Employee Retention via Wellness

Employee Wellness

Employee health and well-being should be a top priority for running a successful business, especially if you are concerned about retaining your valued employees. According to a survey conducted by Flexjobs, 49% of employees leave due to a lack of healthy work-life boundaries, and many businesses are starting to list employee wellness as a benefit when recruiting. Meeting company targets while maintaining good employee wellness can be a hard balancing act however, especially when running a business in a fast-paced industry. CAGBN has some suggestions for improving employee well-being in the workplace that are simple to implement, but will keep your employees happy, productive, and committed to their job.

  • Encourage work-life balance. Now more than ever, the workforce is learning to prioritize their mental health and cultivate their lives outside of work. Support this! When your team is encouraged to fill their own metaphorical cups outside of the workplace, they contribute to a more productive, healthy, and happy environment. As this interesting piece by the BBC suggests, work-life balance is a moving target and not a simple formula, and therefore may look different for each individual. Get feedback from your team on what they need. Allow for personal time off when possible, and don’t forget how big of an impact the little things can have– like mid-day walks outside. 

  • Be flexible when possible. In the post-pandemic world, many companies now have experience with the work-from-home setup. If it is possible for your business model, consider having hybrid options for your employees. Not only does this reduce the GHG impacts of commuting, it also offers your employees more freedom. Additionally, consider offering flexibility with their schedules. For businesses that don’t have hard start times, consider allowing your employees to develop their own work schedules. 

  • Appreciate varying workstyles. Everyone thrives in different situations. Some people love frequent check-ins to maintain a pulse on a project, while others loathe micromanaging. Figure out how your team works best! You can support them by offering flexibility, and suggesting different management tools that may help. There are tons of online applications available to help your business track projects and maximize productivity, allowing you to know exactly where a project stands without having to disrupt your employee’s workflow.

  • Have an open door policy. Allowing feedback makes it possible for growth and improvement to happen. You can also remove some of the anxiety and welcome more candid constructive criticism if you offer the opportunity for anonymous feedback with a suggestion box or anonymous Google Form.

  • Don’t forget to have fun! Facilitating opportunities for bonding outside of work can be a great way to encourage employee well-being. Consider happy hours, potlucks, or maybe some friendly competition with a game night! In the workplace, also consider having monthly meetings where personal highlights and happy life events can be shared. Fostering personal bonds by sharing your life outside of work increases employee morale and loyalty.
  • Have mission-driven work. Even if your business does not do mission-driven work, you can find ways to bring your employees together for common causes. This could take the form of group excursions to volunteer events at cleanups or shelters. You can also tie meaning to everyday work. Being or working towards being a Certified Green Business has meaning and impact, and can give your employees a sense of pride in where they work. Click here to find out more about the benefits of Green Business Certification!

Sustainable Holiday Tips

Sustainable Holiday Tips

Holiday shopping can not only hurt the wallet, but the over-consumption of goods that tends to happen during the gift-giving season can also harm the environment. This is especially challenging if your business hosts a gift exchange for the holidays as employees may not know what to give someone, and end up gifting unwanted items. Fortunately, there are ways to limit your impact by creating unconventional gift exchanges, selecting eco-friendly products, or gifting an experience. Here are some tips to help keep your festivities sustainable:

  • Charitable gifts: One great way to have a sustainable holiday is to skip the physical gifts altogether and donate to a charity the recipient cares about in their name. If you plan on hosting a gift exchange, ask employees to list their favorite charities instead and facilitate ways to donate to them. You may also want to consider setting up an Employee Match Program where employees can donate to their favorite charity year-round and donations are matched by the employer. 

  • Homemade Gifts: Consider homemade gifts this year, like baked goods or a knitted scarf. Presents with a homemade touch are more sustainable, especially if you repurpose items that would normally be thrown away. But what if you are not the crafty or cooking type of person? Fortunately, online tutorials for ideas are endless with items that are easy to make with step-by-step instructions. You can search the internet for DIY sustainable gift tutorials, or try browsing the Sustainable Cook’s list of homemade items for some inspiration! 

