8 Little Changes Business Owners Can Do To Make a Big Difference in the Fight Against Climate Change
I admit I buy a lot of stuff that I don’t really need… except emotionally, a.k.a. retail therapy. But with everyone talking about climate change and the devastation it has caused the environment, perhaps I should start buying less stuff (and find a healthier kind of therapy). You know--get involved--especially as my home state (California) is leading the fight against climate change!
Is climate change just a hoax or is this a real phenomenon?
Since the Industrial Revolution--we have relied on burning fossil fuel to manufacture most everything resulting in the release of CO2 more quickly than it can be re-absorbed naturally. I know it seems crazy...but...since 1980—the US alone has sustained 332 weather and climate disasters exceeding $1 billion in damages.
And, since 2021 we've already spent over $306B. Just how many 100-year floods, happening every 5-10 years, can we sustain? Or just how many devastating wildfires, tornados, and hurricanes can the federal, state & local government and insurance companies take before they say no more?
So, what exactly is this icky stuff in our atmosphere?
CO2 is a greenhouse gas that allows the sun’s rays to pass through and warm the planet. Today, CO2 makes up 82% of the greenhouse gas emissions produced by humans in the U.S.
Under normal circumstances, CO2 is an integral part of the life cycle where animals and humans exhale CO2, and plants absorb the gas and produce oxygen for humans to breathe.
But with all the deforestation, massive wildfires, food/industrial waste, and production of fossil fuels, this cycle has become unbalanced leading to weather pattern changes and devastating consequences, such as:
Rising temperatures. Since the 1900s, the Earth’s average surface air temperature has risen by roughly 0.8 °C (1.4 °F).
Rising sea levels. In the 20th century, the sea was rising an average of 1.7mm per year. Since the start of the 21st century, this has almost doubled to 3.2mm a year.
Melting ice. Sea ice in the Arctic has already fallen by 40%, along with an alarming decrease in ice thickness and volume in areas like Greenland and Norway.
Extreme weather events. Almost every other week there is yet another devastating hurricane or storm and/or heat waves resulting in: loss of life, property destruction, supply chain upheaval, and famine.
Drying rivers. It is not just rivers that are running low but the reservoirs they replenish, leading to water shortages in many parts of the world
As I’m writing this article, I am sitting here in my home office under our blasting air conditioning. And yet, now that I think about it--I'm embarrassed to admit--that by sitting here in the A/C I have contributed to my 16-ton/year carbon footprint. Yep, you heard me---Americans at large contribute 16 tons of CO2 per year--that is 12 tons more CO2 per person than any other country across the world!
Legislation and the Small Business Owner
Thankfully, it seems we’re finally hearing our climate change pundits as can now be seen with federal and state legislation---especially in California. Ever since 2006, California has led the way with laws focused on cities, counties, individuals, and businesses across the state.
Plus, to ensure compliance, each law has quite a punitive punch that can be assessed…ranging from $500 per infraction up to $10,000 per day for noncompliance.
California Clean Air Act: The purpose of this law has been to improve air quality and mitigate pollution caused by mobile transportation (farm, commercial, personal), factories, etc.
Reducing Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SB 1383): CA passed this law to reduce up to 75% of organic waste from current landfills through a combination of repurposing, reusing, and recycling previous food waste.
Impact on business
Much of the CO2 emissions causing climate change have come from business-driven economic activity. The direct & indirect effects of climate change cannot be underestimated. Although the impact will vary based on the industry, location, and vulnerability the costs to the business can be substantial.
Just think how devastated businesses have been in recent years due to flooding, wildfires, and drought with damage to buildings, supply chain disruption & overall negative impact on sales and revenues.
So, what can you do as a business owner?
Develop a business strategy & approach that can help prevent, mitigate, and adapt to climate change:
Build a culture of awareness about climate change and embrace recommended approaches for sustainability.
Be mindful and up to date on legislative mandates--what you don't know could hurt you and your business!
Find ways to cut waste -- recycle/reuse organic refuse and avoid unnecessary printing of emails/document
Reduce business travel--utilize video conferencing technology to connect virtually.
Save energy - replace light bulbs with LED, turn off computers and appliances when not in use, and transition to renewable power sources.
Use Cloud technology & choose environmentally conscious vendors
Raise your business voice to support policy initiatives.
Get involved – plant trees, use recycle bins, etc.
“Twenty-five years ago, people could be excused for not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change. Today we have no excuse.” – Desmond Tutu