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Sustainability

15 Ways You Can Curb Your Energy Use Every Day

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15 Ways You Can Curb Your Energy Use Every Day

by Kate Vandeveld

Earlier this month, we talked about how solar power is changing the game when it comes to energy use, and shared our favorite options for solar powered products that can fuel your summer fun. If you’re planning on camping, grilling, or even just relaxing outside this summer, be sure to check it out!

That got us to thinking about how we can be better about our energy use in other aspects of our lives, even when renewables aren’t necessarily on the table. As it turns out, there are so many seemingly small things that we can change in our daily habits that will have a big impact on our energy use.

Here are just a few small steps that you can take today:

Cooling

Lighting & Appliances

Technology

If you really want to go big this summer, plant a tree or two! If you plant one on the east, west, or northwest side of your home, it will create shade that will reduce summer air conditioning needs, and could cut your costs by up to 35%.

Have any tips for small changes we can make to save energy? Share them with us in the comments below or on social! We’re on TwitterFacebookInstagramLinkedIn.

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Reduce Your Company’s Environmental Footprint in 2016

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Reduce Your Company’s Environmental Footprint in 2016

by Kate Vandeveld

If you work in an office, you may have noticed that you and your colleagues use a lot of paper, leave the lights on a lot, or throw away a lot of things that could be recycled. If so, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that offices generate a huge amount of waste on a daily basis. Even if you work from home or a co-working space, it can be difficult to keep track of your environmental footprint. Unfortunately, we’re all constantly generating waste, overusing resources, and unconsciously hurting the earth through the things that we purchase. But the good news is that we can, somewhat easily, change the way we consume and utilize resources in our offices and workspaces to reduce that footprint.

While we’d love to encourage you to get your company on board with a large-scale sustainability program, in the meantime, there are simple changes you can make right now to kick off 2016 on an environmentally-friendly foot:  

Reduce Your Company’s Environmental Footprint in 2016 -- WhyWhisper Collective

Be conscientious about office supplies

Paper products

Did you know the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper each year? Paper and cardboard account for almost 40 percent of our overall waste. The best solution to this problem is to reduce (or even eliminate!) office paper use, though this may not be possible for every office. If it’s an option for yours, here are some tips on how you can reduce paper waste. It it’s not, be conscious about purchasing recyclable paper for your offices.

Bathroom & kitchen supplies

For dish or bathroom soap, try products from method. For toilet paper, paper towels, or disposable tableware, opt for Seventh Generation. Both offer eco-friendly and affordable alternatives to the products that you use on a daily basis.

Light bulbs

Choose compact fluorescent bulbs for office lighting, as these use about 25%-80% less energy than traditional incandescents, and last anywhere from 3-25 times longer.

Coffee & tea

If your office serves coffee and/or tea, go for local roasters rather than the big names. Shopping small business is good for the local economy and your community in general – learn more about the benefits here

If you already purchase eco-friendly office products, what is your go-to source? Share with us in the comments, and we’ll pass along the word to our community!

 

Reduce Your Company’s Environmental Footprint in 2016 -- WhyWhisper Collective

Minimize employee transportation 

Transportation has a significant impact on the environment. Each day, Americans use over 2.9 billion gallons of gas, due in large part to the fact that 77% insist on driving alone to work. Luckily, there are ways you can reduce that – here are a few options: 

Share a ride to work

Whether you opt for public transportation or carpooling, sharing rides makes a huge difference. It reduces traffic congestion, uses less gas, and decreases fuel emissions. If you’re an employer who is looking to incentivize ride sharing, try subsidizing public transportation costs for your employees.

Bike to work

If you live in a place where it’s an option, biking is the most environmentally friendly, financially smart, and health-conscious option. Here are some of the environmental benefits of biking rather than driving a car to work. If you’re an employer, consider offering bike parking to make it easier on your employees who are interested in biking.

Work from home

If your company offers an option to work remotely, try it out! If you can’t bike, this is clearly the best way to reduce the environmental effects of car transportation.

