The trend to “go green” has been leaving its footprint in countless industries. Small businesses that typically have limited resources to invest in things like renewable energy or environmental business consultants can still have a positive effect on the environment without making a huge investment of time or money. Here is a “how-to” for small businesses looking to give to the environment.Operating in the Green
Running and maintaining a green business depends on operating with good habits. These small changes can go a long way…
1. Reduce waste:
- Look for ways to reduce the use of paper in your business’ internal and external communications by, for example, setting your printer to automatically print double-sided, switching from a fax machine to a fax modem to send and receive paperless documents, using electronic forms whenever possible, and emailing letters and documents to be read online rather than printed out. Also make sure to review your company’s mailing lists.
- Recycle or refill the ink cartridges in your printer. Many stores, such as Office Max or Staples, will either recycle your old cartridges or refill them.
- Provide washable china and utensils for your employees so they do not have to use plasticware or styrofoam cups. Encourage your employees to bring lunch from home in reusable containers or frequent restaurants that offer green packaging.
2. Conserve resources:
- Whenever you purchase new office equipment, such as printers, scanners, fax machines, and telephones, be sure it is Energy Star rated.
- Set computers on “standby” or in “hibernation” mode when they have not been accessed for more than 10 minutes.
- Acquire a laptop computer as opposed to a new desktop to cut your energy usage up to 80%.
- Plug all office equipment into power strips that can be turned off at night. Most computers and office machines draw a “phantom load” of electricity even when they are turned off.
- Use motion sensors and time switches to turn the lights on and off in offices and restrooms.
- Use programmable thermostats and time switches to regulate the heat and air conditioning in your office.
- Save on water with faucets that automatically shut off as well as water conserving toilets.
- Make use of as much daylight as you can. Where natural lighting is not adequate, change your old fluorescent light fixtures to new T-8s with energy efficient ballasts. Change all other incandescent light fixtures to CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs) or LEDs (light emitting diodes).
3. Dispose of waste responsibly. Establish a recycling program in your business. Set up bins to collect scrap paper for reuse. Recycle aluminum cans, glass, cardboard, office paper and newsprint. Make sure to also dispose of your old equipment responsibly. You could bring these items to an E-Waste facility or take advantage of manufacturer take-back programs.
4. Use eco-friendly supplies. Purchase products that will make little enviromental impact, such as non-toxic cleaning materials, post-consumer recycled paper and biodegradable plates, cups and utensils.
Cultivating Your Corporate Culture
In order to successfully run a green business, you need your employees’ active participation and commitment.
1. Develop an environmental policy. Create a policy that clearly outlines your business’ environmental goals and objectives, and make sure to go over this policy with your employees.
2. Form a Green Team. Bring together a group of employees from different areas of your business who will be responsible for evaluating and identifying environmental projects and promoting these projects to the rest of your employees.
3. Encourage continual education. Provide employees with the opportunity to attend environmentally focused events and to be a part of networks, such as Young Environmental Professionals, where they can learn about green workplace initiatives and develop connections among other business professionals and green leaders.
4. Create a space for employees to share ideas. Set up a company-wide listserve, or provide suggestion boxes, so that employees can voice their ideas and opinions on enviromental projects.
5. Recognize employee contribution. Make sure to establish a system for reward and recognition among those employees who participate in your environmental initiatives and offer helpful suggestions
Creating Green Space
Your physical surroundings can create a positive effect on the environment… and your mood.
1. Bring in plants and small trees. Adding foliage, such as spider plants, English Ivy, Warneki, and Ficus, to your workplace brings beauty while simultaneously improving the indoor air quality.
2. Harvest the sun. Where possible, configure your workspace so that the greatest number of people have access to daylight. You can do this be relocating private space to the interior and designating the space next to the windows as common areas.
3. Get LEED certification. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is designed to promote operations and maintenance protocols that reduce energy consumption and water usage, and improves the indoor environment. LEED certification also gives third-party recognition that sustainable results have been achieved.
According to the US Bureau of Travel Statistics, Americans make an estimated 405 million long-distance business trips each year. Fortunately, there are several ways to minimize the environment impact of doing business on the road.
1. Seek alternative means of transportation. Encourage employees to take the train or bus to work. If public transportation does not reach your business, then create a ride-share board so employees can carpool.
2. Allow for flextime. One way to save energy while keeping your employees happy is to be flexible with the hours employees come in to work. For example, by switching from an eight hours, five days a week to 10 hours, four days a week, commuting gets reduced 20%.
3.Use hybrids and biodiesal. If your business requires a fleet of vehicles, such as delivery trucks, vans or company cars, then purchase hybrids or use biodiesel instead of regular gasoline.
4. Encourage telecommuting and teleconferencing. Choose remote meeting methods and allow where possible for work to be done at home.
5. Frequent green businesses. Seek out and research green hotels, green restaurants (avoid take out and fast food packaging) green car rental agencies, and airlines that have economically friendly business practices that mitigate the environmental impact of traveling.
Check out Rachel Walker’s response to this article.