Beyond being a buzzword, getting ready to ‘go green’ can have tremendous benefits at your nonprofit. From cost savings to increased employee engagement, to healthier workplaces and being better community stewards of resources, there are a number of highly relevant reasons to greening your nonprofit. But where to start? This week, we share some resources to ‘go green’ that help!
An old but useful adage in this case is: don’t reinvent the wheel. Start with your local city and county websites to explore what resources they provide. Many already have incentive programs, guides, and contacts you can utilize as you begin to think through the process of greening. The Department of Sanitation in the City of Los Angeles has a list of resources and a certification program for businesses wanting to go green. For example, many cities will provide free bike racks in front of your office to help encourage employees to use alternate transit options. Similarly, explore partnering including what organizations, nonprofits and others in the community are already doing in the green space that you can piggyback on. In Washington, D.C., Green Living DC provides a list of community resources on their site. Consider approaching businesses with existing relationships with renewable energy companies. They may be able to make strategic introductions like this relationship between Bay Area nonprofits and Everybody Solar, which resulted in the placement of free solar panels. In Los Angeles, local nonprofit LA Compost is encouraging individuals and businesses to compost, while the Goodwill accepts e-waste donations to provide free recycling compliance while simultaneously employing disabled individuals in the recycling process. Similarly, Homeboy Recycling is a woman-led, award-winning, social enterprise that provides on-the-job training and employment for men and women who face barriers to employment
Don’t sweat the short-term cost; focus on the long-term savings. While implementing some of the initial green initiatives at your nonprofit may come with a small cost (i.e. buying additional recycling bins or investing in scanners to get rid of your current paper database), the long term savings in cost, efficiencies, and even materials is not only something that should help allay fears, but can and should be measured. For example, this calculator quantifies the savings from switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs. Green Seal offers a variety of resources specifically for nonprofits including a list of certified green vendors and assistance with green purchasing. Similarly, Energy Star will work with you to not only recycle, but often times provide you with a rebate for replacing energy wasting appliances such as toilets or the office refrigerator.
Lastly, involve your employees and volunteers. This is an effective way to create a grassroots driven project that affects not only everyone’s day to day interaction with your organization, but also allows everyone to get around a big idea and contribute to it. Find champions, create a free online survey to access nonprofit-wide interest, and empower a committee to make real decisions. If you want to take it a step further, you can gamify it and invite departments to compete. It’s a great way to step into or enhance your organization’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) program (yes, nonprofits can have them too!) if you don’t already have a green plan in place.
Has your nonprofit ‘gone green’? What were the most effective and useful tips you learned during the process and what areas are you still struggling with? Let us know!
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