 

Reduce Your Company’s Environmental Footprint in 2016 -- WhyWhisper Collective

Keep energy usage low

Use your thermostat

Rather than keeping your office the same temperature at all times, utilize the feature that turns on heat or air conditioning at specific times and turns off automatically at the end of the day. Tip: Set it to start a bit before anyone gets into the office, and no one will even feel the difference.  

Turn off your electronics

In many offices, computers are left on all the time – even after hours. Encourage your employees or co-workers to shut down at night before they leave. Also, unplug lamps, chargers, and other electronics whenever you’re able as well – they use “stand-by power” when plugged in, even if not in use. If everyone in the office makes these small changes, it’ll make a big difference over time.


Reduce Your Company’s Environmental Footprint in 2016 -- WhyWhisper Collective

Reduce, reuse & recycle

Start a recycling program at the office

According to the EPA, about 80 to 90 percent of solid waste is recyclable in the average workplace. Whether you start with setting out recycling bins in highly trafficked areas (such as near the printer and in the kitchen), or launch a full-fledged office recycling program, taking this initiative will greatly reduce your office’s environmental footprint. 

Compost

If there’s a kitchen in your office, it’s very possible you’re throwing away a lot of things that could be composted and used differently. You can keep compost in-office for fertilizing your plants, or take it home with you to use in your own garden. If this is an option for you, here’s a great guide to office composting.

 

Do you have innovative ideas for how companies can reduce their environmental footprint right now? Share with us! We want to know every tip in the book.

If your company is looking to invest in a larger-scale sustainability program, or even if you’d like some support in implementing these ideas, we can help. Get in touch with us here.

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What We Learned in 2015

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What We Learned in 2015

What We Learned in 2016 -- WhyWhisper Collective

2015 was an exciting year! We worked to expand access to integrative healthcare for communities in need, designed programs to support new mothers, expanded awareness of clean energy initiatives in New York, and so much more. We connected with inspiring individuals who are working to change the world every day. We made big internal changes (that we’re excited to share with you in 2016!). And, perhaps most importantly, we learned a lot.

Along the way, we’ve been sure to share many of our takeaways with you via our blog. As 2015 comes to a close and you’re kicking of 2016, be sure to check out the posts below to find insights on the subjects (both personal and professional) that are most relevant to you!

Start with Yourself

This year, we learned a lot about the importance of taking time for self-care and self-improvement. The positive effects of taking care of yourself extend to all areas of your life -- from mental health to workplace effectiveness. Self-improvement looks different for each individual, and can encompass anything from taking time off, to making more responsible purchasing decisions, to educating yourself about things that matter to you. To help you get started, here’s some of what we’ve learned:

 

Learn from the Experts

We believe one of the best ways to learn about social impact is by example. This year, we’ve been lucky enough to connect with and learn from innovative and effective leaders from nonprofits, social enterprises, and corporations. Here’s a bit of what we’ve learned:

 

Share Your Message

One of our focus areas at WhyWhisper is helping nonprofits and socially conscious businesses spread the word about their work. From developing voice and messaging guidelines to implementing an effective social media strategy and beyond, there are so many ways you can ensure that people know about the impact you’re making. If you’re looking for tips, start here:

 

Think About Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

The concept of building social impact into existing business models is on the rise, and we couldn’t be more excited about it. Businesses and corporations can make significant headway in addressing social issues, and we look forward to seeing (and helping) more of you follow suit next year. If you’re interested in learning more about CSR, here’s some of what we’ve shared this past year:

 

Increase Your Impact

We’re constantly exploring ways that organizations and businesses can make internal changes that have a positive effect on their workplaces and on the world. Here’s some of what we’ve learned:

 

Take Action

We’re also always looking for ways to help our community bridge the gap between caring about a particular issue and actually taking action. When you’re short on resources, or don’t really know where to get started, it can be tough to make moves. We’ve put together a number of posts about how you can take action around different issues – and some are as easy as talking about the issues online! Check them out:

 

Words of Wisdom for Freelancers

At WhyWhisper, we set out to build a different kind of work structure. As such, our team is comprised of consultants who work remotely and independently, taking on projects that are personally meaningful with teammates who support and inspire. But freelancing has its own challenges, and we’ve learned a lot along the way:

What’s your biggest learning from 2015? We’d love to hear about it, and share with our community. Here’s how to get in touch:

Happy New Year to our incredible community! We’re so lucky to learn from you every day, and can’t wait for all that we’ll do together this year. Feel free to connect with us anytime – we love to hear from you.