  • Gift Experiences: Sometimes those hardest to shop for would love to create a memory over receiving something they might not want or even use. Gift a cooking class membership, tickets to a museum, or if they are adventurous, perhaps a gift certificate for bungee jumping or sky diving is more their speed. The options are endless and will be sure to be remembered. Need some inspiration? Check out this article!

  • Eco-friendly gifts: Many stores offer eco-friendly gifts that are either made from reused or recycled materials, and help you live more sustainably. Gifts can include things like upcycled jewelry or clothing, reusable water bottles, coffee mugs, and cutlery sets, or solar powered devices and chargers. There are tons of options available. Here’s a short list of options to help give you some ideas. 

  • Shop local (and green): We all know that shopping local helps keep small businesses in business. It is also the sustainable way to shop as it helps to reduce your carbon footprint, especially if you use alternative transportation and patronize Green Businesses. This year, why not support other Green Businesses in your community, and be sure to let them know you are also a Green Business! Find a Green Business

  • Wrap sustainably: If you do choose to give gifts, save money and the environment by taking the zero waste approach to wrapping them. Utilize old newspapers and paper bags as wrapping paper, styling with twine or plants for added flair. Another option is the ancient Japanese practice of Furoshiki, a way of wrapping gifts with cloth. This is an easy way to customize your gift using material that is likely already around the house, as well as keeping material out of the landfill.  Check out this article on how to utilize household items for zero waste gift wrapping. 

Happy Holidays! 


COVID Ventilation & Cleaning

Covid Cleaning

As we move into our third year of COVID-19, we have learned a lot about the virus and how to best protect ourselves. As researchers have confirmed, the risk of transmission of COVID-19 is much higher for airborne transmission than in surface transmission. In fact, a professor at Michigan Public Health estimates that surface transmission is 1,000 times lower. While this alleviates some fear, cleaning and disinfecting properly are still important in curbing the spread of illnesses, especially on high-touch surfaces such as door knobs and handles. Since 2020, more resources and studies have become available that alleviate some of the uncertainty we experienced at the beginning of the pandemic. Read our updated cleaning recommendations, based off of CDC guidelines, that will help you safely disinfect your business without needing to compromise your health and environmental impact.

Safer Cleaning Products Work
It is a common misconception that “green cleaning” products do not work as well as “conventional” ones. We are here to reassure you, if you are using products with the correct active ingredients as directed, they are just as effective as conventional products. They are also safer for you, your employees, and your customers to be around. Selecting CAGBN permitted cleaning products also allows you to use less harmful chemicals that can leach into the environment. 

Clean before disinfecting
The CDC recommends always cleaning with soap and water prior to using disinfectants. This ensures that there is less debris interfering with the disinfectant’s efficacy. For more information on how to properly clean different types of surfaces within your business or facility, check out the CDC’s guidelines here. One of CAGBN’s core Green Business Practices is to use cleaning products (including anything from hand soap to all-purpose cleaner) that are either GreenSeal, EPA Safer Choice, or EWG rated ‘B’ or higher.  This ensures less environmental and health implications than traditional products. 

CAGBN recommends businesses to use the least harmful products in the lowest quantity possible in order to disinfect facilities. While we require our Certified Green Businesses to use hydrogen peroxide-based products rather than those that contain bleach, other safer cleaning products are available with active ingredients such as citric acid, lactic acid, ethyl alcohol (also called ethanol or just alcohol), isopropyl alcohol, peroxyacetic acid, or hypochlorous acid. *Note: Green Seal reminds us that “The combination of hydrogen peroxide and peroxyacetic acid is a designated AOEC asthmagen, so avoid products that contain both.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came out with the List N Tool database of products that meets their criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). Although this comprehensive database can be helpful, especially if you are looking for more specialized disinfectants, it can be a bit overwhelming for some to navigate. If you find this to be the case for you, we recommend checking out the abbreviated list of less environmentally harmful products from Green Seal, all of which are also included in the EPA database. And a reminder: always use products as directed by the manufacturer printed on the label. 

