Going green and sustainability are becoming industry buzzwords in a world where people are still arguing about climate change. But other than recycling paper waste and going digital, many companies don’t even know where to start when it comes to sustainability.
Green buildings, those designed to be sustainable from the very beginning of their planning, are an important way to turn these monoliths of construction into green, sustainable monuments that can reduce our footprint on the planet. How can green buildings help companies reach their sustainability goals? And how can companies then look beyond their own four walls to make a difference in their communities?
Our primary sources of power are dumping thousands of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year — burning coal and natural gas resources that are non-renewable and are swiftly running out. This is the primary reason behind the push toward clean and renewable energy. How can this be applied to green buildings?
- Solar and wind power: Depending on the location of the business, solar and/or wind power can be incorporated directly into the building architecture or built on the grounds. Both of these types of energy are renewable and after the initial investment for the equipment, these forms of renewable energy tend to pay for themselves.
- Combinations: Companies that cannot afford to fully power their buildings with renewable energy commonly utilize a combination of both renewable energy and fossil fuels.
- Green energy purchasing: In many areas, companies can purchase green energy from their service provider for a slightly higher cost than traditional fossil fuel energy.
Even without the means to invest in clean energy for all operations, companies can still shift their focus to renewable energy rather than utilizing fossil fuels.
The developed world already has a fairly well established infrastructure, but it wasn’t designed to be sustainable or to withstand the ravages of climate change. We’ve already seen this impact in California, with the fracturing of the Oroville Dam spillway in March as massive rains after nearly two years of extreme drought proved to be more than the infrastructure could handle.
While this might not seem like a problem for the individual CEO or business owner, it’s important to remember how all of these things are connected. A business can’t function without the electricity, roads, and other essentials provided by city, state and national infrastructure.
Socially responsible investing is one way that every business can help create the sustainable infrastructure we will need moving forward. This is designed to provide financial gains for the company while still creating a positive impact on society.
Going green is all well and good, but it’s pointless if you can’t pair that environmental sustainability with economic growth.
Renewable energy is already creating jobs and with that it is encouraging economic growth — one report found that the renewable energy industry is creating jobs 12 times faster than the rest of the economy. The trick is finding the balance between sustainability and economic growth. Growing a business might seem counterintuitive in terms of sustainability, which is why that balance is so important.
The key is to ask yourself: How can we continue to foster economic growth while still maintaining environmental sustainability?
A business is only as strong as the community in which it operates. When it comes to sustainability, business owners should look beyond their own walls and into the communities around them. In many cases, this is as simple as giving back to the community and investing in things like:
- Creating jobs to improve individual family income
- Improving local education
- Creating ways to support healthy lifestyles for community members
- Investing in expanded local housing to build communities.
All of these steps can be used to help build sustainable communities from the ground up, and these communities are the foundation of all sustainable business models.
Green building and fostering sustainable development is not something that can be completed passively— it requires active and consistent action from individuals and businesses around the world. Global sustainability partnerships between businesses of all sizes will be the next most important step in creating a sustainable world.
The world is changing, and it’s our responsibility as one of the species living on this planet to do everything in our power to reduce our environmental impact and promote global sustainability. Green building, and creating clean and renewable communities and businesses from the ground up, is the first step in protecting our planet and ensuring that it’s just as beautiful for the generations to come.
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