3 Surprising Ways Nonprofits Can Reduce Their Environmental Footprint

Going green has been a top priority in the corporate and nonprofit communities for years now, and it isn’t hard to understand why. Efforts to reduce an organization’s environmental footprint aren’t just beneficial for the planet — they reduce operating costs, boost the group’s mission-driven integrity, and attract and retain top-notch employees and volunteers, according to NeighborWorks America.

These initiatives are especially pressing for nonprofits. Every resource must be tracked and accounted for, and ensuring nothing goes to waste is incredibly important.
Chances are good that your nonprofit may already have a few projects in place to support its green efforts. Let’s take a look at some of the more surprising ways your organization can reduce its environmental impact:

1) Motivate Employees to Participate

Nowadays, it simply isn’t enough to put a recycling bin in the corner and hope for the best. Nonprofits must make additional efforts to ensure that the green initiatives they’ve put in place are being adopted by workers and that these changes will be baked into the organizational culture.

One way to shift practices to greener pastures is by motivating employees with friendly competition, rewards, or recognition. Departments can compete to see who recycles the most materials each week or who saves the most energy overall. This type of event will put sustainability efforts front and center within your organization and ensure that these plans receive the attention they deserve. What’s more, a contest is something simple to put together that can go a long way toward underscoring green initiatives while shifting organizational culture in the right direction.

Employee participation is important in the nonprofit field.Employee participation is important in the nonprofit field.

2) Ensure Building Sustainability

When considering use of resources, it’s important to factor in the organization’s use of space. According to New York’s Concordia College, a recent study found that nonprofit groups are leaders when it comes to use of environmentally friendly buildings. This includes designing and constructing structures with lower-than-usual environmental impact, or retrofitting older spaces to make them more efficient.

This being said, there is still work to be done in this realm. If your organization is located within an older building, it might be time to examine the structure’s inner systems to ensure that things like heating, cooling, electricity, and other utilities use takes place in the most efficient way. Retrofitting or replacing systems may be necessary, and while this does require an up-front investment, the payoffs in terms of efficiency and environmental impact are more than worth it.

It’s also worth it to consider how space and resources are shared. Concordia College noted that it’s now more common for nonprofit employees to share office space and other resources like IT assets to enhance collaboration and reduce environmental impact.

3) Improve the Efficiency of Travel

Travel is often overlooked during sustainability efforts, but it’s an area that is typically ripe for improvement. Because even local travel can consume considerable resources, it’s critical to consider things like commuting as well as the efficiency enhancements that can be made with longer trips.

Establishing a company carpool reduces emissions and creates stronger bonds between co-workers. In addition, encouraging employees to use mass transit through pre-tax benefit programs saves money and reduces environmental impact.

Reducing paper use is something your organization may already be doing, but chances are good that these efforts may not extend to travel. Using a mobile-friendly, paperless expense reporting solution cuts down considerably on the paper collateral needed for expense reporting. With such technology on the side of your nonprofit, employees can easily submit expenses without needing to hang on to paper receipts. Best of all, managers can review and approve reports through the software’s streamlined interface, without having to wade through physical paper reports.

The Paperless Project found that the average office worker uses an average of 10,000 sheets of paper each year, and as much as 45 percent of these printed sheets end up in the trash. Eliminating needless paper is a critical part of improving sustainability, and can significantly enhance efficiency and working processes for employees.