Keep your business well ventilated 
Now that we know more about COVID-19 transmission, we know that it can be transmitted through direct contact as well as via airborne transmission. No matter how much you disinfect your business, it will not help to stop airborne transmission. Businesses can keep employees safer by ensuring your facility is well ventilated and your HVAC system is properly maintained. Below are some suggestions provided by the CDC (find their full list of recommendations here): 

  • Encourage outdoor air in your facility: Open windows and doors, as weather allows, to allow for natural air flow. 
  • Circulate indoor air with fans: In combination with open windows, add fans in strategically placed locations to increase ventilation. FAQs on this here 
  • Optimize central air filtration: Make sure your HVAC filters are regularly changed (at least twice per year) 
  • Use portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fan/filtration systems to enhance air cleaning  

Go Above and Beyond Cleaning 
Cleaning and disinfecting your business can help protect you and your employees from COVID-19, but cannot prevent it altogether. That being said, there are things you can do to help prevent the spread of any illness. Here are some additional suggestions to help keep your employees healthy: 

  • Although mask mandates and social distancing restrictions have been lifted, many people will still choose to wear a mask to protect themselves or an immunocompromised loved one. Provide surgical masks for employees and customers, and communicate to your employees that those who choose to wear a mask will be supported by your company. 
  • Continue to encourage standard health precautions. Hang signs in your bathrooms to remind people to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds, and to cover their coughs and sneezes. 
  • Expand sick leave for your employees and encourage them to stay home if feeling ill. Invest in equipment that allows employees to work from home if possible.
  • Provide vaccination clinics for your employees at your place of business. Many people can’t take time off to get a flu or Covid vaccine. Hosting a vaccine clinic at your place of business makes it easy for your employees to get vaccinated, and will save your company money in the long run by ensuring employees stay healthy. Contact your health care representative to see if this is an option for your business.
  • Keep up to date with the CDC’s current health and prevention guidelines and recommendations.


Electrify Your Business

Electrify Your Business

No matter where you get your information and news from these days, you can’t help but hear all the information coming out about electrification being the best environmental choice for the future. Whether you are considering an electric fleet of vehicles for your business or simply for your personal commute to work every day, there are a lot of choices to consider. But electrification goes far beyond electric vehicles and can be incorporated into your business facilities in many different ways to help you become even more efficient, save money, benefit the environment, and go above and beyond your Green Business certification.

Here are some resources to help you add more electrification to your business including adding electric vehicles, solar power, and heat pumps to your operations.

Electrify your Fleet Vehicles. Does your business have a vehicle fleet? Then you should seriously consider switching to electric vehicles (EVs). The total cost of operating a fleet of EVs (including maintenance and energy costs) is less than that of gasoline vehicles. The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) has compiled some resources/contacts to help with the process of switching to EVs. See their Services for Transitioning to a Zero-Emission Fleet page to learn more. You can also check out your local service provider to see what programs they have available (such as PG&E’s incentive and rebates

Electrify Your Commute. Looking for a personal ZEV (zero-emission vehicle) for your commute to work? Search for different incentives using the DriveClean.ca.gov search tool to look through incentives. You may also be eligible for a federal tax credit when you file your taxes for purchasing an EV. 

Electrify Your Heating. Change out your gas furnace and gas water heater for electric heat pumps, which are estimated to be between 3 and 4 times more efficient. Not only is it better for your wallet, but it also is better for your health and the environment! The Sierra Club estimates that if the average household replaced their gas furnace and gas water heater with electric heat pumps, they would reduce their emissions caused by heating by more than 45 percent over the next decade. 

Electrify Your Office Kitchen. Does your business have a gas stove in the staff kitchen? Consider replacing it with an induction one. Induction cooking is more efficient than cooking with gas (3 times more efficient) and is better for indoor air quality and the health of your employees. 

Electrify Your Building. Now is a great time to install solar at your business to save money on your electric bill. Take advantage of the Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) while it is still available (it will disappear after 2025!). Currently, it is a 26% tax credit for purchased solar systems installed prior to December 31st, 2022. Check out the U.S. Department of Energy’s Guide to the Federal Investment Tax Credit for Commercial Solar Photovoltaics to learn more. You also may want to consider conducting an energy audit for your business. Energy Star estimates that annually in the United States, small businesses spend upwards of $60 billion on energy costs. Avoid whopping unnecessary costs by making sure things are operating as efficiently as possible.

