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Environment

10 Solutions for More Sustainable Business Practices

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CC San Francisco Office By Creative Commons HQ Via Flickr

Businesses are among the worst polluters on the planet. The industrial sector accounts for nearly 50 percent of all the air pollution in the world, and that doesn’t count the damage done to the ecosystem through polluted streams and landfills.

Non-sustainable companies also struggle with inefficiency in their businesses because they use excess energy and resources, which drives up operating costs. Another survey showed that 55 percent of consumers are willing to pay more when they know the goods were produced with sustainable practices, and 71 percent of Americans think about the environment when they shop.

As these numbers suggest, going green makes excellent business sense nowadays. Most firms can find at least a few ways to make their practices more sustainable. Here are some ideas.

1. Go Paperless

Almost all your business processes may be handled online, from email billing to online sales. So go ahead and recycle your filing cabinets because you can substantially improve the efficiency and eco-friendliness of your business without killing trees.

2. Rely on Software

The solution for going paperless is to rely on software. For example, use QuickBooks for all your accounting functions, which is efficient and requires no paper statements. If there are ever any errors or problems with the software, online support can easily solve them.

3. Do Business with Sustainable Vendors

Making changes within your business isn’t enough. Your vendors should apply greener practices as well. You’ll be associated with your vendors, and going green without regard to their environmental impact could all but erase your efforts to go green and garner respect for doing so.

4. Implement a Reuse-and-Recycle System

Teach employees that the blue trash can is for recycling and other colors are for garbage. Explain how to recycle and reuse items whenever possible so your employees and firm can avoid filling landfills with more junk.

5. Use Biodegradable Cleaners

Toxins are still too often released into the air through the use of common cleaning supplies, which contributes to air pollution. Reduce your pollutants indoors by buying green cleaners.

6. Change Your Light Bulbs

CFL and LED bulbs are much more efficient, last longer, and don’t waste energy the way incandescent bulbs do. You can reduce your power bill significantly and decrease wasted energy.

7. Replace Outdated Equipment

Look for the EnergyStar rating on new print and copy machines, phones, computers, and other devices to replace old appliances that are sucking the life out of your energy bills.

8. Use Programmable Tech

Install motion-sense lighting that shuts off when there’s no movement in a room after a certain amount of time. You can also set the lights on a timer as a fail-safe to make sure no one leaves a light on after hours.

Programmable thermostats can be highly useful for your company. You can set the heat and air conditioning on a timer so that the system turns on during business hours and shuts down afterward. You’ll be amazed by the difference in your utility spending once these features are in place.

9. Try Green Web Hosting

Though it may seem as if online interactions are completely eco-friendly, that’s not necessarily the case. Green web-hosting companies participate in initiatives to reduce their energy consumption and encourage renewable energy initiatives. By supporting these hosting services, you also support the environment.

10. Get Rid of Plastic Bottles

An average of 32 million tons of plastic waste are generated in the United States every year. Instead of offering water bottles and paper cups in the office, give every employee a reusable water bottle that can be used for water while at the office, and then at home.

 

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Environment

Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family

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Greenest Vehicle
Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/maschatace

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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