Making your existing business eco-friendly can seem like a daunting task. However, like any large project, it can be made easier by compiling a checklist of smaller tasks you can complete as time and money allow. As you finish each task, you move closer to operating a sustainable business that not only benefits the planet, but your bottom line as well.
Here’s a list of five things you can do to make your business a sustainable business.
1. Become Energy Efficient
Since offices absolutely depend on power, maximizing energy efficiency is a great place to start implementing your sustainable business efforts.
Start by adjusting lighting to your actual needs:
- Use natural light when possible
- Install motion activated switch plate occupancy sensors in low traffic areas
- Don’t over-light your office; it causes eye strain, headaches, and costs more
Replace any incandescent light bulbs with either CFL or LED lighting.
Buy Energy Star equipment whenever possible and consider buying a laptops instead of desktops — they use less energy, resulting in long-term savings. Most importantly, turn off machines when they’re not in use! You can set your computers and printers to automatically switch to sleep mode, or have employees turn them off at the end of the day.
Heating and Air Conditioning
Carry out annual maintenance and tune-ups on your ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system. This includes regularly changing or cleaning the filters every month during peak heating and cooling seasons. Dirty filters overwork the equipment and lead to lower indoor air quality. Even brand new HVAC systems will decline in performance without regular maintenance. By keeping things in tip-top shape, you’ll save money, energy, and your system will last years longer.
2. Conserve Water
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, water used in office buildings accounts for approximately 9 percent of the total water use in commercial and institutional facilities in the U.S. If you’re wondering what’s responsible for all that water use, look no further than the restrooms, HVAC system, and landscaping.
Since water is one of our most precious natural resources, we need to conserve it wherever possible. You can cut down on water use in your office by:
- Repair leaking pipes, fixtures and seals
- Install water efficient fixtures such as toilets, urinals, sinks, and water heaters
- Adjust sprinklers so they are not spraying water on paved surfaces
- Landscape with water-wise landscaping principles
- Use native plants or other plants that require little water to thrive in your region
- Plant turf grass only in areas where people will use it actively for recreation
- Use a rain barrel to collect water for use in the landscape
3. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
The cost of goods and materials are rising, making it more important than ever to use resources efficiently and reduce your business’s waste. Anything that cannot be eliminated or reused can often be recycled.
Remember, collecting recyclable items is only the first step in recycling. You need to purchase products that are manufactured from recycled materials, recyclable, or packaged in recyclable materials. This creates a stable market for recycled items.
As for cutting down on waste, here are some simple ways to reduce the amount that your business produces.
- Keep mailing lists current
- Reuse manila envelopes
- Make scratch pads from used paper
- Use outdated letterhead for in-house memos
- Save documents on the cloud instead of making hard copies
- