise than for its leaders to create a sustainability vision and make a commitment to continuous progress toward realizing that vision. This chapter is about finding that vision, owning it, articulating it, and getting your managers and employees to support it so that your sustainability goals become their sustainability goals. Once this is done, the vision is infused into the corporate culture and becomes self-replicating.

In creating Stonyfield Farm, CEO Gary Hirshberg had a vision that “the company is not about making yogurt but about greening the world one yogurt container at a time.”1 Horst Rechelbacher of Aveda had a vision of using 100 percent organic ingredients, not petrochemicals, in nonfood products such as cosmetics because doing so is better for the health of the planet and your health too.

Today, both of these companies have hundreds of millions of dollars in annual sales and are mostly owned by multinational conglomerates, but they both started out as struggling little companies. Their mission of healing the planet led to their success. Now they are transforming the multibillion dollar multinational companies that invested in them into more sustainable companies.


2 Audits Measuring Where You Are


Whatever sustainability target you have set for yourself, in order to hit the bull’s-eye you have to know where you are standing in relation to your target. The process for assessing your current sustainability performance is called a sustainability audit. In a sustainability audit, you try to quantify your energy and material use and your emissions and releases to the environment. You also seek objective evidence to assess whether you are in compliance with regulations and any voluntary commitments that you have made vis-à-vis the environment or sustainability. A sustainability audit is your environmental report card.

Every line item in your profit (and loss) statement, cash flow statement, general ledger, and balance sheet has a corresponding environmental impact. The sustainability audit quantifies that impact. While a sustainability audit is a look backward, it is a crucial step in moving forward toward sustainability. To get where you are going, you have to know where you are. Creating a plan helps you find what additional key measures you need to assess. After the audit, you may discover items that should be included in your plan.


3 The Plan Implementing Your Sustainability Vision


You have your vision, it’s authentic, and it resonates with your actions. You have buy-in from the employees and a mechanism to motivate them to work toward continuous environmental improvement. You have performed a baseline audit and are informed of all the key events that influence your company’s environmental footprint. Now you need a plan to translate that vision into action. Once you have a plan, you can do what the plan requires of you, measure the results of your action, and then review the results to determine if you are on target or need to tweak the plan in order to keep making continuous progress toward sustainability.

This chapter is about converting your sustainability vision into a plan and ensuring its success by planning, doing, measuring, and reviewing. You’ll learn how to determine which of the various environmental management systems, protocols, and standards can best help you achieve your vision. Whatever options you select and whatever direction you take, don’t seek perfection because it is perennially elusive. Seek excellence and push yourself and your organization, but aim for continuous improvement, not perfection.


4 Metrics If You Can Measure It, You Can Manage It


This chapter details three powerful analytic tools—the input/output mass balance analysis, life cycle analysis, and break-even analysis. These diagnostic tools help you see what’s up with your organization so that you can make changes. The input/output mass balance analysis quantifies your releases to water, emissions to air, and solid waste; the life cycle analysis shows the impact of your product or service from cradle to grave; and the break-even analysis tells you how much savings you will get from environmental improvements or how much you have to decrease costs or increase revenue to pay for environmental improvements.

Matter cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another. This basic law of physics and chemistry is the theory behind one of the most powerful tools in sustainability auditing—the input/output mass balance analysis. In simple terms, the weight of the raw materials and manufactured goods you buy plus the water and air you add should equal the weight of products you ship plus the weight of your emissions to air, the weight of garbage and recyclables that leave your facility, and the weight of material you discharge down the drain.


5 Design Making It Sustainable from the Start


The best way to get green is to design green. Every company or enterprise is constantly involved in design. Organizations design innovative products and services and innovative ways to make existing products and to perform existing and new tasks. So green design is a common entry point for companies seeking to become sustainable. This chapter provides guidance on sustainable green design of products and services.

It turns out that proactive green design is much more cost-effective than reactive solutions to environmental challenges. The design Rule of Tens states that if it costs $10 to come up with design criteria, it costs $100 for the actual design, $1,000 for the prototype, $10,000 for the preproduction run, $100,000 to produce the product, and $1 million to recall it after a flaw is discovered that could have been addressed in the $10 design phase.

In chapter 4 we discussed the life cycle analysis. The first rule in sustainable design is to review all of the LCA categories. To design a more sustainable product, ask and answer the question, “What improvements can be designed into the product in the preproduction, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, use, and disposal phases as a function of inputs of energy, water, and material, and outputs of emissions to air, releases to water and solid waste, and impacts on human health and ecology?” If you completed an LCA matrix (see resource E), the boxes that are highlighted in red represent the greatest environmental impact. These are the areas to focus on in your green design efforts for the next product iteration.


