Making our own operations sustainable is part of our social responsibility and demonstrates our commitment toward Zero Waste. It also reinforces our culture, enhances our reputation, and reduces costs. For a bit of context, we lease 17,600 square feet of office space, have about 15 employees who work out of their homes, and outsource the manufacturing of our products. While we are limited in how much we can improve efficiency and reduce waste, we continued to make strides in 2017 doing what we could. Here’s a look at the progress we made:

Diverting Materials

We strive to make our headquarters a model for what a Zero Waste operation should look like. We provide landfill, compost, and recycling bins and train staff on how to sort items correctly. Our goal for 2017 was to divert 90% of our waste at our headquarters, which we nearly achieved. We conducted four waste audits throughout the year that found we diverted 84% of materials, which was 4% more than 2016.

Saving Water

Our water usage stems from drinking, minimal landscaping, and from using our bathrooms and kitchenette. In 2017, we consumed 196,037 gallons, which was just short of our 10% reduction goal we set in 2014 to achieve by this year. For 2017, we had a 9.9% reduction, so close! As you can see in the graph below, our water consumption varies year to year, and on average since 2014, we were able to exceed that 10% mark. In fact, 2017 was the only year since 2014 that we did not exceed this goal.

To offset consumption, we purchase gallon-for-gallon water restoration certificates, which support the Bonneville Environmental Foundation’s (BEF) water restoration projects. Each certificate represents 1,000 gallons of water that directly contributes to restoring the economic, recreational, and ecological vitality of national freshwater resources. Some of the great projects around Colorado that BEF supports are restoration of the Yampa, Fraser, Roaring Fork, Conejos, and Cimarron Rivers.

Reducing Energy Consumption

Our goal is to achieve net zero electricity usage at our headquarters to reduce both the costs and environmental impacts of powering our office. In 2017, our energy consumption at our office building increased, however we generated 57,078 kilowatt hours (kWh) of solar energy, which was 2.5% more than 2016. The overall increase in electricity used is not very surprising, considering we brought on new staff in 2017, and quite frankly, we haven’t done very much education on ways to conserve energy at the office recently. We plan to educate both old and new employees on this topic in 2018, to keep us on the path to Net Zero.

Throughout 2017, we have been renegotiating our lease, which is up in 2018. Once we have completed that process, we will hopefully be able to move forward on exciting energy projects, including increased solar on our roof and even more energy-efficient lighting in our building.

Avoiding Travel

Air and auto travel are essential to doing business, but they are the biggest contributor to our carbon footprint. To reduce carbon emissions, we asked our sales team to conduct at least one business meeting virtually to help us meet our goal of reducing total miles flown by 5% for every $1,000 of sales closed. In 2017, we achieved this goal! In fact, we reduced our total miles flown per $1,000 of sales by an amazing 19%. Our stellar sales growth and our sales team’s clear commitment to reducing their footprint helped us achieve this reduction.

In 2017, we aimed to maintain reimbursed car mileage at 2016 levels, which we did not meet. Our total reimbursed mileage increased by 10%. This is not surprising, given our growth in headcount, sales, and commitment (as seen in our air travel numbers) to opting for driving over flying when possible. Looking back, we realize we probably did not structure our 2017 goal in the best way possible. As our business grows and we add more employees, our car mileage will increase. Additionally, avoiding air travel means increasing miles driven. Since car travel is typically less polluting per mile than flying, we do not want to discourage this. Going forward, our goal for managing the impacts of vehicle travel will mirror our goal for managing the impacts of air travel: by normalizing per $1,000 in sales.

Carbon Offsets

For 2017, we purchased 339 metric tons of carbon offset credits from Renewable Choice Energy to balance out greenhouse gas emissions created by our electricity and natural gas consumption, business travel, and commuting. Since 2014, we have purchased 1,784 metric tons of offsets to support various landfill methane capture projects around the United States. This is equivalent to taking nearly 382 passenger vehicles off the roads or powering 193 homes for a year!

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