Q: Steve – I would like to make our business greener, but especially in this economy, I can’t do it if it is going to cost us money. It is, isn’t it?
A: I know you will be happy when I say, no, it isn’t. In fact, not only should “Going Green” not entail any major expense, it can actually save your small business money. After all, the whole idea is to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
There are any number of small steps any small businesses can take to help reduce their carbon footprint. Here are some of my favorites:
Change your light bulbs. By simply replacing your standard bulbs with compact fluorescent (CF) bulbs (the squiggly ones), you can reduce your power bill significantly. Added bonus: The new bulbs also provide better color and flicker less.
Use Energy Star equipment. Energy Star certification means that the appliance or product you are buying and using is green, highly energy efficient, and can save you money.
Choose an all-in-one printer. By using an all-in-one printer that offers two-sided printing (also called duplex printing) you can easily and immediately reduce your paper consumption, and costs, in half.
For example, Brother (a company I have done some work with) has a cool printer (the MFC-9840) that automatically allows you to print on both sides of the paper, is super fast, and is Energy Star-certified. I love that printer.
Use timers and motion sensors. Lights are often left on in conference rooms and other offices when they are not in use. By installing occupancy sensors, you will be assured that your office energy use will be efficient and not wasteful. It will save you money.
Similarly, electronic equipment like computers and monitors are usually not turned off when not in use. To remedy this, put a timer on that power strip.
Reuse and recycle. Boxes, packaging, paper, and office folders can easily be re-used. And, if you don’t reuse them, then at least have recycling bins handy so people can recycle them.
Buy recycled office supplies. Paper, pads, sticky notes, file folders, and even ink and toner cartridges can be purchased in recyclable versions, and often at the same price as similar “regular” items. Indeed, many recycled paper products are now roughly the same price as conventional paper due to increased demand and better production operations.
Use green power. Many local utilities offer customers renewable power from green sources such as wind farms. Often, there are local incentives for using such sustainable energy supplies, and the new stimulus law also includes federal tax incentives for alternative energy use. Similarly, there are all sorts of breaks for investing in green tools like solar panels.
As with many of these ideas, while in the short run these things may seem like an expense, over the long term, such changes don’t cost, they pay.
Let people know what you are doing. Lots of consumers are making purchasing choices these days based upon how green a company is. So be sure to make note of what you are doing, what changes you have instituted, and then be sure to get the word out to the local media and your customers. Many customers will reward your efforts with increased loyalty.
On this Earth Day, remember that going green is your classic win-win: Not only does it help the environment, but it also can significantly lower your operating expenses. Who would thunk that going green actually saves green?
One final idea: Be sure to get your employees involved. No doubt, many will have ideas of their own for how you can do even more in the greening of your business. Involving motivated employees will allow them to participate in a cause they believe in while also helping the planet, and your business.