“Going green” is more than a passing fad. It’s a new way of life—a veritable green revolution—and businesses and consumers alike are jumping on board the green business train.
Now, you’re as earth-conscious as the next person, but as a small business owner, you just don’t have the funds yet to make the “green business” leap. Right?
In fact, thinking about adopting a green business model in terms of “making a leap” is a fallacy. Sure, there are steps you can take that do require upfront investment, if you’ve been bitten hard by the green business bug and you’re up to the challenge—but there are smaller steps, steps that you could implement this very afternoon, that can reduce your small business’s carbon footprint while simultaneously improving your bottom line.
Don’t believe me? Try implementing one, two, or even all three of the steps below today. Keep an eye on your shrinking electric bill, and just try not to do a happy dance in your office as you watch your expenses shrink!
You can thank me later.
1. Take a look at your waste.
Even in 2012, it’s not unusual to find company offices that use styrofoam coffee cups, plastic silverware, and paper towels, which can add up to some serious waste.
How to cut down?
But the kitchen isn’t the only place that could benefit from a commitment to reducing waste—how’s your packing department?
Using green packing supplies that are biodegradable and made of post-consumer recycled products (rather than those ubiquitous styrofoam packing peanuts—which contain toxins that are horrible for the earth, not to mention being annoying to deal with as a recipient) does a few things. Obviously, it reduces the amount of toxic chemicals from styrofoam you’d otherwise be throwing out somewhere. But when you take steps to reduce your carbon footprint and energy consumption, you’re allowed to brag a little.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you’re aware that going green is a hot trend with consumers. People are paying more attention to what they’re putting into their bodies, cars, and homes, where the raw materials are coming from, and what they’re giving off into the environment than ever before. And there are consumers out there (myself included) who will not place a second order at a company that sent the last item in a too-large box filled with
toxic chemicals styrofoam.
2. Encourage working from home.
I used to live 9.3 miles from my office. Not the longest commute in the world, but consider how it can add up: for a typical 40-hour-a-week job, that’s a total of 93 miles per week.
But I don’t drive 93 miles per week for my job. By working from home part of the week and ultimately moving closer to my job, I’m now spending gas on my commute for only about 17 miles every week. Savings for me, savings for my carbon emissions—and (I know you were waiting for this) savings for my employer, who enjoys lower costs because it doesn’t have to pay for my computer and lights to be on all day when I’m not there.
Of course, not all forms of employment lend themselves well to working from home: construction, for instance, or any other sort of hands-on group-effort kind of job. And not all employers are completely comfortable with giving their employees free reign to control their own work environment. What if they slack off? What if they aren’t working when they’re supposed to?
Here’s a better question: do you think that you’re the type of person who wouldn’t notice if your employees sat at home doing nothing but watching Star Wars all day? Wouldn’t their output drop dramatically? And . . . aren’t you in a position to do something about that if it does happen?
If it’s that difficult to trust your employees, it sounds like you could either use more trust, or more trustworthy employees. I’m writing this in my home office right now, and I’m publishing it on time—without anyone but my dog looking over my shoulder.
3. Turn things off when they aren’t being used.
Until renewable energy is cost-effective for everyone, there’s a simple way you can reduce your company’s power consumption and lower costs—turn lights, computers, and other unnecessary items off before you use them.
And you can forget everything you’ve ever heard about leaving your computer on at night because it uses more power booting it up than it does just leaving it on. Computers these days use vastly less energy than those big hulky CRT monitors of the past (Wait—you mean you’re still using one of those? Get with the program!), and that’s no longer a valid excuse for leaving your appliances and electronics running unused for long periods of time.
And if you’re still not convinced, ask yourself this—Why do you think your mother always used to nag you about turning the lights off if you weren’t using them? She knew what many small business owners tend to forget: energy costs money.
Of course, despite how easy it is to start making a difference, for some people, saving money on energy consumption isn’t enough. For some business owners, the main question is: Why should I care enough to change?
This is, of course, a valid point. You started a business to make money, not to change the world.
But the thing is, going green is compatible with your financial goals. In fact, there are many financial incentives in the form of government kickbacks. Some green initiatives do require an investment upfront (solar panels, for example), but these are things that do pay for themselves a few years down the line, and with greater efficiency than ever before. Additionally, since more and more consumers are turning into advocates of clean energy and reduced waste, you can’t afford not to pay attention, or you’ll be left in the dust.
And you know what? As it turns out, a business can make money and change the world. Isn’t that lovely?
Tell us what your business has done to reduce its impact on the environment. Has the investment saved you ongoing costs?