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CSR Spotlight: Ben & Jerry’s + New Belgium Partner for Climate Change

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CSR Spotlight: Ben & Jerry’s + New Belgium Partner for Climate Change

by Kate Vandeveld

The end of the year can be stressful. Between the holidays, wrapping up work for the year, and making plans for the next, there’s a lot going on. So, when you have a chance to relax and indulge a bit, you should take it.

That’s why we were so excited to learn that two of our personal favorite indulgences, ice cream and beer, came together this year in collaboration for environmental impact. Ben & Jerry’s, a company that is well-known for its social and environmental impact, and New Belgium, a Colorado-based brewery, announced their partnership earlier this year.

Ben & Jerry's + New Belgium - Social Impact - WhyWhisper Collective

Both B Corporations, the companies partnered to release a new product for each brand: Salted Caramel Brown-ie Ale ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s, and Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale beer from New Belgium. Each are limited releases – three months only! – and are sold in select locations around the country. While both sound delicious, the unique flavor isn’t even the coolest part: A portion of the proceeds from the sales of these two products will be going to climate advocacy group, Protect Our Winters (POW).  

Started in 2007 by pro-snowboarder Jeremy Jones, POW is working to engage and mobilize the snow sports community to raise awareness of and work against climate change. POW is working to use what they call the outdoor community’s “disproportionate influence” for good, through awareness-raising events, fundraising, and advocating for policy reform around environmental issues.

The aim of this partnership in particular is to build awareness of, and inspire action around, the Clean Power Plan, an effort to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants that was passed by President Obama in August 2015. The plan allows each state’s governor to determine how they’ll reduce carbon pollution in the best way for his or her state. So, on top of sales donations, all three entities are encouraging their audiences to take action by contacting their governors to ask them to make a “speedy transition to clean renewable sources of energy that pollute less, protect the environment, create good jobs, and protect the health of all Americans.” Click through here to select your state, and POW will call you back and connect you with your governor directly. It couldn’t be simpler! If you don’t want to call, you can also email or tweet at your governor – they provide you with copy for both.

Perhaps even more important than this particular initiative in and of itself is the example that Ben & Jerry’s and New Belgium are making in integrating impact into their existing business models. This short but effective marketing campaign and corresponding non-profit partnership is allowing both companies to have a positive impact in an area they care about, without having to turn their operations upside down or greatly expand their capacity. And, while we always hope that impact projects aren’t put into place for PR purposes, it looks pretty good for both companies in that respect, too.

Do you know of a company that is running an interesting social impact campaign? Share with us! We love to learn about and share unique and effective efforts to do good. Leave a comment below, or connect on social – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

Also, if your company or a company you know about is interested in doing something similar, our team can help you develop an effective and strategic campaign. Get in touch!


Learn more about the collaboration between Ben & Jerry's, New Belgium, and Protect Our Winters here:

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The Ultimate Social Impact Reading List

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The Ultimate Social Impact Reading List

The Ultimate Social Impact Reading List

When it comes to the subject of social impact, we’ve done quite a bit of reading. As you likely know, there’s a lot out there – and it can be difficult to determine which resources are worthwhile.

As such, we thought it might be helpful to share some of our favorites – and some that we’ve written ourselves – with you.  

The following list is by no means exhaustive, but if you’re looking for some reading over the holidays, check these out:

Social Impact

To start off broadly, these are some of our favorite articles and blog posts that focus on social impact in a more general sense. 

