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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.

 

Environment

How Home Automation Can Help You Go Green

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home automation to go green

The holidays are an exciting, nostalgic time: the crispness in the air, the crunch of snow under your boot, the display of ornate holiday lighting up your home like a beacon to outer space, and the sound of Santa’s bell at your local Walmart.

Oh, yeah—and your enormous electric bill.

Extra lights and heating can make for some unexpected budgeting problems, and they also cause your home to emit higher levels of CO2 and other pollutants.

So, it’s not just your wallet that’s hurting—the planet is hurting as well.

You can take the usual steps to save energy and be more eco-conscious as you go about your normal winter routine (e.g., keeping cooler temperatures in the home, keeping lights off in naturally lit rooms, etc.), but these methods can often be exhausting and ultimately ineffective.

So what can you actually do to create a greener home?

Turn to tech.

Technology is making waves in conservation efforts. AI and home automation have grown in popularity over the last couple of years, not only because of their cost saving benefits but also because of their ability to improve a home’s overall energy efficiency.

Use the following guide to identify your home’s inefficiencies and find a solution to your energy woes.

Monitor Your Energy Usage

Many people don’t understand how their homes use energy, so they struggle with conservation. Start by looking at your monthly utility bills. They can show you how much energy your home typically uses and what systems cost you the most.

monitor energy usage

Licensed from Shutterstock – By Piotr Adamowicz

The usual culprits for high costs and energy waste tend to be the water heater and heating and cooling system. Other factors could also impact your home’s efficiency. Your home’s insulation, for example, could be a huge source of wasted heating and cooling—especially if the insulation hasn’t been inspected or replaced in years. You should also check your windows and doors for proper weatherproofing every year.

However, waiting for your monthly bill or checking out your home’s construction issues are time-consuming steps, and they don’t help you immediately understand and tackle the problem. Instead, opt for an easier solution. Some homeowners, for example, use a smart energy monitor such as Sense to track energy use in real time and identify energy hogs.

Use Smart Plugs

Computers, televisions, and lights still consume energy if they’re left on and unused. Computers offer easy cost savings with their built-in timers that allow the devices to use less energy—they typically turn off after a set number of minutes. Televisions sometimes provide the same benefit, although you may have to fiddle with the settings to activate this feature.

A better option—and one that thwarts both the television and the lights—is purchasing smart plugs. The average US home uses more than 900 kilowatts of electricity per month. That can really add up, especially when you realize that people are wasting more than $19 billion every year on household appliances that are always plugged in. Smart plugs like WeMo can help eliminate wasted electricity by letting you control plugged-in items from your smartphone.

Update Your Lighting

Incandescent lightbulbs can consume and waste a lot of energy—35% of CO2 emissions are generated from electric power plants. This can have serious consequences for increased global warming.

To reduce your impact on the environment, you can install more efficient lightbulbs to offset your energy usage. However, many homeowners choose smart lights, like the Philips Hue bulbs, to save money and make their homes more energy efficient.

Smart lights can be controlled from your smartphone, and many smart light options come with monthly energy reporting so you can continue to find ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

Take Control of the Thermostat

Homeowners often leave the thermostat on its default settings, but defaults often result in heating and cooling systems that run longer and harder than they need to.

In fact, almost half the average residential energy use comes from energy-demanding heating and cooling systems. As an alternative to fiddling with outdated systems, eco-conscious homeowners use smart thermostats to save at least 10% on heating and roughly 15% on cooling per year.

Change your home’s story by employing a smart thermostat such as the Nest, ecobee3, or Honeywell Lyric. Smart thermostats automatically adjust your in-home temperature by accounting for a variety of factors, including outdoor humidity and precipitation. A lot of smart thermostats will also adjust your home’s temperature depending on the time of day and whether you’re home.

Stop Wasting Water

The average American household uses about 320 gallons of water per day. About one-third of that goes to maintaining their yards. Using a smart irrigation systems to improve your water usage can save your home up to 8,800 gallons of water per year.

Smart irrigation systems use AI to sync with local weather predictions, which can be really helpful if you have a garden or fruit trees that you use your irrigation system for  water. Smart features help keep your garden and landscaping healthy by making sure you never overwater your plants or deprive them of adequate moisture.

If you’re looking to make your home greener, AI-enabled products could make the transition much easier. Has a favorite tool you use that wasn’t mentioned here? Share in the comments below.

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Environment

Working From Home And How It Reduces Emissions

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Many businesses are changing their operating model to allow their employees to work from home. Aside from the personal convenience and business benefits, working from home is also great for the environment. According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, if employees with the desire to work from home and compatible jobs that allowed for this were allowed to do so only half the time, the reduction in emissions would be the equivalent of eliminating automobile emissions from the workforce of the entire state of New York. Considering the stakes here, it is vital that we understand how exactly working from home helps us go green and how this can be applied.

Reduction of automobile emissions

Statistics by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that the transportation sector is responsible for about 14% of the total Global Emissions of greenhouse gases, which is a very significant percentage. If employees work from home, then the need to travel to and from their workplace every other day as well as other business trips are reduced considerably. While this may not eliminate the emissions from the transport sector altogether, it reduces the percentage. As indicated in the example above, a move to work from home by more businesses and industries cuts down automobile emissions to as much as those from an entire state.

Reduction of energy production and consumption

According to Eurostat, electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning accounted for as high as 26% of the Greenhouse gas emissions from the EU in 2014. EPA stats are also close at 25% of the total emissions. This makes energy production the single largest source of emissions. Working from home eliminates the need for large office spaces, which in turn reduces the need for electricity and heating. Similarly, the need for electrical office equipment and supplies, such as printers and computers, is also greatly reduced, which reduces the emissions from energy production in offices. Additionally, most households are now adopting green methods of energy production and implementing better ways of energy usage. The use of smart energy-efficient appliances also goes a long way in reducing the energy production and consumption levels from households. This, in turn, cuts down emissions from energy production from both the home and office fronts.

Reduced need for paper

Paper is also a huge source of emissions, considering that it is a carbon-based product. EPA stats show that carbon (IV) oxide from fossil fuel and industrial processes accounts for 65% of the total greenhouse gas emissions. Working from home is usually an internet-based operation, which means less paper and more cloud-based services. When everything is communicated electronically, the need for office paper is reduced considerably. Moreover, the cutting down of trees for the sake of paper production reduces. All these outcomes help reduce the emissions and individual carbon footprints.

Effective recycling

While businesses make an effort to recycle it is not as effective as homeowners. Consider everything from the water you drink to office supplies and equipment. While working from home, you have greater control over your environment. This means that you can easily implement proper recycling procedures. However, at the office, that control over your personal space and environment is taken away and the effectiveness of recycling techniques is reduced. Working from home is, therefore, a great way to go green and increase the adoption of proper recycling.

Takeaway

Even though the statistics are in favor of working from home to reduce emissions, note that this is dependent on the reduction of emissions from home. If the households are not green, then the emissions are not reduced in the least. For instance, if instead of installing a VPN in the router to keep the home office safe, an employee buys a standalone server and air gaps it, the energy consumption is not reduced but increased. Therefore, it is necessary that employees working from home go green if there is to be any hope of using this method of operation to cut down on the emissions.

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