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6 Steps to Going Paperless as a Small Business

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papers By Sebastien Wiertz via Flickr

Paper has been an integral part of the typical office environment for decades, helping to spawn terminology like “paperwork” and “paper pusher.” But paper comes with a cost. In addition to costing a company money, paper has a significant environmental impact, contributing to deforestation as well as pollution in air, water, and excessive waste. As a result, many companies are considering going paperless to improve their environmental impact and reduce total costs. Unfortunately, many business owners simply don’t know how to do it.

The False Promise of “Paperless”

The idea of “going paperless” is appealing to most businesses, but the terminology may be contributing to some false hopes. It’s almost impossible to go completely paperless; you’ll still need to mail the occasional form, print the occasional notice, or use sticky notes in the office. Still, there are steps you can take to significantly reduce the paper consumption in your office, and every step you take is valuable.

Steps to Follow

Even simple steps can bear a massive impact on your bottom-line paper consumption, so make sure you implement these strategies as part of your new paperless vision:

1. Get everyone on your team sufficient technology. Your first step is making sure everyone has the technology they need to do their jobs efficiently without paper. For starters, make sure everyone has at least one fully functioning device that allows them to take notes and send communications. Most businesses already take this step, but you’ll also need to make sure you have the technical systems and processes in place to allow for paperless interactions to happen smoothly.

2. Use cloud-based apps. Consider transitioning your business to use more cloud-based applications. These systems store your information in a central location, allowing you to sync all your company information between devices and between employees. This mutually accessible model, available everywhere and to everyone, reduces the need for physical copies of information. As an added bonus, your data will be safer, and you might even end up paying less for these services.

3. Reorganize your filing systems. Most paper ends up getting filed somewhere; you’ll keep the personal records of your employees, contracts with clients, invoices, and everything in between. Take a close look at your current filing systems and figure out what stages of the process can be replaced—or even eliminated altogether. For example, you might start getting your contracts signed and submitted online, or you might initiate an overhaul to your employee onboarding process that reduces the demand for paper filing.

4. Ask for digital payments. Your next step is to start asking for payments digitally whenever possible. Older institutions, especially bureaucratic and traditional ones, often favor old styles of payment, such as check by mail and faxed invoices. It may be difficult to persuade these types of businesses to adopt a newer model of payment, but it’s worth the effort. Digital payments aren’t just cheaper and better for the environment—they’re less of a hassle to deal with, too.

5. Send all-digital communications. Next, you’ll want to adapt your company to send only digital communications. Your internal team will probably be on board with this immediately, relying on emails, instant messages, and phone-based communications to get in touch with one another. But don’t forget about other forms of communication that involve paper, such as mailing out invoices, posting memos and notes throughout the office, or leveraging direct mail campaigns to reach your customers. Strive to eliminate these forms of communication and replace them with a digital equivalent.

6. Use paper responsibly. We already mentioned the fact that going paperless often isn’t “truly” paperless. You’ll still need to use paper from time to time. When you do, use paper responsibly. Only use the minimum amount of paper you need to accomplish your task, purchase recycled paper when you can, and recycle your paper when you’re done with it to complete the cycle.

If you follow these steps, you’ll be able to shrink your paper consumption to almost nothing, saving your business thousands of dollars a year and doing your part to keep our environment cleaner. It doesn’t have to happen all at once, so don’t try to make these changes overnight. Instead, keep them as long-term goals, and work toward them as a team. Getting your employees on board will help you remain accountable and successfully meet your paperless goals.

 

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Environment

Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family

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Greenest Vehicle
Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/maschatace

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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