Corporate Social Responsibility

CSR is a complex and ever-evolving topic, and one that is widely discussed. These articles will help you develop an understanding of what’s happening in the space. 

Social Enterprise

The concept of doing well by doing good is changing the way that social impact intersects with business. If you’re interested in learning more, these resources are a great place to start.

Personal Habits

We’ve been talking a lot lately about how important it is to take care of yourself if you want to be effective in supporting others. It can be easier said than done, but these resources offer some great advice.

Sustainability & Environmental Responsibility

Another element of impact that directly ties into social good Is sustainability. It’s an incredibly vast topic, but these are some great resources to get you started on living more sustainably.

If you’re looking for more general resources for staying on top of what’s happening in the social impact space, try these:

Have you come across an impact-focused resource that’s been particularly helpful or informative? Share with us! We’ll add it to our list. Here’s how:

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How to Be Authentic About Social Responsibility

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How to Be Authentic About Social Responsibility

by Kate Vandeveld

Last week, we talked about Starbucks, a company that wasn’t initially developed as a social enterprise, but that has effectively integrated social impact into its business model. Their strategy for external impact is thoughtful and comprehensive, and they actively invest in their employees. Because of this, the results of their multi-faceted strategy is positive for all involved. 

On the flipside, as you may know, Volkswagen is currently in the midst of a CSR-related scandal.  This September, the German car company admitted to cheating in emissions tests in the U.S. by installing devices in their engines that detected when they were being tested, and changing their performance to alter results. The company did this in order to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel emissions standards. As a result of their false reporting, Volkswagen was viewed as reputable when it came to CSR. While we can’t call it merely a PR stunt, the company’s desire to be seen as environmentally responsible likely played into its decision to cheat the system, which is exactly the opposite of the point of CSR.

The Volkswagen situation brings up a question of authenticity when it comes to social and environmental responsibility. What does it mean for a company to be authentic when it comes to impact? Here’s what we think:

They make it part of their mission

One major difference between a truly socially conscious company and one that is in it for the positive PR, is whether or not their strategy is an integral part of their mission, or merely an addendum, an afterthought. Whether or not a company is socially conscious from the start, or chooses to implement CSR programs down the line, it’s important to pay attention to how entrenched they seem to be in their impact. Companies that are really impactful don’t just implement a program that allows them to meet a certain social or environmental goal, they make it a part of their operations and integrate it into their mission.

They report on their successes and failures

When implementing strategic changes in any capacity, you’re bound to experience failures or missteps along the way. And generally, talking about it is the last thing you want to do when a new program or strategy isn’t as successful as you hoped it would be. But in this case, it can be a good thing. Reporting on your successes as well as your failures when it comes to CSR strategy shows that you’re paying attention, and that you care about the efficacy of your programming and making a real impact. And perhaps the most important thing, as evidenced by the Volkswagen fiasco, is that you stay honest in your reporting. Social change is difficult to enact, and your earnest effort to be impactful is what truly matters.

They evolve their efforts over time

Deciding to integrate CSR programming into your business model is only the first step; contributing to positive social or environmental change is an evolutionary process.

To start, it might take some time for a company to hone in on which strengths they should focus on in order to be as impactful as possible. And even if you’re clear about how you want to focus our efforts, you’ll want to evolve as time goes on. When you set clear goals, and then report on and analyze your results, you can use that information to continue to change and develop your approach and strategy to be more effective.

 

Do you know of a company whose CSR strategy has been particularly effective, or one who you think could be impactful with some support? Share with us – we want to learn about them! Here’s how:

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Want to Change the World? Start with Your Workplace

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Want to Change the World? Start with Your Workplace

by Anne Rackow

“Do what you can, with what you have, from where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Changing the world for the better can happen anywhere - even the workplace. In fact, if you own or manage a company, it’s the perfect place to start: incorporating social responsibility at work can help attract top talent and improve employee satisfaction

This is especially true when hiring Millennials. According to a study by Deloitte, a sense of purpose was a major factor in workplace choice for 6 in 10 Millennials. This statistic increases to approximately 8 in 10 for Millennials who are relatively high users of social networking tools.

