Lead by Example: What One Global Giant Can Teach Us About Going Green

Apple Solar Farm, Renewable Energy for Business, Smaller Business Going Green

Renewable Energy for Business

Apple recently announced that its facilities are now running on 100% renewable energy. The announcement comes as many are reflecting on their personal practices and the stark realities of our changing climate just in time for Earth Day. There are lessons that can be learned from the tech giant that can be applied to even to the smallest hometown business. If you’re thinking about how businesses can change the way we talk about sustainability and responsibility, read on.

Significant Investment in Business Infrastructure

In the announcement, Apple outlined how much thought and investment they have put into restructuring its facilities and supply chain to be more environmentally conscious and focused on renewable energy. The company’s new headquarters in California, Apple Park, is fully powered by renewable energy that includes both solar panels (including a 17-megawatt rooftop solar panel installation) and biogas fuel cells. It is the largest LEED Platinum-certified office building in North America. Other domestic projects in states like Oregon, Nevada, Northern California and Iowa focus on the use of renewable energy for their facilities or expansion of renewable energy sources. Apple’s other offices, retail stores and data centers around the world all run on 100% renewable sources as well.

Apple took its domestic investments a step further by committing an extra $1 Billion dollars to funds that promote and support environmental projects after the U.S. withdrew from the Paris climate agreement.

Dedication to the Stream

When considering its carbon footprint, Apple decided not only to look at the facilities they own, but also take a hard look at their supply and manufacturing partners, and even consider consumer behaviors and use. Apple started with its suppliers, who it partnered with to source lower-carbon materials, install solar panels, wind farms, and purchase clean energy from utility programs. Because of these efforts, Apple says their suppliers will either generate or use 4 gigawatts of clean power worldwide by 2020.

By committing to a full integration of green energy into every aspect of the business, Apple has found creative ways to produce the energy they need. For example, the company created a floating solar farm in Japan, which is one of the largest projects of its kind in the entire world. In China, Apple built a raised solar farm where the panels are high enough to let enough sunlight pass through to the ground for grass to grow. This allows local yaks to continue to graze and flourish undisturbed. In places where creating vast solar farms is impossible because of lack of open land, Apple built energy farms on rooftops.

The result is incredible: Since 2011, the company has reduced its carbon emissions by 54%, preventing 2.1 million metric tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere.

Small Steps for the Smaller Scale

It’s excellent to see behemoth companies like Apple leading the way to make our world a little cleaner and better through thoughtful process changes and incredible leadership-level investment in green energy. When companies this large prove that taking this sort of action is possible and profitable, it inspires others to follow. However, if you’re an individual or a small company with limited funds, you might be looking at Apple’s example and thinking, “well, there is no way we can replicate that.” Sure, you might not be able to sink billions into massive changes, but could you spend a little time making small adjustments that make a big difference over time?

Consider, for example, paper waste and plastic use at your business. Is your recycling program that same as it was a decade ago? When was the last time you evaluated its effectiveness?  Are your employees consistently recycling and are they aware of what they can and can’t recycle with your program? Could your team be more thoughtful about sourcing the paper you use? When was the last time you evaluated your suppliers?

Perhaps, when planning your next company retreat, you consider a hotel or conference center that focuses on sustainable practices. If you’ve got a fleet of cars or trucks, ensuring that the vehicles are low-emission and fuel efficient can significantly help with your footprint. Purchasing supplies and resources from a business that is also dedicated to sustainability and green energy use can also help to grow a wider network of conscious, like-minded companies. Even making conscious choices about where you order from when providing company lunch, stocking reusable utensils instead of single-use plasticware, and encouraging employees to pack lunch in reusable storage containers can make a statement as well as a difference.

If you’re evaluating office energy use, consider making changes with motion-sensor/automatic light switches and efficient light fixtures. Look at computer hardware to evaluate energy usage. If you have a little land or rooftop space available, perhaps researching how solar panels could make a difference for your carbon footprint as well as your bottom line might be a good idea!

You might not be able to do everything all at once, but with a team and a bit of time, you can implement a comprehensive plan that reduces waste, encourages greener practices, and could even make a difference for your budget.

Comprehensively changing the course of your business to achieve what Apple has takes a lot of time, effort, thought and yes, money. We applaud Apple for proving that sustaining a worldwide business with renewable energy isn’t only a possibility, but a way to grow and thrive. We will continue to watch as major corporations like Amazon and Google follow suit, but we also hope that other, smaller companies see opportunities for change as well. You don’t need a billion dollars to move your company in a greener direction. Fresh ideas, a dedicated team, and open minds willing to change can be all you need to get started.

Are you a business looking for a partner to reevaluate your energy use and production? Have questions about whether your business could make a switch? Give us a call! We’re excited to talk to you about how Solar Five could make a difference for you!

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