We've talked before about what Sunset Hill Stoneware does to deserve the title of America's Cleanest Greenest Pottery. Every step we take in our shop is designed to do right by the environment, both inside and outside the facility. Even though Earth Day is on April 22 this year, we use best practices in our shop and office every day to make a positive difference for our planet.
While many of the systems we have in place are custom to Sunset Hill Stoneware, there are steps you can take at home and at work to help preserve the Earth's precious natural resources. Here are just a few simple steps you can take at home or at your business.
1. Be mindful of waste
This should go without saying, but don't dump industrial waste from your business. Regardless of what state and government regulations allow businesses to do, introducing manmade chemicals and other byproducts from businesses to the ground and water supply is bad for the environment and can impact the water we drink, along with crops and the soil.
Since Sunset Hill Stoneware works with clay and minerals pulled directly from the earth when we're making our products, we could theoretically discard our leftover clay without causing much harm. However, we don't. Instead, we filter and reuse as much as we feasibly can, without introducing our clay and silt directly into Neenah's groundwater.
We've also taken steps to minimize any pollution that our shop puts out. One of our custom systems traps and recycles the heat our kilns produce as we're making mugs, so everyone in our shop can stay comfortable throughout the year. It also keeps the intense heat from our kilns from being introduced to the atmosphere.
Across multiple industries, more and more equipment and best practices have been developed to reduce waste. Some hospitals are eliminating paper covers from beds in their exam rooms. Machinery in the printing industry has been developed to clean and treat wastewater so it can be safely reintroduced to the water supply. Organizations like ENERGY STAR also help businesses of all sizes implement eco-friendlier practices, including retrofitting buildings and offices.
There are as many ways to reduce industrial waste as there are industries. Connect with others in your industry and organizations like ENERGY STAR to find the best ways your business can help your community and the planet's resources.
2. Go paperless
A few years ago, Sunset Hill Stoneware jumped into using a paperless system to track orders for our mugs as they go through our shop. We haven't looked back. Every single order placed now goes through a system provided by HawkPoint Technologies, which can be used anywhere in the company for practically every major step of the ordering process.
Going paperless has reduced our annual paper waste by thousands of pounds. That doesn't even include the amount of petroleum and ink taken out of the equation to make and print the paper. It has also given us a more secure backup for all of our orders in case of emergency, and made it possible for us to deliver your pottery to you even faster.
It's easier than ever to go paperless at your own business, or even at home. Here are a few practices that you can implement to drastically reduce paper waste and make your business greener:
- Implement electronic signatures. There is plenty of software that supports this, and it saves time and overhead costs when organizing files.
- Use digital versions. While it might be easier in some situations to have print-outs made of posters and other products that are usually printed, using digital announcements saves paper and is easier to maintain than a traditional bulletin board.
- Scan everything. Any important paper documents that you know you'll need should be scanned and stored somewhere secure. Back up these digitized versions too--you never know when a disaster could strike and wipe your files from one location.
While some of these systems may take time to fully implement, the costs and amount of space saved is well worth the effort at almost any business. Plus, at Sunset Hill, we no longer have to worry about orders and invoices being lost in transit between our office and production facility, which has saved us peace of mind.
3. Go plastic-free, too
Since it doesn't break down nearly as quickly, plastic is even worse for the environment than paper. It has already caused severe damage to the world's oceans and kills wildlife. Styrofoam is just as bad, if not worse—unlike plastic, most recycling centers in the United States cannot recycle Styrofoam at all.
Sunset Hill Stoneware uses custom packaging to ship its mugs. Every box is designed to keep the mugs in place with minimal breakage during shipping, without using a single piece of plastic. This keeps thousands of pounds of bubble wrap, polybags and packing peanuts out of our facility and out of landfills and recycling centers.
Using recycled and recyclable materials is an easy way to cushion products and fill spaces in boxes. For example, more and more suppliers such as EcoEnclose provide mailers, boxes and packing material made of 100 percent recycled products. Once they're done being used, these shipping materials can be recycled to start the process once again.
Some of the simplest ways to eliminate single-use plastic are the most overlooked. Having a few reusable fabric grocery bags or totes on hand whenever you go grocery shopping makes them harder to forget. If you didn't bring your fabric grocery bags, see if your local supermarket offers paper bags instead.
Earth Day should be a daily practice. With our natural resources inching ever toward depletion, there's never a wrong time to take the steps necessary to protect our planet for future generations.