By Paul Harding
Increasingly, businesses are integrating environmental sustainability practices into their long-term strategies. They find that sustainability is not only good for the environment, it’s good for their bottom line.
So what does environmental sustainability look like for businesses? It can mean reducing waste, cutting energy use, or recycling materials.
I work in DEQ’s Business Assistance Program. Our program ensures the ongoing protection of the environment by assisting Utah businesses with proper permitting and compliance as well as pollution prevention and sustainable business strategies.
What is pollution prevention (P2)? It’s about reducing or eliminating pollution at the source so it doesn’t enter the environment in the first place. Instead of managing pollution after it has been created or exits into the environment at the “end of the pipe,” P2 focuses on eliminating waste first. If the waste can’t be eliminated, we try to identify ways to reduce either the amount or toxicity of the waste. If the waste can’t be eliminated or reduced, then we recommend ways to reuse the waste. After eliminating, reducing, or reusing the waste, businesses can look at the final option, which is recycling.
Our assistance program helps businesses come up with strategies for pollution prevention and the efficient use of raw materials, energy, water, and other natural resources. We provide businesses with a variety of resources, including:
- Best Management Practices (BMPs)
- Business Specific Guides
- Key Step (How-To) Guides
- Utah Case Studies
We also offer personal meetings and onsite consultations. Businesses that implement these strategies lessen their environmental impacts and reduce the cost associated with resources, production, and compliance, giving them a competitive advantage.
Let me give you one example of a Utah business that benefited from incorporating sustainability into their business plan. Orbit Irrigation Systems, a Davis County-based company, approached us a few years ago to help them establish a sustainability program at their facility. As a supplier to Walmart, Orbit Irrigation wanted to step up its efforts after participating in Walmart’s “Sustainable Product Index Survey.” The survey asked the company to measure their sustainability in four areas:
- Energy and climate
- Natural resources
- Material efficiency
- People and community
We helped Orbit improve their score on the survey almost immediately by providing them with the tools to identify and quantify the significant sustainability measures they had already incorporated into their operations. Our program provided additional resources which helped Orbit create and implement new programs to improve the company’s sustainability performance. We profiled Orbit’s development of a sustainability program in one of our Key Step guides.
I look forward to Earth Day every year. It’s an opportunity to celebrate accomplishments in environmental protection and to refocus on challenges and initiatives to do even more. The theme for Earth Day 2015 is “it’s our turn to lead”. I have been fortunate to work with a number of Utah businesses who are already leaders in sustainable business practices and protecting the environment. My hope is that more Utah companies will join these leaders by recognizing that what is good for the environment is also good for business.
Want to see more Utah business environmental success stories? Check out Clean Utah, our voluntary program for businesses that encourages and rewards companies that go “above and beyond” for the environment. If your business is interested in becoming a Clean Utah member — a great way to celebrate Earth Day — visit our website and fill out an application today!
I am a Utah native, and I graduated from BYU with a degree in geology. I’ve worked at DEQ for 21 years, the first 15 in the Underground Storage Tank Program and the last six in the Office of Planning and Public Affairs in Business Assistance. I live with my husband, Brett, and our three dogs: Sarge, Frankie, and Bernie. In my spare time you can find me at the gym, cycling, or hanging out with friends and family at home. I have a passion for landscape design and love spending time in my yard, and I am particularly fond of my Zen garden.