While non-profits and social enterprises may appear to have a leg up in this department, traditional businesses and corporations are actually joining the movement at an increased rate as well. We recently talked about a few of these “unusual suspects” that are incorporating impact into their existing business models.

Even companies with socially conscious missions can do things on this list to take it a step further.  Here are a few suggestions for how you can create an environment that supports social justice in your day-to-day operations:

Develop Inclusive & Equal Workplace Policies

  • Implement a flexible leave policy that is supportive of major holidays for all religions.
  • Ensure that the company leadership is diverse in terms of gender, race and ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
  • Offer generous family leave for both males and females after the birth or adoption of a new child, and make sure that your policy allows you to be flexible with working parents.
  • If you contract with staffing agencies, make sure that their workers are getting a fair wage and safe working conditions.
  • Similarly, use ethical supply chains that do not use slave labor or sweatshops in the creation of the materials and products used or sold by your company. If you’re unsure where to find these kinds of products, Made in a Free World can help!
  • If you have separate restrooms for men and women, install changing tables in both. Also, consider gender neutral restrooms.

Support Your Local Economy

  • Decorate with art from local artists in your community.
  • Host regular companywide days of volunteering or offer a match plan for donations.
  • Cater events with and host company gatherings at local mom and pop restaurants

Get Sustainable in the Office

  • Stock your printers with recycled paper and print on both sides, when possible.
  • When you get new electronics, recycle the old ones.
  • In the restroom, use paper towels made from recycled paper, air hand dryers, and low flow toilets.
  • Close the blinds on large windows on nights and weekends, and use a timer to regulate heat and AC.
  • If you provide coffee in the break room, buy coffee that is fair trade and locally roasted. 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to making the world a better place or increasing employee satisfaction; but if it is possible to do both at the same time, it sounds like a win to us! While it may not be realistic to try implementing every suggestion on this list right away, there is at least one thing on this list that your business or organization can implement relatively easily.

 

What are some small changes that you’ve made in the workplace that have had a positive social impact? Share with us! Here’s how…

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Better Businesses? Here's Why and How

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Better Businesses? Here's Why and How

by Alexandra Ostrow

Last week, we interviewed Nicole Caldwell, co-founder and CEO of Better Farm, a 65-acre sustainability campus, organic farm and artists' colony serving as a blueprint for environmentally conscious living. In her interview, Nicole told us about her career path, inspirations, and personal obstacles, and gave us some background on her upcoming book release. This week, we're thrilled to share a chapter of that very book in an early preview for the WhyWhisper community. Read the chapter below and let us know what you think. Have questions? Comment below or reach out via Facebook or Twitter!

 

"Chapter Four: Better Business Practice" from Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living

We are living through an era of record population that ironically coincides with record isolation. Our jobs, along with our addictions to social media and television, exacerbate this issue. We have an “Every Man for Himself” mentality in the dominant culture of the US that encourages us to go it alone - either truly on our own or as an independent family structure. We treat our shopping experiences, jobs and neighborhoods as separate pieces further distinguished as somehow apart from our personal lives. In our isolation, we gobble up resources faster than they can be replenished. All our independent activities and enterprises have added up: On a global scale, our expenses (natural resource use) surpass our incomes (how quickly resources can be renewed in nature) by 150%.

For humans' place in this world to be more sustainable, more loving and more fulfilling, we have to change how we do business on Planet Earth. Let's stop pretending that we're not connected to the businesses we patronize in the communities where we live. And let’s not forget that the businesses we patronize must also do their part to live in agreement with the landscape.

What if we stopped justifying our apathy and instead demanded that business ethics mirror the ethics we want our children to learn? What if we insisted the developers making our neighborhoods took the environment into consideration? What if our communities were extensions of ourselves that we played an active role in shaping and supporting?

