Celebrate Earth Day everyday at your small business
In honor of Earth Day this post points out why and how every small business owner can begin the process of going green. It is important to note that everyday is Earth Day and business owners should embrace the green movement and practice sustainable living daily, not just for special occasions or marketing opportunities. A small business that goes green; pledges to take an active role in reducing their carbon foot print and saving the environment, saves a significant amount of money from implementing green practices, has the opportunity to receive tax credits, and provides a competitive advantage for the business. To begin your green transition partner with a professional energy auditor that is equipped with the tools and more importantly the knowledge to help a small business owner save money and reduce energy that is currently being wasted. Once your small business has been audited be sure to sit down with your auditor to create a solid sustainability plan that your small business can adhere to.
There are several things that a small business owner can begin implementing on their own before their appointment with the energy auditor, try some of the following:
- Hire local vendors and shop local for products and supplies. Opting to purchase products that are made locally supports sustainable businesses within a community. There are many reasons that shopping local helps to save the environment including; reduced fuel expenses and local businesses generate more income, jobs, and tax receipts for their local communities.
- Switch over to a virtual office. Using a virtual office eliminates excessive office usage. With a virtual office there is no excessive electricity usage, paper wasted, or gas expenses.
- Upgrade business card from paper to digital. No need to print expensive business cards that may end up in the garbage or collecting dust in a pile somewhere. Save paper and appear to be in with the trends with an e-business card. I recommend SavvyCards because it’s free, available on mobile devices as well as on the computer via your own URL, you can save other savvy cards, and so much more!
- Cutback on paper use. There is a lot of paper wasted in the traditional office space. To reduce the amount of paper wasted in your office consider the following strategies. Receive faxes via email. Consider using a free fax service such as www.k7.net or a subscription online fax service like Nextiva for as low as $4.95 a month. Send out appointment reminders and coupons via mobile instead of paper. All-in-one marketing company Trumpia offers web based software that incorporates all popular marketing channels (mobile text, email, voice broadcasting, instant messaging and social media), save paper and reach customers via mobile or their social networks. Reduce printing with the assistance of services similar to GreenPrint, which provides software solutions to eliminate the unnecessary costs associated with enterprise and individual printing activities. Print on both sides of the paper when possible. Reduce the amount of signed contracts laying around your office and get electronic signatures which are also faster. Pay employees via direct deposit only. PayItGreen has a direct deposit financial paper footprint calculator which allows small business owners to calculate how much of the impact their company can have on the environment by switching to direct deposit. Eliminate receiving junk mail, by signing up with Green Dimes, a company that is dedicated to educating the public about the threats of junk mail on the environment and putting a stop to it. Send and accept payments online as well as invoices. For customers that request a paper invoice charge them a fee, let them know the fee is included because you are a green business and you are trying to reduce the amount of paper that is wasted via your company. No more sticky pads, use Evernote, an organizational tool for notes, documents, pictures and more. With Evernote you can access notes from anywhere, share them via social media apps, and it’s free. There are some premium features as well.
- Turnoff computers and lights when no one is in the office. According to ENERGY STAR companies that leave their computers on pay between $88 - $144 a month; whereas businesses that turn their computers off every night pay between $24 - $40 a month saving an average of $64 - $104. Also turn the lights off when not in the office and consider switching to ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs light bulbs. They use 75% less energy than traditional incandescent light bulbs. One CFL light bulb cost $6 a year in electricity costs saving $40 or more over the lifetime of the bulb. Changing 5 - 10 light bulbs can result in a $200 - $400 savings.
- Have employees work from home either full time or part time. Rieva Lesonsky notes in a SmallBizTrends post that the President’s Council of Economic affairs released a report that the benefits of working of working remotely include, “Reducing absenteeism, lowering turnover, improving health of workers, and increasing productivity.” That same post notes a report done by The Telework Coalition, “Wired Working As a Lifestyle” finding that: (1) businesses save an average of $20,000 a year for each full-time employee who works remotely; (2) employee productivity increased by an average of 22 percent when remote working was allowed; and (3) remote working reduced employee turnover by 50 percent. In addition to saving the employer thousands of dollars each year and staying with their employer, remote workers reduce commuter gas expenses and/or applicable tolls and wasting time sitting in gridlock traffic being unproductive.
- Encourage employees to start a car sharing program. Offer incentives and rewards to employees that participate in carpooling or car sharing programs. Also look into car sharing programs like Zip Car that allows members to rent cars by the hour.
- Purchase hybrid vehicles. For company vehicles and fleets purchase hybrid vehicles they are better for the environment and on gas expenses. There are also tax incentives. Encourage employees to purchase a hybrid ultimately it will contribute to saving the environment as well as saving them some money. Consider rewarding employees that do purchase a hybrid vehicle and aligning themselves with your small businesses’ green mission.
