By Merry Cherney
On May 10th Lifecity, in cooperation with the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce and Natural Awakenings Magazine, held the first annual Green Natties. The ceremony was the culmination of the Green Games designed to recognize businesses and organizations throughout New Orleans who have made strides in improving their sustainability.
The goals of the competition are multi-fold. The first goal is to reduce organizations’ operating costs and their ecological footprint, while increasing their social impacts. Secondly, the contest strives to recognize and reward organizations that are working towards becoming more socially and environmentally responsible. Finally, the last goal is to improve the long-term health and vitality of Louisiana.
Each organization set up goals for possible sustainable improvements they could make. The most popular, included in 62% of the goal lists, is to recycle. This includes everything from paper and ink cartages to CFLS and plastics. Next, 55% of the organizations said they want to cut back on energy usage. Along with that, most organizations listed using less disposables, purchasing carbon offsets, and educating the community and customers about their green innovations among the potential changes they would like to implement. Many also hope to better monitor their emissions, implement a “turn-off” policy, and use greener cleaning products.
After their initial assessment, the organizations are given a list of possible sustainable solutions to adopt. The improvements are divided into four fields: energy, water, materials, and social. Out of the 33 organizations that made improvements, most were made in the materials division (40%), followed by energy (30%), then social (27%), and finally water (3%). The material improvements offer some of the more instantaneous benefits of greening an organization by cutting back on wasteful spending and helping the environment. By purchasing reusable materials, organizations save money by investing in products that will last instead of throwing away money on disposable products that constantly need to be replaced. In particular, 12% of the organizations made a special note to eliminate the use of Styrofoam.
Besides reducing organization’s carbon footprint, energy improvements can save a lot of money. Many sought methods to conserve energy to avoid stressing both the environment and their electrical bill. “Turn-off” policies, changing air filters, and using energy efficient technologies are some of the popular energy improvements organizations adopted.
In order to improve their role in the community, organizations are also suggested to apply social improvements. These include not only helping the local community through volunteering and education, but also taking into account employee health, safety, and satisfaction through offering employee training and health benefits.
The fewest overall improvements were made in the water division. Only one organization made the most improvements in this category. However, several organizations did include a few water improvements. The most common ideas adopted were the creation of water conservation policies and the elimination of bottled water.
In the organization’s Quantitative Reports, they had the chance to reflect on themselves and the improvements they have made in order to become more sustainable. 51% of the organizations felt their greatest environmental impact is their reduction in energy and material use. The second greatest impact, listed by 43% of the organizations, is the implication or expansion of recycling programs. Other popular environmental benefits include promoting the growth of sustainable industries and looking into Life Cycle Assessments. Conversations, LLC says, “We support the local community and fully understand the environmental impact that our company as well as our various clients have and are always trying to improve upon our practices.”
The report also asks organizations to reflect on their social impacts. These include effects on suppliers, staff, customers, and the community at large. 32% of the organizations voice a desire to help educate the public about sustainable innovations. 23% of the organizations also encourage volunteering by offering paid volunteering days or benefits for employee participation. For example, Bayou Kayaks holds an annual “Bayou Klean Up” to help preserve the natural ecosystem. Along with that, 25% of organizations also have made an effort to invest in non-profit and for-profit organizations that are seeking to improve the local community.
These sustainable improvements seek to balance a triple bottom line: environmental, social, and economic. Not only are these organizations helping the environment and the community, but they are also examples of the finical benefits sustainable practices can have on an organization. By generating less waste, organizations can experience more savings. For example, by adding flow restrictions to water supply sources, organizations can use less water and save more money. Green Fleet Courier notes that, “[g]oing green allows you to cut back on wasteful spending. True enough sometimes going green can be expensive on the front end, but you save so much money on the back end.”
Also, these improvements help organizations embody the principles of environmental sustainability they promote. In the words of Green Coast Enterprises, “[e]nvironmental and social responsibility are our business.” This green standard appeals to the growing market of sustainability minded consumers helping to further promote business. Along with that, the inclusion of the local community not only improves it, but also can reduce shipping costs and build community relationships.
The Green Games accomplished exactly what it set out to do. It recognized organizations in the New Orleans area that are leading the way in sustainable operations. Lifecity seeks to help organizations reach their full potential by highlighting good sustainability practices and noting ones that could use improvement. There is much more to being green than just recycling. It is important to look at larger effects in the community and the demands of running a successful organization. These organizations prove that it is possible to be successful without sacrificing profit, the community or the future of the environment.