As I mentioned yesterday, there’s a growing trend toward “life cycle assessment” or “industrial ecology” that focuses on looking at the myriad environmental impacts a product creates — from its manufacture, to its use, and through to its ultimate disposal.
And when you look at the life cycle assessment analyses, it can get a wee bit overwhelming. Even the mining of gravel, for instance, is counted, because we need gravel in order to build the roads on which trucks that haul products drive.
But this isn’t just super wonky, abstract eco-speak. The fact that it’s hard to grasp is part of the fundamental point: i.e., it’s hard for humans to imagine these kind of long-term, global, inter-related environmental impacts, because as humans we’re more wired to understand local, immediate, tangible events.
So why is it important for small businesses to track the impacts of their services and products? There are a couple of reasons.
First, we’re talking about planetary health. So it’s important for each of us to take small actions every day, day after day, to preserve the environment — even if we can’t see, immediately, what the effect of our actions might be.
Second, doing the right thing feels better than not doing the right thing. Right? When we cut corners, act flippant, do something that we know will have a bad effect down the line, a little piece of us deep inside feels bad. And that little thing is called your “conscience.”
And third, advertising your services and products as environmentally friendly — and elaborating on just what you’re doing and why — really does attract people to your business. Not just on Earth Day — every day. People like to hear that you’re using recycled paper, non-toxic cleaning products, and biodegradable plastic cups. They like knowing that your coffee isn’t harvested by exploiting third world workers and destroying song bird habitat, that you’re composting green waste, and that your heating and cooling systems are energy efficient. That’s because a lot of your customers have consciences, too.
Fourth, by focusing — even just a little — on boosting the “green” quotient of your business (and advertising it) you can raise the ecological intelligence of your clients, as well. You put yourself in the position of being an educator and a leader. And that helps your entire community begin to take the steps they need to take to create a greener, healthier world.