With advances in technology and understanding, it’s becoming easier and more cost-effective for businesses to “go green.” From adding recycling bins to your office, to reducing your carbon footprint, there are many simple ways you and your business can reduce their environmental impact.
Taking steps to green your business will not only help the environment; in many cases it reduces your costs over time while attracting customers and employees who support environmentally friendly businesses. Below are seven steps you can follow to go green:
1. Switch to Post-Consumer Waste (Paper, Paper Products and Packaging).
Ever wonder what happens to the paper and packaging we recycle? It gets made into post-consumer waste paper and packaging. Only PCW products are guaranteed to be made from recycled waste. Keep in mind that a simple recycle symbol is not necessarily an indication that they’re PCW.
PCW paper takes 45% less energy to make than regular paper. It conserves natural resources, and it supports the recycling economy so that businesses can continue lowering the cost of recycled products.
Note: If you can’t find 100% PCW paper, look for products that have a high percentage of PCW content. If you can only afford a small percentage, remember that some is better than none.
2. Use Compact Fluorescent (CFL) or LED Lighting.
You or the owner of your building may have already done this, but it’s a great way to help reduce your use of electricity. While CFL and LED light bulbs might initially have a heftier price tag, they will save you money over time, as they last significantly longer than incandescent bulbs. In some cost comparisons, the cost for 25 CFL bulbs is a quarter of the cost for the same number of incandescent ones. If you don’t like the “fluorescent” look associated with CFLs and LED lighting, check out this guide to more natural-looking fluorescent lighting.
3. Clean with Biodegradable Products.
By using cleaners with fewer toxins, you’ll not only reduce your exposure to these chemicals, but will reduce the introduction of these chemicals into the environment. Finding biodegradable or green cleaners is not nearly as difficult as it was a few years ago, and now most major stores sell them at a reasonable rate.
4. Encourage Company-Wide Conservation.
Make going green a company initiative. Remind employees of the easy ways they can contribute: by recycling any paper, refraining from printing out unnecessary emails or documents, turning in spent ink cartridges, recycling batteries properly and more. In addition, remind employees to turn off the lights when exiting a room and to power down devices when not in use, since computers drain a lot of energy even in sleep mode.
Some employers have even gone so far as to offer employees incentives for taking public transportation or carpooling, or by offering preferred parking if an employee drives an alternative-fuel vehicle or drives with co-workers.
5. Reduce Lighting Expenses.
Another way to reduce lighting and energy costs is to replace switches in your facility with motion-activated light meters. Lights will only turn on when motion is detected near the sensor and will shut off after a set amount of time when no motion is sensed. This takes the human element out of remembering to turn off the lights. Be sure you do not implement this in a room where people may sit motionless for long periods of time; this makes more sense in a more transient space, like a hallway.
6. Replace Old and/or Malfunctioning Equipment.
Not only do newer models typically work better, but they are often purposefully designed to consume fewer resources. Take a quick survey of different equipment in your office. The clunky copier, the outdated fax, the always-running fridge – all of these offer you a great opportunity to not only get a better model, but to positively impact the environment.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers grants in conjunction with the Department of Energy to help businesses looking to make these types of big changes. The Department of Energy offers additional information through its Energy Star site on the best types of products to use when trying to go green.
7. Don’t Waste Precious Water.
Over the course of a year, the amount of water lost through leaky faucets can total up to 34 gallons. Taking time to fix a faucet or stop a running toilet can lead to great water-conservation gains. Also, look for high-efficiency toilets that conserve water by using less every time it’s flushed.
There are many more ways you can green your business than just these seven listed above, but these are some of the easier first steps you can take to make an environmentally conscious choice. For further information or ideas, speak with your energy company, local or state government, or visit the Department of Energy website.