6 Facility Making Your Workplace Green


Both “ecology” and “economy” have their roots in the Greek word oikos, meaning “home.” This chapter deals with the ecology and economy of your enterprise’s home and how to make your enterprise’s facility more sustainable. If you have a virtual business, then your business’s home is your home. Your business’s home and the energy to maintain it can be the biggest environmental burden your enterprise causes or they can have a zero net impact if you make the right choices in terms of construction materials, energy efficiency, water conservation, and indoor environmental quality. Green building protocols can help you address all these issues.

The ultimate sustainable construction materials were employed in renovating the College Hall at New College, Oxford, built in 1386. After five hundred years, the oak beams supporting the ceiling started to decay and needed replacing. Oak trees take five hundred years to produce such massive beams, so they are not easy to source and would be expensive if you could find them. After many years of searching, replacements were discovered in two separate stands of oak trees in Buckinghamshire. It turned out both forests were owned by Oxford College. Presumably, the College Hall builders in 1386 sustainably planned for the ceiling’s replacement. The giant oaks were cut down and the old beams replaced.


7 Energy Using Renewable Energy, Energy Audits, and Conservation


This chapter covers the basics of the sustainable use of energy, discusses the various forms of renewable energy, explains how to perform an energy audit, and provides recommendations for energy conservation.

Almost everything that moves and breathes on this planet does so because of energy it captures from the sun.1 The energy it takes for you to move and breathe comes from the stored energy in the plant you ate or in the animal you ate, which ate a plant, which originally stored the sun’s energy. When you burn a piece of wood, you are releasing the solar energy that the chloroplasts in the plant captured and that was converted to sugar and then polymerized into cellulose and lignin. When you burn fossil fuels, you are releasing solar energy that was captured by plants as long as 350 to 450 million years ago. Using oil, gas, or coal as fuel is spending the earth’s capital. If you have capital and spend only the interest you earned, you can do this forever. If you spend the capital, even a tiny amount, and do this consistently over time, you will eventually run out of money. Sustainability is about using the earth’s energy income and not its energy capital.


8 Carbon Quantifying and Reducing Your Carbon Footprint


In the near future, enterprises of all sizes will need to consider and address their carbon footprints—the amount of carbon dioxide that they produce. This chapter provides a short explanation of the greenhouse warming effect and indicates how upcoming regulations are likely to affect corporations. Then you’ll learn how to determine what your carbon footprint is and how to reduce it cost-effectively.

The glass roof of a greenhouse allows visible light to travel through, where it is absorbed and becomes heat (infrared), but the glass does not transmit infrared heat, so the heat stays trapped in the greenhouse. Carbon dioxide and certain other gases in the earth’s atmosphere have a similar effect. They trap heat near the earth’s surface.

The gases that have been officially identified by the UN under the Kyoto Protocol as greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, and certain fluorinated gases (CFCs) like Freon. Each molecule of methane traps 23 times as much heat as each molecule of carbon dioxide. Nitrous oxide traps 296 times as much. For CFCs, the numbers are even higher.


9 Purchasing Using Your Dollar to Save the Planet


The greatest impact companies can have is often not what they do, but what they buy and where they buy it. This chapter deals with what to buy, where to buy, who to buy from, and how to buy to ensure sustainability.

The most important message in this chapter is that you have enormous power to do good by choosing how you spend your money, whom you spend it with, and what you spend it on. And if you believe that you are too small to make a difference or to be able to influence your vendors’ environmental practices, you are just plain wrong. The eight rules for sustainability purchasing will show you how.

First of all, let’s get very clear about responsibilities and boundary conditions. Just because you are not producing the raw material or components you use does not take you off the hook of responsibility. If you buy something and use it or resell it, you own the responsibility. For example, over 90 percent of dairy product companies’ environmental impact is on the farm, or, put another way, 90 percent of their impact is from the milk they buy, not from their own product production activities.


10 Reduce Getting to Net Zero Emissions and Releases


This chapter is about voluntary commitments—going beyond government regulations—to making continuous improvement in reducing your total environmental footprint. Many companies and organizations are even making the commitment to reduce their emissions to air, releases to water, and solid waste to zero. It seems impossible to do and even more so to do it cost-effectively, yet all it takes is a voluntary commitment. The following examples show how it is done.

Net-zero-waste pioneer Gunter Pauli was CEO of Ecover, a small company that makes cleaning products (laundry powder, dishwashing liquid, car wax) from natural and renewable raw materials. Ecover opened a near-zero-emissions factory in Gunter’s native Belgium in 1992. A grass roof kept the plant cool in summer and warm in winter. The water treatment system ran on wind and solar energy. The factory became a media darling. Ecover captured 6 percent of the Belgian detergent market in eighteen months without spending a dime on advertising. Gunter doesn’t claim that zero emissions are cheaper, just that you make more money. David worked with him in the development of Gunter’s Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives1 pavilion for the 2000 Hannover World’s Fair.


