By: Evelyn Long
The time is now to invest in clean energy, as many companies already have. Businesses with a smaller reach might find it more challenging to convert to sustainable energy sources. But while they may not have the number of resources larger corporations have, they can still make a difference by tackling the obstacles that stand in their way and reducing their carbon footprints however they can.
Companies Paving the Way for Renewable Energy
As with any movement, leaders push to the top and compete to reach goals first. Both Google and Apple now completely use renewable energy. Through the efforts of larger companies, smaller businesses can follow in their footsteps and find a sustainability plan that works for them.
The National Top Five of the Green Power Partnership
The U.S.’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranks their list of the top 100 renewable energy partners by the annual kilowatt-hours of power they use. These green partners use an amount of green power that rivals the yearly electricity consumption of over 6 million homes in the United States.
Google, holding the number-one spot in the EPA’s list, has been carbon neutral since 2007, an impressive feat. It has called itself the largest purchaser of renewable energy on an annual scale and has a mission to inspire others to commit to green energy as well.
Similarly, Microsoft plans to be carbon negative by 2030. Each of its focus areas, including water and material waste, has detailed plans with deadlines to spur change, challenging others to follow its lead.
Intel inspires others through its actions. In addition to investing in multiple renewable energy projects over the last decade, Intel installed one of the United States’ largest wind micro-turbine arrays at their own California headquarters.
Even Walmart has dedicated itself to making a change. In 2019, it purchased the most wind and solar power out of all U.S. companies. This fact is unsurprising, as Walmart strives to maintain its sustainability while operating at low costs.
Procter & Gamble has also committed to having all-recyclable packaging by the year 2030.
Other Companies Dedicated to Sustainability
While not in the top five of the EPA’s ranking, other companies push for operating cleanly and promoting sustainability. Apple, for example, uses recyclable materials to produce its electronics and expects all of its products to be carbon neutral by 2030. With Apple’s significant impact on a global scale, this pledge should inspire other businesses to commit to green energy as well.
Similarly, Kohl’s has dedicated itself wholeheartedly to the mission of sustainability for years. It boasts a total of 200,000 solar panels, and many of its stores receive up to 50% of its power from a renewable energy source.
Counterpoint: A Flawed Model for Renewable Power?
Of course, while corporate commitments to renewable energy are admirable, the actual benefits and drawbacks of these transitions can be murkier in reality. Criticism of these commitments stems from the fact that many corporations rely on the concept of “carbon offsets” to tout their emissions reductions. Essentially, companies balance their emissions output with an investment in reforestation or operational energy efficiency.
Carbon offsets do have a positive impact on the environment. However, environmentalists are critical of large businesses that continue to rely on power-intensive manufacturing techniques and massive data centers to power their operations. Even as corporations reinvest in more energy-efficient processes, there are many structural changes required at a national level to create a transformational impact on the nation’s environmental goals.
Small Businesses Struggle With Renewable Power
Plenty of obstacles stand in the way of small businesses that want to emulate what larger companies have done for the environment. What might be easy for companies with extra funds may be more difficult for those who struggle with the concept of paying for green energy.
It doesn’t help that the government offers fossil fuel subsidies, making it cheaper to opt for fossil fuel over a renewable energy source. To truly make a difference, both civic leadership and global interests need to step up and stand behind clean energy. The only way to make a change is to offer more discussion and support on a wide scale.
Another obstacle that prevents smaller businesses from committing to renewable energy is the sheer cost of converting. To some, it might appear impossible to convert simply because both the upfront and maintenance costs are steep.
However, fully converting to renewable energy on a global scale would require $73 trillion, but that sum would pay for itself in savings within 10 years, making it a worthy investment.
The Future of Sustainability for Small Businesses
Converting to fully sustainable energy is not yet achievable for most smaller businesses. Investing in carbon offsets requires funds that most do not have to spare, and they also lack the organizational scale to participate in energy procurement processes that major corporations can engage in. Fortunately, this reality doesn’t mean that more minor efforts aren’t worthwhile.
Suppose a business can’t afford to convert entirely to sustainable energy. In that case, it can potentially save tens of thousands by using an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), which carries power in times it would otherwise be out. Industries such as banks and hospitals would benefit from having backup options available in a widespread power outage. Power outages are common, and having a UPS could save as much as $18,000 per year by reducing energy loss.
Though the weather can be finicky, it doesn’t mean wind and solar power are out of the question for smaller businesses. Renewable energy battery storage ensures clean energy can be utilized even when the weather conditions aren’t ideal, making it a cost-effective and reliable solution for businesses that take the leap and convert to renewable energy.
The Path to Renewable Energy for Businesses
Just because a business isn’t as well-known as one of the major companies doesn’t mean it can’t aid in the global effort to transition to renewable energy. The larger companies have paved the way for smaller businesses to consider clean energy sources for themselves, too, but it doesn’t stop there
Despite all the obstacles in the way of small businesses, every company has the chance to make its mark in the global effort to reduce waste in all its forms.
aBOUT THE Author:
Evelyn Long is a writer and editor focused on construction and sustainability. Her work can be found on Renovated, a web resource for better building and design.