Save money and the Earth with the 3 Rs

The bad news is that we’re living on borrowed time. The good news is we can do something about it

SUSTAINABLE development – a phrase often used and defined as “Development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of future generations.” We prefer another definition which says it means “To keep alive”. This seems to really underline the importance of taking action individually, as a society and together as one planet.

According to the WWF, if everyone in the world lived like we do in the UK, we’d need far more than one planet to support us. Almost three Earths, in fact. It’s a way of life that’s threatening the future of our natural environment, as well as millions of people around the world.

The Norfolk and Suffolk Chambers of Commerce organised a conference recently in Norwich entitled Sustainability 2010. The event was billed by John Dugmore, chief executive of the Suffolk Chamber, as “An opportunity for local businesses to showcase their talent and reinforce the fact that local suppliers, given the opportunity, have the ability to meet the demands of an ever-changing economy by delivering world class products and services.”

Lisa Li, commercial director of the Norfolk Chamber, said: “The overwhelming response to our Sustainability 2010 conference and exhibition in partnership with the Suffolk Chamber, held in May this year, proved to us that the private sector is recognising the fiscal benefits of sustainable business.

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“The objective of this event was to identify business opportunities in the sustainable supply chain – to hear from companies making profit, producing cost savings and showing real innovation in the sustainable field. The event played host to over 300 participants. We heard topical and compelling presentations from leading corporations and companies including EDF Energy, WSP Group, Marks & Spencer, Kinnerton Confectionery, May Gurney and Aviva, amongst others. It was rewarding to see so many large corporations coming to the East to support this event and share their best practices with local companies.”

Rory Sanderson, from the Environment Agency, was one of the speakers at the conference and gave a presentation on “Working together to use resources wisely”. Rory studied at Leicester University and attained a degree in Biological Sciences, MSc in Natural Resource Management and PhD in Freshwater Ecology.

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He has been in his current role as environment management team leader for north Norfolk for the past five years. Rory said: “Our team is in a good position to provide advice to businesses and promote sustainable development whilst safeguarding the environment.”

At the conference, Rory explained: “The Environment Agency’s role is not only dealing with river and tidal flood risk management but helping some of the larger industries to limit their impact and adapt to climate change. They can do this by reducing their emissions, which account for around 40% of the UK’s total greenhouse gases.”

We live in one of the driest areas of the country. Water is a precious resource. We need to ensure that we balance the needs of people with the needs of the environment. To do this we must ensure that the amount of water taken from our rivers and groundwater for industry and domestic use is sustainable.

The Environment Agency has a huge role to play in licensing water abstractions from rivers and underground sources. This can be tricky, especially where the water is not of the right quality. Protecting our waters from pollution is therefore another key duty for us. Business can help in these respects by using as little water as they can and also by ensuring that their activities don’t pose a pollution risk.

So what are the benefits to businesses of operating in a sustainable way?

Reducing energy can save you money.

Reducing raw materials can cut your costs, minimise your waste and lower your waste disposal bill.

Reducing water can lower your water bill and cut your waste water disposal bill.

Recycling materials could make you money and save on disposal costs.

Preventing environmental damage will save you having to carry out expensive remedial work.

How can the Environment Agency help businesses with all this? They can provide advice and support on:

Pollution prevention.

Waste management.

Producer responsibility.

Resource efficiency.

Emergency plans.

Rory said: “We have a website – – which is specifically aimed at helping businesses know what environmental regulations apply to their business. The website allows you to search by business type, environmental topic or legislation.”

“You can sign up for email news alerts, which will give the latest updates to environmental regulations and what steps your business needs to take to comply. You can also download checklists, data sheets and a free guide on how to set up a Site Waste Management Plan.”

Pollution is a hot topic that can put people and the environment at risk. Prevention is always better than cure and the Environment Agency has produced a 10-point checklist entitled Is your site right? (just put this into the search box) to help make what could be a daunting job into a fairly simple one of walking round and checking through the 10 points. If you find a problem, the Netregs website produces good practical guidance to help put it right.

Waste management is another huge issue that can be a minefield for businesses as it is such a highly regulated activity. The rules don’t just apply to large companies; even small businesses have to comply with at least one rule – the waste Duty of Care. In a nutshell, you need to ensure that you keep your waste safe until you hand it to a registered person. You can check if the person who takes your waste away is registered on our website:

By following the three Rs – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle – as much as possible, you can not only save yourself money but help save the planet for the next generation.

So why not log on to to check up, wise up and clean up?

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