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Small Business Owners Are Half The Game In The Climate Change Battle

| Wednesday June 4th, 2008 | 2 Comments

nada.jpgUS business leaders have never been as switched on to climate change as now. Congress members are tackling cap and trade issues at long last and a new international climate deal is on its way. It’s easy to lose track of the obvious in all the politics and the fact that half of the US economy’s greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to small businesses escapes many. But the little guys themselves are beginning to make efforts for instant impact measures.
Take the example of US car dealers. Some 500 of them have pledged to reduce their businesses’ energy consumption by 10%. The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) has calculated that the dealers make combined energy savings of $4.8 million. That’s an impressive amount which also translates in considerable greenhouse gas emissions reductions.


By focusing on the same issues, small businesses find that there’s strength in numbers. For instance, if all of the 19,700 NADA members decided to take similar action they would be eliminating over one million tons of greenhouse gas annually. So the race is on, NADA organizers assure us. The program, the Energy Stewardship Initiative, went underway officially some five months ago and is supported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Energy Star Small Business Program.
The initiative is especially impressive because it achieves immediate carbon reductions are achieved, something that a company that eradicates their excess pollution by trading on a cap and trade exchange can’t really claim to be doing. It is easy to overlook the role of small businesses in the global warming crisis, but let’s not forget that since they’re making up half the US economy, they are also using up around half the energy resources.
Experts estimate that around 30% of all energy used by businesses is wasted. It’s likely that small business owners will be much more adaptable to tackling this problem than conglomerates; another reason to not underestimate their efforts.
Even though the car industry does not immediately make easy material for a green campaign, the NADA members’ efforts are effective and credible. That does not mean that they are all busy installing top of the range, silver bullet technology that requires investment. They’re simply replacing lights in showrooms for energy saving lamps, and they’re thinking about new ways in which to heat their workplace in winter and cool it in summer. It’s surprisingly easy to reduce energy expenditures with 10%.
Some car dealers have switched to 100% waste motor and vegetable oil for heating purposes and that generally yields tremendous energy and cost savings. Jack Quirk Jr., a Bangor Maine car dealer, was nominated for an annual innovation award by USA Today and NADA for having replaced his normal electricity system with a natural gas turbine generator. Another nominee, Fitzgerald Auto Malls, which is strongly represented in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Florida, managed to recycle more than four million pounds of material last year with his chain of 12 auto malls. He also started using 100 percent wind power at some of his outlets. Solar power is also a popular solution. One Mercedes Benz dealer in Arizona is generating so much electricity using solar panels on the roofs of its premises, it’s selling it back to the grid.
To get an idea of the potential that’s lying dormant underneath the US economy, consider the fact that there are 150 organizations like NADA and that the car club is by far not the biggest. The National Restaurant Association has 380,000 members, which reportedly have a few difficulties in donning a green identity, and the National Association of Convenience Stores counts 140,655 stores as members. All these associations can count on the backing of the EPA’s Energy Star Small Business program.
Some of these organizations are challenging their members to similar goals as those NADA set. A ten percent energy consumption reduction appears to be a popular goal. What’s more, this is all instant, unquestionably real carbon emissions cutting.
Small businesses create roughly two-thirds of all new jobs in the US. It’s generally assumed that initiative efforts to green up lead to massive cost savings and this would suggest that there would be room for new hires and growth. Moreover, a company that’s opted for green targets consciously will be very likely to continue the green theme.


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  • Jennifer Kaplan

    Its terrific that trade associations are helping their small business constituents go green. Small businesses have seen the green revolution coming but don’t necessarily know exactly where they fit in – or what lies ahead. The reality is, that without this kind of macro-institutional support most small businesses are simply overwhelmed by the multitude of moving parts involved in going green. More and more small businesses are recognizing that green practices are good business. But millions of the 26.4 million small businesses want and need practical advice on what it means to go green, how to go green, when to go green and where to find the necessary resources. While there’s a wealth of information about environmental practices available to both consumers and large corporations – many of which already have sustainability departments, it’s still very difficult for small business owners to find information that addresses their unique needs. Its terrific – and long overdue – that they start to get some assistance.

    Jennifer Kaplan,
    Partner, Greenhance LLC

  • http://amplifiedgreen.wordpress.com angelique van engelen

    Right you are. I know from experience that small business owners tend to read a lot of professional literature so the communication likely won’t be the problem :)