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Sustainable Practices — Are They Really Sustainable and What Is Their Impact?

a cartoon of earth being destroyed by non-sustainable practices

When one thinks of sustainability, protecting the environment tends to come to mind. But in actuality, the term refers to much more than maintaining environmental equilibrium and not using up all the Earth’s resources. Sustainability also pertains to resource efficiency, health practices, economics, and an array of other sustainability practices. Certainly, environmental sustainability plays a central role in each of these areas. But in order to truly embrace the concept, we must realize the broad areas that sustainability practices encompass.

Environmental sustainability and resource efficiency concepts have evolved over the last decade. But despite tremendous progress in some areas, there is a need for many changes in order to achieve true sustainability. A major barrier remains a resistance to change old habits and practices. And at the same time, a number of myths about sustainability practices persist that hinder progress. Fortunately, some bold businesses are helping show just how important, and productive, sustainability practices can be.

environmental sustainability, andrea mardock quoted
The notion that going green cost a lot of money may be a misconception.

The Bad and the Good of Environmental Sustainability Practices

When it comes to resource efficiency and environmental sustainability, the U.S. has a long way to go. Recent reports note that Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, which is 1,500 per family. Of these, nearly two-thirds escape recycling collection. And their production requires 12 million barrels of oil each year. If everyone adopted the average American lifestyle, it would require more than four times the earth’s resources to sustain them.

These are staggering statistics demonstrating how limited resource efficiency and environmental sustainability currently are. But there is good news as well. Increasingly, many companies are adopting greater sustainability practices. Interestingly, many of them are not pursuing such changes because of image or regulations. Instead, they are embracing resource efficiency and environmental sustainability because of benefits in productivity and competitiveness. In fact, more than four out of every five businesses today state that these pursuits are high priorities.

resource efficiency, jerry greenfield quoted
Consumers influence environmental sustainability.

Busting the Myths Surrounding Environmental Sustainability

From businesses to consumers, many shy away from the pursuit of environmental sustainability because of some commonly held beliefs. One of the most common involves misperceptions about the cost of “going green.” While initial investments in sustainable practices might be costly initially, the long-term savings and benefits are substantial. For example, some have suggested that switching from plastic to metal straws simply shifts costs and offers little benefit. But metal straws are not disposable, which greatly lowers long term costs while advancing environmental sustainability. Today, it is estimated that over eight billion plastic straws litter shores and beaches across the globe.

Other myths about resource efficiency and environmental sustainability pertain to the way they are achieved. Many believe new and costly technologies are required to achieve sustainability goals. But the bigger challenge is actually adopting changes to current behaviors and operational practices. Many companies have diverted huge amounts of waste away from landfills by simply altering their routines. Often, these only require innovative and creative solutions with little if any technological and economic investments.

sustainable practices, john oppermann quoted
It isn’t only about cleaning up the Earth – it’s also about maintaining quality in all other aspects that affect the health and wellness of humans.

Bold Businesses Making a Difference in Environmental Sustainability

By adopting greater resource efficiency and sustainability practices, businesses seek to gain tremendous benefits. This often improves their public image and consumer appeal, especially since two-thirds of consumers are concerned about environmental sustainability. But it also invites better productivity and products while offering a competitive edge. In fact, on average, productivity increases by 16 percent for businesses adopting greater resource efficiency and sustainability practices. Here a few of today’s bold businesses embracing these changes.

  • Minco Group – This tool and mold corporation provides quality product design, mold design, mold manufacturing, product qualification, and precision machining. It was the recipient of the Zero Net Waste Award, and it has diverted 88% of its waste away from landfills. Its 24-hour recycling system has made a tremendous impact on its resource efficiency and sustainability practices.
  • Berry Global – This company is a Fortune 500 global manufacturer and marketer of plastic packaging products. Like Minco Group, it is also a Net Zero Waste Award recipient with recognition consecutively between 2012 and 2017. The organization has reduced its waste by 15 tons a month from baseline levels.
  • Patagonia – A premier maker of athletic and outdoor wear, Patagonia has a tagline stating its’s “100% for the plant.” The company put its money where its mouth is by developing repair centers across the globe for its products. This has dramatically reduced manufacturing requirements while advancing its product longevity.
  • Beyond Meat – This company’s plant-based meat and other products have revolutionized the food industry. Not only does Beyond Meat contribute to healthy sustainable diets and animal protection, but it also embraces environmental sustainability also.
  • Seventh Generation – This Vermont-based company sells cleaning, paper, and personal care products that are eco-friendly. It supports environmental sustainability since its products do not contain harmful chemicals or toxins. Forbes recently listed them atop their “Best for the Environment” list.

Sustainable Practices and Resource Efficiency – A Necessary Strategy

Perhaps, in the past, companies have pursued sustainable practices in an effort to appease consumer wishes. But today, that is only one incentive driving businesses toward resource efficiency and environmental sustainability. Increasingly, companies are realizing that environmental sustainability is essential in order to be competitive and successful. Myths that suggest sustainable practices cost more than they gain are absolutely false. For businesses of tomorrow, sustainability practices will no longer be a consideration but instead a requirement in order to survive.

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