Business owners are always finding ways to improve productivity. Some adjust marketing strategies, get more involved in social media or alter operating strategies. But when most think of efficiency and cost savings, practicing environmental sustainability may not come to mind.
According to Don Powell, a local business owner and liaison to Sustainable Moorestown and the Moorestown Business Association, most business owners don’t realize the smallest sustainable practice can go along way.
In 2009, Powell got into the solar and energy business after he installed solar panels on his home.
“It was working out really well, and I decided that there were other people in the world who might be interested in that as well,” he said.
He said since he started, the solar landscape has changed.
“Three years ago, solar was three times as much as it is today,” he said. The state offered “healthy rebates” to help make the price of solar installation affordable and to encourage more people to move toward solar.
The rebates have since decreased, but the price of solar decreased as well.
According to Powell, the rebates were set up to help “get the market going.” Since then, the material cost has decreased and production has increased.
“New Jersey has more solar on a per capita basis than California,” Powell said.
Powell said solar is an investment — it will take some time to see the cost savings. But long term it will help save on utility expenses.
There is a public sentiment involved in environmental sustainability.
“The fact that a business would be using solar to power its needs speaks to that part of the populous — of people that are concerned. It gives a certain image to the business,” he said.
Powell said another benefit is within the community.
“In the long run, all of us benefit from environmentally friendly practices,” he said.
As a member of Sustainable Moorestown and the MBA, Powell said he tries to educate other MBA members on what Sustainable Moorestown is trying to accomplish.
He said Sustainable Moorestown is working with the township and local businesses to improve efficiency and sustainability; they are running several education programs and events to educate business owners and residents on how to be more sustainable; as well as sharing information on how businesses that recycle can save the township on taxes.
Powell said there are a few businesses in town that are currently practicing sustainability.
Dave Schill, owner of David W. Schill Builder, has been taking metal waste to the scrapyard for the past 10 years. Although Schill gets money out of scrapping metals, he does not do it for the money.
“As a very small businessman, I take recyclable materials from our job sites, primarily metals. I take them to the scrapyard so that they can be put back in the system,” he said.
Schill said he mostly deals with materials such as drywall, wood and plaster. But the plumbers and electricians are the ones who work mostly with valuable metals.
“They are the ones who are key to saving copper, aluminum and brass,” Schill said, adding he hopes more plumbers and electricians would be more environmentally conscious when it comes to recycling unused metals.
Powell and Schill shared tips for local businesses to practice when thinking about environmental sustainability.
Powell said businesses can get an energy audit to see how much energy is being used as well as what changes should be made. The state offers rebates for energy upgrades.
Having a lighting audit would help as well. By changing to efficient bulbs, businesses would save money and use less energy.
Recycling is another tip to being environmentally sustainable. Powell said recycling could cut back on waste production.
According to Schill, he said there are construction companies that do not recycle paper materials or cardboard. By recycling those materials, it would save the company on demolition costs and leave more room in the dumpsters.
He said if they can’t recycle materials, folding cardboard boxes would help save room, preventing the company from purchasing another dumpster.
“It’s in everybody’s interest to recycle paper,” Powell said.
Businesses could also look into composting materials, purchase recycled paper or other materials, and restaurants could buy produce from local markets to practice sustainability.
“We are trying to encourage to buy local,” Powell said.
He said these sustainable practices would benefit the community both economically and environmentally.
“It’s in our best interest to look at this as we are being good stewards of our planet,” Schill said.