Electrify Your Choices. Look into your local jurisdiction’s options for greener power and if offered, sign up for 100% renewable energy. Consider switching to your local Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), if available. Want to learn more about what a CCA is? Find more general information on the Environmental Protection Agency’s page on Community Choice Aggregation here. 

Electrify Your Network. By doing business with other energy-conscious businesses, the environmental benefits can grow exponentially beyond your business’s footprint (e.g., find suppliers with an EV fleet, landscapers that use all-electric/battery-operated power tools, etc.). Start by supporting other Green Businesses near you, find them on the new directory at search.greenbusinessca.org.

Single-use Plastic Reduction

Single-use Plastic

Plastic-free July is almost over, but we want to encourage you to keep the spirit alive all year! The switch from single-use plastics to reusable items not only saves you money but also shows your employees and patrons that you share a commitment to the environment. A recent “Attitudes towards single-use plastic” IPSOS poll, which reached more than 20,000 people in 28 different countries, showed that 82% of people preferred items and packaging with less plastic content. With consumer trends continuing to lean towards eliminating single-use plastic, there has never been a better time to make more eco-friendly choices for your business. Here are some tips and tricks for your business to reduce plastic waste: 

  • Find alternatives to plastic products that work for your business without sacrificing quality. Part of making plastic-free product changes is determining what works best for your business’s needs. For example, we all know the negative impacts that plastic straws have on the environment, but some paper alternatives fall apart quite easily, aggravating your customers. Fortunately, alternatives to plastic are evolving rapidly and compostable, biodegradable straws are now available that have structures similar to plastic straws without the waste. We recommend that you switch to BPI Certified alternatives to plastic straws and other foodware items. Your customers will love the switch!

  • Rethink packaging. Although we require our businesses to eliminate styrofoam altogether and reduce plastics as much as possible when shipping to customers or receiving from a supplier, your business can go above and beyond with innovative packaging. Plastic-free packaging options made from compostable and biodegradable materials such as recycled paper pulp are readily available from many manufacturers throughout the nation. Additional alternatives are also increasingly available, like the new packaging technology from Ecovative Design, that is creating an incredible alternative to plastic-based foam made from mushroom tissue. Many of these options are only available when ordered in large quantities, however, but there are many items available that are more appropriate for small businesses. Check out the Sustainable Packaging Guide for Small Businesses to find lots of packaging options available to purchase in small quantities. 

  • Reduce plastic liners. You can eliminate plastic liners in trash and recycling bins at employee desks and workstations by implementing a company policy to only allow food contaminated waste and recycling to be disposed of in designated areas in breakrooms, kitchens, and cafeterias. If your business must use liners in all bins, make sure to select the best option for your needs. Grainger has a great piece that provides data on plastic reduction by selecting the right liner. You can save 20% or more on costs by selecting the correct liner size for the bins you have, and reducing plastic by electing a lower gauge (thickness of bag). You can further reduce plastic waste by leaving unsoiled liners in bins for reuse. Simply consolidate waste in a larger container when collected, allowing liners to be reused multiple times. Final tip: Get liners made with recycled content plastic!

  • Reassess your waste stream. All Green Businesses complete a waste audit during certification or recertification to assess waste generated by the business in order to streamline operations. If your business has grown or changed, and you are in-between certification cycles, consider reassessing your waste stream by conducting another waste audit. Checking in on your business operations annually can help ensure your business is as efficient as possible as you grow, which will ultimately save you money. 

  • Make reusables easily accessible. Your business may already be reducing plastic waste by providing your employees with reusable dishware in the breakroom, but there’s more you can provide to encourage your employees to reduce the use of single-use plastic. By purchasing reusable to-go ware and making it available for your employees to take to restaurants to package up their leftovers, you will reduce the amount of single-use plastic being brought back to your business for disposal. Be sure to purchase containers that can be easily washed in a dishwasher or by hand, such as reusable plastic clam shells, containers made of glass, or metal (like tiffin tins).

  • Ecofriendly drinks. For water, install filtered water refill stations to reduce single-use plastic water bottles in the workplace (and avoid providing plastic bottled beverages). Make sure to have reusable cups at the stations rather than disposables. For coffee/tea, provide reusable mugs and utensils instead of disposable cups and single-use stirrers.