- Clean with green products. Green products offer less chemicals and are better for both the office and the environment.
- Hire a green cleaning company. Support another green business and hire a cleaning company that has an environmental vision that is in alignment with your own.
- When it is time to upgrade equipment purchase only ENGERY STAR products. ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy helping everyone to save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.
- Convert to cloud computing. A Microsoft sponsored study has confirmed that, “computing is more efficient when it’s concentrated in the “cloud” at giant data centers,” and “The greatest energy and greenhouse reductions can be achieved by small businesses with fewer than 100 users.” The benefits of cloud computing includes a reduction on the environmental impact, reduced costs, and improved disaster recovery protection for documents.
- Hold virtual conferences and webinars. According to the Taiga Company, businesses that utilize virtual conferencing and webinars; conserve energy, preserving the environment, increased productivity (flexible scheduling and increased participation), reduced travel costs (airfare, hotels, meals), reduced carbon emissions, and improved work/ life balance.
- Start utilizing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. By utilizing a CRM system a small business can experience the following benefits: identifying needs more effectively by understanding specific customer requirements; effective targeted marketing communications aimed specifically at customer needs; increased value from your existing customers and reduced cost associated with supporting and servicing them, increasing your overall efficiency and reducing total cost of sales. I personally recommend Future Simple’s Base CRM, it’s free and easy.
- Ship products via EPA’s SmartWay Transport Partnership. The EPA has collaborated the freight industry to increase energy efficiency while significantly reducing greenhouse gases and air pollution.
- Use energy efficient power strips and and surge protectors. Surge protectors are available with a remote. It is recommended that surge protectors are unplugged daily because electronics draw energy from electrical outlets even when they are turned off.
- Upgrade desktop computers to laptops. When it is time to upgrade your desktop computers chose laptops, they consume a lot less energy than desktop computer According to National Geographic, “A laptop will give you annual computer-related energy savings of as much as 50 percent over a desktop. For additional savings, enable the sleep mode on your laptop after five minutes of inactivity. If you have a desktop computer with an old-cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor, consider replacing it with a liquid crystal display (LCD) screen. A 14-inch (35-centimeter) LCD monitor uses up to 75 percent less energy than a 14-inch CRT monitor.”
- Do business in a LEED certified building. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is an international council that provides building owners and operators with a foundation for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.
- Use recycled paper, envelopes, toilet paper, and paper towels. Companies such as Tree Cycle offer a number of recycled paper products.
- Stock office with reusable kitchenware including plates, glasses, and utensils. Even having a salt and pepper shaker as well as a sugar container and cream pourer helps to eliminate paper waste.
- When possible use paper clips more than staples because they are reusable.
- If you give bags out to your customers, opt to use branded reusable tote bags instead of paper or plastic. Offer a rewards program to customers that bring their bags in 5 visits in a row, pat them on the back for helping to save the environment with you.
- When possible buy used furniture and office fixtures.
- Once a month gather with staff clean up outside your office or within your local community. Having them volunteer their time is a great way to strengthen your office team morale while doing something great for the community, and perhaps even gaining some positive publicity along the way.
- Recycling plastic bags can help businesses save money while helping the environment for more information visit www.plasticbagrecycling.org.
- Donate old office equipment to local churches and nonprofit organizations.
- Properly dispose of computer parts because some of the materials contained within them could cause a lot of environmental damage if they are disposed of improperly.
- Have office suit drives and collect women’s and men’s suites from employees and customers for nonprofits like Dress for Success or CareerGear which promote economical independence and provide business attire and career development tools to help women and men thrive.
- Educate your staff about the green movement and get them involved. Large companies often have an person assigned to the handle sustainability. Get your staff involved by assigning a Green Team, appoint someone to be in charge of staying on top of green ideas and concepts, and further increasing the office’s green participation.
- Engage customers in your green efforts. Consider having an invitation-only product or service unveiling. Let your invited guest know that in order to attend the event they must bring old clothes, old cell phones, ink toner cartridges, etc. Your customers will appreciate your creative marketing techniques and be glad to support helping the environment.
- Connect with other green businesses to do business with as well as sharing ideas and green techniques that can further sustain your business as well as the community.
- Practice green marketing when and where appropriate. Don’t over do it or mislead anyone. Put the appropriate labels to the green organizations that you are associated with on your marketing materials and website, share your involvement with saving the planet with the world!
Going green is about wanting to help the environment while planning and being proactive with making conscious decisions to reduce one’s carbon footprint. Like most things in life going green is a process that should be taken in steps. If you can’t afford to turn your whole building green do the small things that you can while working your way up to some of the larger decisions. Have fun with it and remember it’s a lifestyle not a marketing gimmick.
Happy Earth Day 2012
What is your small business doing to participate in the green movement and move towards long-term sustainability? Leave your small biz diamonds in the comments section below.
Have a successful day!