All this might bridge the divides we have. It might help us feel connected. And it just might heal so many of the social ills that plague us.

Involvement isn't so far-fetched. Time and again we have seen businesses spring up founded on morals, ethics, philanthropy and environmental empathy. There are ways to poke through a seemingly universally corrupt system. To choose love over greed and to make it work. Business owners, entrepreneurs and start-ups all over the world have begun a new trend of corporate community and environmental engagement that enhance the venture's relationship to the neighborhood in which it is based.

No small part of the disconnect we experience stems from our limited relationships with our communities and local businesses. Examining how businesses can be fused with their neighborhoods offers insights into ways we might all become more actively engaged with our local economies, shopping habits and environments. The glue connecting all these points is a shared vision of a better life for business owners, consumers, children, neighbors, friends and even the landscape.

Sustainability in any setting must first and foremost take the local environment into account. What businesses and communities in Northern New York do to be more sustainable will differ significantly from counterparts in New Mexico, Bangkok or Newfoundland. Local ecology should dictate the methodology, materials and design of businesses located therein. How we interact, care for, take from and nurture the natural world around us must adhere to the local land base. 

To identify the needs of a community, you have to put your feet to the pavement. It is only by listening to people's stories, experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of a place and breathing the same air that we can empathize with a space, person or landscape. Smart entrepreneurs know that analyzing data alone won't make them innovators; instead, they know to bury themselves in the questions of how they can improve upon life in their communities in a way that also speaks to their business models.

In 2001, University of Illinois researchers Frances Kuo and Bill Sullivan conducted a study to compare the lives of women living in a Chicago housing development. Half of the test subjects lived in apartment buildings with views of greenery. The other half lived in identical buildings without those green views. Kuo and Sullivan found that buildings with high levels of vegetation outside had 48% fewer crimes against property, 56% fewer violent crimes and less domestic violence. 

Of 200 residents interviewed, 14% of women with barren views reported hitting their children in the last year. Only 3% of women in green areas said the same. Similarly, women enjoying views of trees outside reported fewer violent acts toward their partners than those living without trees. Residents living with green views also demonstrated better relationships with their neighbors: more visitors, more socialization, more knowledge of who's who and a stronger sense of community.

Developers armed with such research findings can fundamentally change social dynamics among residents in their communities. Imagine marketing houses and apartments with proven abilities to reduce crime, isolation, depression and violence.

When our corporate ventures or organizations grow out of a community's needs, our mission becomes part of a higher power and larger body of work. When this happens, employees and customers alike are drawn to the vision. We see things firsthand and experience all that life offers to us. We open ourselves up to our communities and each other.

There isn't any reason for business practices to be separate from neighborhood outreach. A vibrant and successful small business will incorporate a community's identity into its very core. If a business owner can envision a better community and have a carefully orchestrated action plan for facilitating change, then there is a strong relationship that will allow for regeneration and evolution.

To establish itself within a community, a company must assess its neighborhood's needs and file those down to efforts that merge business practices with the community. A farm may wish to donate to the local food pantry, while an office-supply store may give school supplies to local children. Smart collaboration is more important than a misguided laundry list of things a neighborhood needs.

Bennu, a green product development and marketing company focused on recycling, organizes an annual “Greenpacks for Great Kids” online backpack drive. The company donates $5,000 worth of eco-friendly backpacks to children living in low-income, New York City communities. 

Vermont-based Bove's Cafe and pasta sauce company partnered with Hannaford Supermarket to donate 1,000 boxes of pasta and more than 1,000 jars of pasta sauce to the Chittenden County Emergency Food Shelf. Bove's took what it knows how to do - feed people - and used that skill to help the community. 

Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods founders Bob and Charlee Moore in 2011 donated $5 million to Oregon State University in order to establish a research center focused on the nutritional value of whole-grain foods. Another $1.35 million was donated by the couple to the National College of Natural Medicine as help in the fight against childhood obesity.

