Earth Day 2013: Action Essential to Reduce Environmental Impact

Reader Contribution by Tim Snyder
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It’s tough for a writer to say this, but I have to: Actions speak louder than words. And it looks like 2013 is shaping up to be a year for taking action, at least in the environmental arena. Hybrid and electric cars are the fastest growing segment in the automotive industry. Sales of these green vehicles are projected to rise by 14 percent in 2013, a faster growth rate than any other vehicle category. Meaningful action is also happening with regard to climate change. Instead of inciting a war of words like it did in the past, climate change is now a reality driving infrastructure upgrades like New York City’s $2.4 billion PlaNYC program –a sweeping initiative that includes features such as rainwater harvesting and many different storm readiness upgrades.

Recent research done by McKinsey & Co. reveals that companies have come to associate “green” practices not just with reputation management but also with improved efficiency and lower operating costs. Helping the environment doesn’t have to hurt your bottom line, as critics have alleged in the past. More and more companies are discovering that reducing waste and environmental impact can actually improve profitability.

Big actions are possible.

So on Earth Day 2013, let’s keep the focus on action. Big actions can be possible for companies and organizations, and today there’s no shortage of success stories to inspire green initiatives. By eliminating unnecessary packaging, Wal-Mart saves an estimated $3.4 billion a year, while dramatically reducing waste materials that go to landfills. General Electric has made a commitment to double its investment in green product development over the next five years. The city of Minneapolis is using its Thinc.Green program to support green businesses and brand their metropolitan area as a great place for green business development. For more news on green businesses, you can download a State of Green Businesses Report 2013.

If your company or organization hasn’t yet examined its environmental impact or its green potential, this is the year to make it happen. The “National Green Pages” published by Green America lists at least 45 companies who can undertake sustainability audits that evaluate a wide range of environmental impact and sustainability factors. Out of this evaluation comes a set of recommendations that can truly transform a company or organization.  

Small actions are essential.

Not all of us are in a position to affect organizational change. But small actions, taken collectively, also have great potential to protect and preserve our environment. Supporting local farms and growing your own vegetables are two activities that can’t be beat for overall impact: You’re preserving farmland, improving local resiliency, reducing carbon emissions and eating a healthy diet.

Many people assume that the best way for individuals to cut carbon emissions is to buy a hybrid or electric car. Not so. The energy consumed by buildings in the U.S. produces twice the air pollution that our cars emit. I feel like shouting this out: Reducing the amount of electricity consumed by buildings is the most cost-effective method to reduce carbon emissions –not just in the U.S., but also around the world, according to research done by the Rocky Mountain Institute. Since many houses use twice as much energy as they should, the opportunity for improvement is tremendous. And this green revolution is totally attainable. By performing certain energy-saving improvements (increasing insulation levels, sealing and insulating ductwork, upgrading to super-efficient HVAC systems and following other ENERGY STAR® guidelines), it’s often possible to cut home energy consumption in half. There’s a pretty nice bonus you can count on after making these green home improvements: improved comfort, healthier indoor air quality and lower utility costs. Are you ready to get started? 

Photo By Fotolia/Igor Yaruta

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