Green Building Helps Business Work Toward Carbon Neutrality
The Waterloo Ford-Lincoln auto dealership in Edmonton, Alberta recognizes the challenge of going green for its industry. Owner Sara McNeill explains, “[Being a car dealership] provides an instant hurdle to overcome because the products we sell are harmful for the environment. Therefore we must make even more effort at being environmentally aware in other aspects of our company.” Working with the Green Business Bureau, Waterloo Ford-Lincoln has set an ambitious goal to become a carbon-neutral business through a variety of tactics.
Changes to business practices play a large role in reaching a net zero-carbon operation. McNeill says, “We are offsetting the carbon produced by our service shuttles and parts delivery trucks. Therefore, our vehicles driven on a daily basis are carbon neutral.” The dealership is encouraging sustainable commuting for employees too by creating dedicated hybrid vehicle parking stalls and installing bike racks for staff who choose to bike to work. As a part of any sale, customers are also given the opportunity to go carbon-neutral through the purchase of carbon offsets for their vehicle.
To trim paper waste, Waterloo Ford-Lincoln has created an “Eco Option” paperless billing system for its clients. Customers can opt in to have receipts, bills, and other communications sent electronically. A strong internal recycling program also captures a variety of materials for proper disposal or refurbishment, from ink cartridges to electronics to motor oil. In eliminating single-use plastic bottled water and providing all employees with reusable stainless steel bottles, the dealership has further reduced waste while raising staff awareness of waste reduction issues.
However, Waterloo Ford-Lincoln’s largest initiative is a major building renovation, giving its facility a total green makeover. For businesses that own their building, a green retrofit can be a significant capital investment, but the environmental and financial rewards can provide a quick return.
For instance, the Department of Energy’s Energy Star standard rates buildings for their energy efficiency. Facilities that achieve the requirements of this certification have been found to use 35 percent less energy than typical office buildings, leading to reduced operation costs of an average of 50 cents less per square foot. They also have higher occupancy rates, increased asset value, and lower carbon emissions. Displaying the Energy Star plaque conveys superior energy performance and a commitment to tenants, customers, and employees that resources will be used responsibly. Highlighting the Energy Star certified buildings in your portfolio also sends a positive message to lenders, appraisers, owners, investors, and potential tenants or customers.
Another common green building certification is the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Extending beyond just energy efficiency, a LEED-certified building also takes steps to address water conservation, non-toxic building material selection, indoor air quality, and other issues. In striving for excellence in all aspects of a facility’s environmental impact, meeting these standards can not only reduce operating costs, but also helps to improve environmental health and safety for employees and customers.
While smaller steps are an important part of going green, for any business seeking to renovate its facility (or build a new space), choosing a green retrofit or green construction can provide a return on investment that will reduce costs over time while also helping to meet sustainability goals. Whether you’re seeking a healthier working environment or want to achieve a carbon-neutral business, consider sustainability whenever you have an opportunity for building renovations or redesign.