Sustainable innovations can help your business—and the planet

January 8, 20194 minute read

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Feeling helpless about the future of the planet in the wake of recent climate change reports? You might have more power than you think. Although new studies paint a bleak picture of the not-so-distant future, tech trailblazers around the globe are making impressive strides in sustainable innovations.

For example, when scientists confirmed a rapid and inexplicable decline in global bee populations (and the disastrous consequences this could have on crops worldwide), a team at the Warsaw University of Technology got to work. In just two years, they developed the B-Droid—a tiny, autonomous, flying robot that’s already successfully pollinated garlic and strawberries.

But if building robotic bees to save the global food supply is out of your wheelhouse, don’t worry. There are plenty of organizations leading the way in all types of business sustainability initiatives—and following their example could save the planet.

Transforming plastic bottles into opportunities

In 2010, after Haiti was rocked by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake, relief aid organizations shipped large containers full of bottled water and other supplies. Over time, waste from these supplies compounded the country’s already-weakened trash collection system, overflowing its landfills and lining its beaches and canals.

But where others saw garbage, HP saw an opportunity. Along with Thread International, Timberland, a Haitian nonprofit called Work, Environmental Cleaning Solutions S.A., and the Association des Collecteurs des Objets en Plastique, HP created a recycling program that collects and transforms Haiti’s plastic refuse into ink cartridges, plastic-based fabrics, and more. Moreover, the organizations are working together to bring jobs and education to the Haitian people through their recycling program.

Today, HP uses more than 1 million plastic bottles per day in its cartridge manufacturing, totaling more than 550,000 pounds of recycled plastic to date.

Finding inspiration from the world’s greenest offices

When it comes to architecture, sustainability is no longer an option—it’s a requirement. Now, businesses are in a race to build the most eco-friendly office spaces in the world.

In October 2017, Bloomberg opened its new European headquarters in central London—a shining 10-story masterpiece boasting a BREEAM rating (similar to the US LEED score) of 98.5 percent, according to gb&d magazine. The building’s features, such as integrated ceiling panels composed of 500,000 LED lights and natural ventilation that reduces dependency on mechanical heating and cooling, have some crowning it the world’s most sustainable office space.

But the Bloomberg building isn’t the only earth-friendly office. The Bullitt Center in Seattle uses no fossil fuels and is instead powered by solar energy and heated through ground source heat pumps. And The Edge in Amsterdam has more than 44,000 square feet of solar panels, Ethernet-powered LED lighting, and a powerful rainwater harvesting system.

3 ways to drive sustainability in 2019

Even if you don’t have the resources to build a country-wide recycling program, like HP, or outdo Bloomberg with an impressive new headquarters, there are plenty of ways you can increase your company’s sustainability. Here are three steps IT can take to make a big impact on sustainability:

  1. Work with sustainable vendors and partners. Your organization has a choice when it comes to the products and services you purchase and the companies you contract. Instead of simply choosing the cheapest option, consider the long-term benefits of supporting highly sustainable and ethical brands. For example, when purchasing new electronic equipment, always take an extra moment to check the manufacturer’s Energy Star certification and make sure you’re investing in eco-friendly solutions.
  2. Educate and empower your workforce. Take time to remind your team how their choices impact the earth and educate them on your business sustainability practices. The more they understand the purpose of your initiatives, the more likely they will be to support those endeavors. Simple actions, like turning the lights off in a room before they leave or powering down their workstation at the end of the day, can add up to significant energy savings.
  3. Look for opportunities to make your processes more sustainable. Sustainable innovations don’t always have to be larger-than-life inventions, like robotic bees. Instead, consider your supply chain and look for opportunities to use recycled products, get creative with waste, or partner with local nonprofits who can help you go greener.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of climate change, but there’s still time to take action, and the tech industry is rife with problem-solvers. By investing in sustainable products, educating your workforce, and making small changes within your processes, you can support the global effort to save the planet before it’s too late.

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