10 SIMPLE GREEN CORPORATE RESOLUTIONS TO ADOPT
Ms. Lorraine Barrow, Institute of Marine Affairs
Our marine environment is a major and important source to support livelihoods, employment and income, address food security, alleviate poverty and contribute to economic growth and development. As business corporations we continue to see, every year, a number of extreme weather conditions caused by climate change, indiscriminate human activities and lack of legislative enforcement of environmental laws. We need to ask ourselves if we wish to continue seeing the ongoing destruction of our marine environment, or do we wish to make a change.
The years 2017 and 2018 have already gone on record as those of extreme weather conditions. We continue to see the devastating effects of climate change as our weather patterns are changing. The world witnessed the strongest hurricane ever recorded as Hurricane Irma left a trail of destruction in its path through the Caribbean and southern United States. There were devastating monsoon floods in India, heat temperatures topping 50 C in Asia and intense wildfires in Canada and the United States. At the time this article was written, the south-east of the United States would be hit with a bomb cyclone bringing blizzards, sub-zero freezing temperatures and snow in Miami. As climate change is becoming increasingly apparent, caring for our marine environment should become central to everything that we do, even in the workplace. It is never too late for the business community to get on the right environmental foot and set some corporate green resolutions that would help conserve our marine environment. To provide some direction, the IMA has provided the following 10 minor changes that the business community can adopt;
- Land-based Sources of Pollution – from Land to Sea – According to published reports, 80 percent of marine pollution originates from land. Chemical waste, fertilizer run-off, sewage, agricultural run-off, silt and sediment from quarrying and the deliberate dumping of garbage into our waterways (rivers and streams) end up polluting our oceans. Some people still hold the perception that rivers and other types of waterways will dilute and wash away toxins and waste, but that is not the case. In fact, every river and stream on land is a subset of a greater watershed that leads out into our seas, so that when the ocean tide flows in, it will carry out to sea all the pollutants found in these waterways. Businesses can ensure that they do not contribute to the pollution by ensuring that their chemical waste is adequately treated, and their solid waste is appropriately disposed.
- Oil Spills – Oil spills are a major contributory factor to marine pollution. The environmental consequences can be costly as this type of pollution can kill marine species and harm fragile ecosystems, such as coral reefs, mangrove forests and beaches, which serve as nesting grounds for marine turtles. Oil spills can be prevented if companies consider to integrate preventative measures into the industrial process and daily operations and dispose of oily waste as prescribed by the Environmental Management Authority.
- Reduce Use of Plastics – Plastic bags, Styrofoam containers and single-use plastics all harm the marine environment as they are non-biodegradable. These plastics, which can linger in the environment for centuries, can adversely affect human health. There is a growing body of research, which suggest that we might just be consuming the very plastics we so indiscriminately discard. In one study, scientists found that 1 in 4 fish purchased from fish markets in Asia and the United States were found to have plastic in their guts. Research has also shown micro-plastics in the guts of lobsters, shellfish, and oysters. Additionally, Ocean Conservancy stated that each year an estimated 500 billion plastic bags are consumed globally, which contribute to habitat destruction by entangling and sometimes killing marine animal. In fact, a report stated that 1 in 3 leatherback turtles, which often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, have been found with plastics in their guts. Quite disturbing! Businesses such as supermarkets and retail stores can do their part to reduce the use of plastic bags by offering reusable bags for sale and/or banning the use of plastic bags altogether. On 3rd July 2017, Massy Stores encouraged customers to buy a reusable or bring their own bag as the company banned plastic bags on that day. More efforts like these are needed if we want to change the mindset of our citizens, which can spill over to our labour force, where staff should be encouraged to walk with their own water bottles, reducing the use of plastic bottles.
- Recycling Bins – Businesses can install specially labelled recycling bins (paper, plastics, cans, glass) in the workplace. The recycling process helps with the reduction of waste sent to our landfills, uses less energy than what is required to manufacture new products, and is economical as used materials are converted into new products.
- Reduce Corporate Carbon Footprint for Energy Efficiency- At the national level, the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) is in the process of revising the 2006 National Environmental Policy (NEP), which is aimed at providing a comprehensive framework for the reduction of our carbon emissions. The following two methods – short-term and long-term methods, have been identified to help businesses adopt energy efficiency programs.
• Short-Term Energy-Efficient Methods – As clearly articulated in the Green Government Policy of Trinidad and Tobago, a public policy document that focuses on conservation of resources and waste management, the business community should educate and encourage staff to reduce paper use and print only when necessary as this helps to minimize energy and reduce energy costs. Ensure that all departments switch off equipment when not in use (coffee-vending machines, printers, scanners, lights, air-conditioners) during weekends or public holidays. We are all aware of the excessive use of lighting used in government offices and other businesses, which should be discouraged. A reduction in electricity costs can be enabled by retrofitting, where the luminaire within a lighting fixture is replaced by LED fluorescent bulbs.
- Long-term Energy Efficient Methods – The use of energy efficient devices and equipment, which may cost more initially but in the long run, can result in significant savings over the years as less energy means less money spent on electricity bills. Skylights can be utilized to reduce artificial lighting, which consumes energy; solar panels can be installed as this renewable energy source lasts longer; virtual meetings can be utilized reducing gasoline/diesel and air travel costs; and, companies can purchase fuel efficient vehicles and encourage staff to car-pool in an effort to reduce our carbon footprint.
- Stay Informed and Volunteer –It is important for businesses to stay informed, participate in public consultations to give constructive feedback and support for an environmental cause – such as community river and beach clean-ups, a tree planting exercise to spur reforestation, and or setting up a staff kitchen garden, which can reduce our food import bill. They can also call the Institute of Marine Affairs for more information on what they can do to reduce marine pollution.
- Avoid Non-native Aquarium Fish – Several businesses resort to the use of aquarium to provide an aesthetically pleasing ambience for workers and customers. As such, they should refrain from releasing aquarium fish into the sea or rivers as this might just introduce non-native species, which might be harmful to the existing ecosystem. For instance, the Lionfish, an invasive species was introduced to our Region via the aquarium trade. This species is rapidly multiplying and altering marine habitats, and affecting our fisheries.
- Support Ocean-friendly Products – Avoid supporting or purchasing products that are made using unsustainable practices. According to Sea Turtle Conservancy, over 1 million hawksbill sea turtles are killed and their shells used to produce jewelry and hair accessories. Though fashionable and trendy, they come at a high cost as the marine species continues to be exploited.
- Water Conservation Techniques – With the prospect of water resources becoming scarce, educate staff about the importance of using less water and create a workplace culture whereby recognition is given to those who support water-saving initiatives. Install water-sensor faucets, which waste less water conserving up to 70%. On the whole, environmental problems are caused by our unthinking actions and in some cases greed.
Should the business community and civil society embrace sensible and environmentally conscious habits, we will be on course to provide a safe and healthy environment for our children and grandchildren.