Whether a small business or a nationwide organisation, taking steps to become more environmentally friendly can have a variety of positive impacts. From cutting down on single use plastic, to sourcing materials that encourage the growth of a sustainable industry, Plant Planet have rounded up our top five changes to become more environmentally friendly.
Consider your plastic use
The UK uses 275 tonnes of plastic each year, equating to about 15 million plastic bottles per day. Waste plastic causes major environmental issues. It is estimated that 46,000 pieces of plastic are found in every square mile of ocean, each piece of waste plastic takes 500 years to decompose, releasing toxic chemicals into the environment. Plastic is used daily in most places of work, and is often disposed of improperly. By altering the way that we use and dispose of plastic, it is possible to minimise output of waste plastics.
Often, we think of plastic use in companies that produce products that are shipped in packaging, for example companies supplying spare or replacement parts for Plant Machinery. By using alternatives to plastic packaging, such as recycled paper and cardboard, companies can directly cut down on the amount of plastics used in their production and shipping.
Alternatively, the use of bioplastics, those made from sources such as corn that is broken down into Polylactic Acid (PLA) can be used. PLA is created as a waste product but can be manufactured into plastic-like films for packaging. Companies that do not directly use packaging in the manufacturing or shipping of products can also reduce their carbon footprint and plastic wastage by ensuring that plastics are correctly recycled. Currently, most plastics in the UK are recyclable.
Cut back on paper use
We know it seems a bit odd for a magazine to be preaching that people cut back on paper use, but stick with us, this is worth hearing. Although only 9% of ancient trees are felled to produce paper products, around 35% of all trees worldwide are cut down to make paper. Every company uses paper documents in some form or another, be it invoices, meeting notes, or printing company emails. High levels of paper consumption and waste can contribute to air and water pollution, and the rise of greenhouse gas emissions.
Companies can cut back on paper use by ensuring that only essential documents are printed. If printed documents are essential to your company’s work, it may be worth looking into sourcing recycled paper. Using recycled paper places less demand on trees to be planted; further, recycling produces 35% less water pollution and 74% less air pollution on average than making new paper. Alternatively, sourcing sustainably produced paper can aid in minimising your company’s carbon footprint. When it comes to paper for printing, it can sometimes be less environmentally friendly to used recycled paper as the process of removing ink from the used paper releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Furthermore, there are companies that produce paper sustainably. These companies will use fast growing trees to create paper. The trees are felled in a 6-10 year cycle, and for each tree that is felled, three are planted in its place; in addition, the trees planted are beneficial to the environment as they help control the amount of CO2 in the area in which they are planted. It is a company like this that Plant Planet use to source the paper for our magazines.
Buy local products
The main thing that companies can focus on to be more environmentally friendly is reducing their carbon footprint. As it stands, 20% of UK CO2 emissions are caused by transportation of goods. One of the biggest factors in the creation of a company’s carbon footprint is the amount of diesel used to ship materials. A great way to cut your company’s footprint is to buy materials from local dealers. Arguably, it’s not feasible to source some materials locally; in which case, looking into your choice of logistics company can help. Checking a logistic company’s environmental policy may shed light onto how they look to be environmentally friendly in their haulage solutions. Companies that actively try to minimise adverse environmental impacts caused by transporting heavy machinery are a good choice for companies concerned with minimising their carbon footprint. For companies for which transporting goods is essential, it may be worth looking to switching to more efficient vehicles.
Source sustainable materials
The use of sustainable materials by companies in the construction industry has been at the forefront of the conversation about building a sustainable construction industry for many years. For many, the definition of sustainable materials is elusive or hard to pinpoint. The ideal sustainable material would not require non-renewable sources to be created, and would not have any adverse impact on the environment when used. In reality, these criteria make finding a truly sustainable material practically impossible.
However, companies looking to use sustainable materials can use these criteria as an aim for which to strive. A simple way of sourcing sustainable materials is to use reclaimed materials that do not require much processing before reuse. These materials include existing steel from a dismantled buildings, repurposed paving stones and slabs; waste metal and wood from railway tracks; and steel tube from the oil industry. For many smaller companies, the sourcing of these materials may not be a viable option, in which case looking into manufactured materials with a high level of recycled content can be a great alternative.
Sourcing materials such as concrete made with recycled crushed aggregate, or with pulverised fuel ash as opposed to cement, precast concrete blocks, and forest products using waste timber all ensure a company is making steps to become environmentally friendly. Natural materials with a low environmental impact might also be sourced, including: timber, concrete reinforced with natural fibres, geotextiles, straw bales, and materials credited as being responsibly sourced. While sourcing sustainable materials is thought to pertain mainly to companies in construction, companies in other areas of the earthmoving industries might consider their use of sustainable materials by ensuring they do everything possible to recycle waste materials that may be used by others in future construction works.
Support eco friendly charities
Countless charities dedicated to supporting environmental causes exist. Be it a world-wide organisation or a not for profit tackling environmental issues closer to home, climate change cannot be tackled by just one company. By supporting charities working to conserve and protect our environment, your company will be working to a better and more sustainable future.
Furthermore, charities working to create green technology in Earthmoving Industries are on the rise. By supporting charities working to create sustainable energy technology or sustainable building technology, you and your company will be directly supporting the growth and development of the Earthmoving Industries as cleaner energy solutions are created. Supporting an environmental charity can be a great option for smaller companies that are not able financially to put other environmentally friendly practices in place.
Giving what we can, when we can, will be the first step in supporting a more environmentally friendly industry.
This article originally appeared in the June 2019 edition of Plant Planet.