Going green isn’t just a trend. Sure, switching to more sustainable business practices helps the environment, but it can also help your business. Making the switch can save you money on your bills and other expenses, and it’s also important to consumers.
In fact, 84% of consumers in a recent poll said they look for products that are ethical, if possible, and 93% will have a better image of a company that supports environmental and other ethical causes.
Going green isn’t just a responsible thing to do. It makes good business sense, too. So, how do you do it? Here are six ways you can work on your green efforts:
1. Determine How Green (or Ungreen) You Are
To know what you need to change, you need to know your green strengths and weaknesses.
An energy audit will show you what changes and repairs to make to create a space that’s more energy efficient. Many states will even do an audit for free. A quick Internet search for ‘free energy audit’ and the name of your state will get you started. Energy Star from the EPA also offers tools that can help you assess your energy and water use.
2. Use Greener Paper or Less Paper
You don’t have to change the actual color of the paper you use, of course, but you could certainly find something greener. Look for paper made from recycled material. Paper made from recycled pre-consumer waste and post-consumer waste are both great, but post-consumer does the most good for the environment. So, look for paper with as high a percentage of recycled content as possible, especially post-consumer waste.
An even greener option than post-consumer recycled paper is no paper. As often as possible, use digital instead of paper for office communications, employee manuals and other materials. Going digital will not only save you money on paper purchases, but your documents will be easier to distribute and edit.
3. Recycle More Than Just Paper
You’d be surprised what you can recycle and what recycled products you can find with a little research and creativity. There are companies that recycle bulk bags, electronics, construction waste, ink and toner cartridges and much more.
When shopping for items such as furniture and appliances, considering pre-owned goods provides another great option for saving money and helping the environment.
4. Power Down and Unplug
Instead of using a screensaver, set your computer screen to turn off when not used for a period of time. When employees leave for the night, have them shut down and unplug their computers and other devices. Turning off devices saves energy, but they still draw power if they remain plugged into the wall — power that goes completely to waste.
It may be helpful to institute a policy that encourages these energy-saving actions. They’ll help you go green and cut your company’s spending on bills, so why not give them a shot?
5. Add Efficient Lighting
Almost 40% of energy used at American businesses goes toward electric lighting. Cutting down on this expense can significantly impact your bottom line and the planet.
Whenever possible, use natural light instead of artificial. Open windows and blinds to let in sunlight. Painting walls with light colors and glossy finishes will make this natural light more effective.
Additionally, consider enacting a no-waste policy when it comes to lighting. Turn off lights when they’re not in use or install a motion sensor that will shut them off automatically.
When you do need to use artificial light, use compact-fluorescent (CFL) and LED light bulbs. They cost more up front, but over time, they will save you money since they use less energy.
6. Try Green Transportation
Employees have plenty of options when it comes to greener travel. Biking, walking and taking public transportation will all help reduce the environmental impact of your employees’ commutes. Consider setting up a company carpool system, and offering telecommuting options can eliminate the impact of travel all together.
Encourage these alternative modes of transportation by implementing a rewards program for employees who use green transportation or make it into a fun event by starting a “green transportation day.”
You can also try to have as many virtual meetings as possible through phone or online video chats to eliminate the need for extra travel during the workday or business trips. If travel for a meeting or trip is necessary, encourage using more environmentally-friendly transportation.
7. Make Some Upgrades
Although many upgrades require more money up front, they also pay off in the long run and are increasingly better for the environment. Many of these upgrades are also eligible for tax benefits. If you consider that air leaks in air ducts can raise usage costs by over 50% and that energy savings on a new fridge pay it off in three years, upgrades are definitely something to think about at the office.
It Doesn’t Take Much to Make an Impact
Businesses have plenty of choices when it comes to going green. The more you do, the greater impact you’ll have, but even doing just one thing on this list will improve your sustainability and help the planet.
When many businesses and people start making small changes, it adds to a big change — plus, it’ll save you a little change, too.