Maple Leaf Adventures, a boutique expedition company based out of Victoria, British Columbia, annually donates one percent or more of sales to coastal conservation work and science. These funds have supported the prevention of illegal trophy hunting of grizzly bears, research on seabirds and white spirit bears and helped to protect wild Pacific salmon. Each of these causes is near and dear to the hearts of the company's owners; Maple Leaf Adventures relies on this coastal environment for ecotourism.

Communities demonstrate needs through certain indicators. How do people handle their garbage or treat their front lawns? Is the local school struggling? Is natural landscape incorporated into the scenery or banished from it? Are children playing? Are public spaces tidy? Are there any public spaces at all? It's easy enough to explore an area by researching basic information about the local economy, housing, environmental degradation or bounty, topography, transportation, public health and basic demographics. But so much can be learn by actually entering the environment: hike, kayak, walk the trails and explore the old railroad tracks.

This is the beginning. But we have to look even closer, at the canvas behind the neighborhood.

The land that's supporting businesses and homes is the backdrop to all we do within it. When creating a business model, we are wise to consider the land what it can realistically support. We must consider the people who depend on that land whether they realize it or not. This is not some fall-by-the-wayside topic; it's everything. How can my business support the local land base? How can my company help to clean up the local ecosystem or establish conservation efforts? How can my office produce zero waste? How can I use renewable resources to power, heat and cool the buildings I use? How does my presence in this location enhance the natural landscape that makes it possible for me to live and work here?

Companies should not continue to produce things that hurt either the environment or community. Enough technology and information is accessible now for us not to need things like genetically selective weed killers or toxic toilet bowl cleaners. There is no longer any excuse to use polystyrene foam containers, paper towels or paper napkins. The boom in small farms and the technology we have to communicate with each other leave little excuse for our restaurants not to incorporate local ingredients. Our office kitchenettes don't need throwaway cups or plastic stir straws. There's no reason to buy these products, offer them up for employee use, and there's no reason to sell them. It's unconscionable to not compost food scraps when we know how beneficial they can be. We can start companies that don't create products that harm the land base. We can appeal to the companies we work for to green their practices.

As consumers, we have power. We increase or decrease demand by buying or not buying. This is the only language many companies know. If we all stopped buying paper towels or factory-farmed meat, what business owner in her right mind would continue to try to sell them?

People utilized social media in 2010 to create a massive campaign against Nestlé for its use of Indonesian palm oil in its products. Initially launched by Greenpeace, the Facebook-driven campaign provided information on how demand for palm oil in Indonesia spurred growers there to illegally cut down endangered rainforests in order to make more growing space for palm. A petition was passed around, but consumers got in on the game directly by writing their own letters to Nestlé and posting on the company’s own social media sites about the issue. Consumer action went viral throughout the Internet, and Nestlé responded with a pledge to source 100% of its palm oil from certified-sustainable sources by 2015. It met that pledge a full two years early, in 2013.

Visitors to Sea World locations in the US dropped by 13% in the first quarter of 2015, following the release of the controversial documentary "Blackfish." The film, which outlines a number of violent outbursts of whales against their trainers, explores the complex intelligence of killer whales and suggests the mammals are unfit for captivity. Public outcry against the theme park resulted in free-falls for Sea World’s numbers. Stocks fell 50% in six months during 2013, and the park’s CEO resigned in early 2015. The dramatic drop in ticket sales has meant a scramble for Sea World execs to rebrand the company and to put an onus on rehabilitation and education over tricks and captivity.

A 2005 McKinsey & Company study found that up to 8% of consumers had stopped shopping at Walmart because of negative press about the company’s environmental practices, labor policies and methods for beating out competition. In response, that same year Walmart’s CEO announced a sustainability strategy that would allow the company to in the near future “be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy; to create zero waste; and to sell products that sustain our resources and the environment.”

We are alive during some of the most exciting times. A huge majority of the people creating start-ups want to make a positive contribution to the world. And luckily for them, a business model that incorporates philanthropy is infinitely more attractive to investors. Courageous leaders who insist on higher standards are rewarded tenfold by consumers.

