Being eco-friendly involves a straightforward commitment to reducing harm to the planet and it can cover a wide range of actions and behaviours.
Over the past five years, the idea of being eco-friendly, or ‘being green’, has shape-shifted in the UK from being a feel-good activity to having a more central role in peoples’ lives. Recent floods, rising energy and water bills, and authoritative climate studies are among the many factors driving this significant cultural change and they have promoted a growing awareness of environmental effects.
The body of evidence for man-made climate change is very strong. To reduce these adverse effects, the majority of governments from around the globe have put in place plans to reduce the levels of ‘greenhouse gases’ being released into the atmosphere. These gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, have been held responsible for contributing to global warming, with compelling scientific evidence to support this.
Sadly, many people choose to ignore the problems of global warming, believing that the consequences are a long way off, and whatever ‘eco-friendly’ practices we can implement, we will have little or no impact on the worst effects of climate change.
The Economic Benefits of ‘Going Green’
It is not surprising, then, that in recent years there has been a fresh focus on the economic benefits of being eco-friendly, which help to focus on the short-term effects of global warming. For households, businesses and organisations of all sizes, being eco-friendly is beneficial not only for the planet, but for the pocket too.
Households can cut their annual energy and water bills with a few simple changes. For example, installing LED lighting, which uses up to 90% less electricity than traditional bulbs, can result in huge savings. Likewise, eco shower heads, eco taps and tap aerators can reduce water consumption by more than 50%. Energy-efficient home appliances extend to boilers, heating controls and other energy-management devices. Insulation is another important issue.
For businesses, eco-friendly actions are equally effective and now form an important element of Corporate Social Responsibility. In fact, a recent global survey of 2,500 businesses by Grant Thornton revealed that companies are pursuing more socially and environmentally sustainable practices, not only for marketing purposes or altruism, but also because it makes good financial sense.
Consumers worldwide are also judging businesses by their eco-friendly activities, according to a survey from Accenture. Among young people in particular, how a company behaves in terms of environmental practices is crucial for continued loyalty.
Furthermore, larger businesses in the UK now have to include full information about their carbon emissions in annual reports, which puts more pressure on them to reduce energy, water and other fuel consumption.
All organisations in the public and private sector, from hospitals, schools, colleges and universities to local councils, charities and others, are embracing the idea of being eco-friendly and are assessing the financial benefits of going ‘green’. Leading by example, the Department of Energy and Climate Change has recently completed an energy-saving LED lighting retrofit in its Whitehall offices.
Additionally, 24/7 businesses, such as hotels, are working hard to develop their sustainability strategies by utilising a range of eco-friendly tactics. For example, leading UK hotel groups like Carlson Rezidor have recently reinforced their “Think Planet” initiative with a range of projects, including LED lighting retrofits, smart heating, ventilation controls and more efficient heat pumps.
Companies and organisations are implementing a wide range of eco-friendly practices, with the aim of reducing the amount of air, water and ground pollution, as well as waste. For example, renewable technology and energy sources are commonly employed by businesses to help protect the planet.
In these cases, the commitment is ethical, positive and beneficial, without necessarily having an immediate economic effect. It is true, though, that renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, offer greater long term potential and are more cost-efficient than carbon-based fuels like oil, gas and coal.
Being eco-friendly has gone far beyond recycling and organic food. It is also rapidly losing the stigma that has put many people off in the past. Being green is easy and it benefits everyone.
Mark Sait is the managing director of SaveMoneyCutCarbon.com, a full-service efficiency partner, helping businesses and households reduce energy and water consumption and cut carbon emissions to improve sustainability.