11 Waste Turning an Environmental Problem into a Business Opportunity


This final chapter is about Joe’s favorite topic and about the ultimate in being sustainable; instead of using resources and producing waste, using waste to produce resources. Sustainable businesses are popping up all over that are making money by turning an environmental problem into a business opportunity. In the United States, we create a lot of waste. This waste can be repurposed into something useful to create jobs, sustain the environment, and inspire innovation.

Living creatures spend most of their time finding and eating food. A creature that finds a food source that no other species is using is defined as its own species and guaranteed survival. That is one of the reasons why in nature, every creature’s waste is another creature’s food.

Life has been on this planet for approximately 3.5 billion years. With an estimated annual biomass production of approximately 200 gigatons,1 if all creatures’ waste was not eaten by other creatures and recycled, the entire surface of the earth would be covered in excrement approximately 700 miles thick.


Resource A: Cover Letter and Employee Questionnaire


This sample cover letter and questionnaire are available on our Web site,, translated into many languages. If you speak a language for which we don’t have a translation, please translate these items for us and we will post them on our Web site and acknowledge your input.

Dear Valued Employee:

Our concern for sustainability, the environment, and social responsibility is one of the highest priorities of this company. As another step in making continuous improvement toward excellent sustainable practices, we are about to have a comprehensive sustainability audit performed.

A key part of the sustainability audit will be a confidential survey of the employees. You can respond to the survey questionnaire online or by mail. You have the option to fill out the questionnaire anonymously. What is important to us is to learn what you feel are the company’s strengths and weaknesses in fulfilling its environmental and socially responsible commitments and what you feel are steps we could take to improve this company.


Resource B: Audit Protocol


What follows is a protocol for performing your sustainability audit.

I. Policy

A. Do you have a sustainability policy statement?

B. Has it been approved by senior management?

C. Is it in the employee handbook? And visible tocustomers? Vendors? Stockholders? Other stakeholders (e.g., the community)?

II. Sustainability Aspects

A. Does the enterprise have a procedure to determine the company’s key aspects and impacts on sustainability? (See chapter 4 on metrics.)

B. Does the sustainability policy address these issues?

III. Legal and Other Requirements

A. Does the company have a procedure for knowing what federal, state, and local laws it must comply with?

B. Is the company in compliance with those laws?

C. Has the company voluntarily committed to comply with any other rules or principles (CERES, Natural Step, Trade Association of Ethical Standards, living wage, fair trade, organic, etc.)?

D. Is the company in compliance with these other rules it volunteered to comply with?

IV. Environmental Management System


Resource C: Summary of ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems


What follows are the section names and descriptions of the criteria within the global standards for environmental management systems.

1. Environmental Policy—Develop a policy statement of the organization’s commitment to the environment.

2. Environmental Aspects and Impacts—Identify the environmental aspects of products, activities, and services and their effects on the environment.

3. Legal and Other Requirements—Identify and ensure compliance with pertinent laws and regulations.

4. Objectives and Targets and Environmental Management Program—Set environmental goals for the enterprise and plan actions to achieve the objectives and targets.

5. Structure and Responsibility—Assign environmental roles and responsibilities within the organization.

6. Training, Awareness, and Competence—Make sure that employees are aware and capable of carrying out their environmental responsibilities.

7. Communication—Develop processes for internally and externally communicating environmental management issues.

8. EMS Documentation—Maintain information about the environmental management system and related documents.


Resource D: Input/Output Mass Balance Analysis


As part of the input/output mass balance analysis (IOMBA), quantify each of the following input and output items:

Weight of incoming freight, including the weight of


Weight of incoming mail and packages

Weight of incoming office supplies

Weight of incoming water

Weight of items brought in by employees, customers,

and visitors that are left on-site

Weight of mail and product shipped to or carried off by

customers, including the weight of packaging

Weight of water leaving the facility

Weight of material leaving the facility for recycling

Weight of material leaving the facility for composting

Weight of material going to a proprietary wastewater

treatment facility

Weight of material leaving the facility for disposal,

including the weight of material leaving the company’s own wastewater treatment facility for disposal

Weight of total suspended solids (TSS), biological

oxygen demand (BOD), chemical oxygen demand (COD), and/or total oxygen demand (TOD) disposed of via the sewer to a municipal wastewater treatment facility


Resource E: Life Cycle Analysis Matrix



Resource F: Energy Source Calculator



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