Actor Paul Newman launched Newman's Own in 1982 by passing out wine bottles filled with homemade salad dressing to his friends. In the three decades since, the company has earned more than $400 million - all of which has been donated. Every after-tax dollar earned by the company goes directly to Newman's Own Foundation, which distributes the cash throughout the world to various charities.

Newman's has inspired countless other corporations to follow suit. Mike Hannigan, one such company's founder, had his moment of reckoning while reading over his own jar of Newman's pasta sauce. Hannigan got in touch with his business partner and the two men figured out a way to instill philanthropy into the core of their venture, Give Something Back Office Supplies.

Though it's a mega-chain, Chipotle is another great example of business practices being intertwined with community outreach and sensible principles. The corporation buys as much as possible from local farms within striking range of each franchise. Chipotle selects farms that are informed by their local land bases and utilize compassionate care for livestock. 

Life is good, Inc. makes a ton of money selling merchandise depicting its now-famous stick figure emblem. The company has built charitable giving directly into its business plan, donating 10% of net profits to children in need. Life is good also sponsors festivals that give merchandise and profits to child-related charities and causes. 

Since 1985 outdoor gear biz Patagonia has donated one percent of annual sales to environmental causes and preservation. But they've done more than that: in 2013, the company unveiled a new campaign called “The Responsible Economy.” This effort is to produce fewer items than in previous years and limit growth in order to put less stress on the environment. Patagonia's high-quality outdoor products are designed to ensure consumers can wear the same gear year after year. The company is single-handedly challenging the compulsive clothing shopping experience other businesses depend on.

The more a community understands an organization's positioning, the better the relationship will be. So aligning a business with one or two specific causes will benefit business owners and employees more than token contributions. This work doesn't have to be money-based, either. Any community will show more respect for business owners who get their hands dirty helping out with neighborhood cleanups or fish fries than some mogul who throws money at community issues.

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson is a billionaire who devotes most of his time to philanthropy. His chief effort is Virgin Unite, a nonprofit foundation with projects related to leadership and entrepreneurship. Branson has said in many interviews that healthy profits are inextricably linked to community support of a business’ services and management practices - and that employees want to work for businesses they believe in.

Steve Brockman, locally celebrated business owner of Expert Plumbing in Naperville, Illinois, regularly rolls his sleeves up to help his community. He works closely with Naperville Western DuPage Special Recreation Association, and has in the past built a parade float and organized a fundraiser for the group. And senior staff at Solihull Hospital in the UK annually show their appreciation to the rest of the staff by contributing during the hospital’s National Volunteers’ Week. Pitching in unpaid in the pharmacy department, meeting and greeting or helping with fundraising efforts are the higher-ups’ way of saying thank you to the people who put in the elbow grease every day to make the hospital run smoothly.

Notre Dame High School in Clarksburg, West Virginia launched a new initiative in 2015 called “Business Gives Back.” For that program, area business owners visit the school to talk with students about the making a difference in the community and the benefits of local businesses offering volunteer outreach.

There is growing evidence that our happiness is actually tied to local economy and policy. The Gross National Happiness (GNH) movement, started in Bhutan, factors happiness into new policies. A commission in that country reviews policy decisions, distribution of resources and studies the effect of these factors on the level of happiness within the country. Similar to environmental impact measures, governments that use GNH indexing adjust their policies according to the levels of happiness those policies will bring to communities.

Factors include the environment, culture, art, physical and mental health and basics like economics. So now, it's possible to chart how a government (in its own right an extension of a company profile) affects the well-being of the communities it is supposed to serve. It's a model worth considering in our own households, civic centers, states and counties.

When we seek business ventures that solely satisfy our greediest, most egocentric concerns, we limit ourselves. We feed an addiction to material gains and a hectic life that leaves us exhausted and unfulfilled. Living in this way only expands our sense of being alone. But opting for community-driven business practices enhances neighborhoods, increases happiness levels and is good for business’ bottom lines.

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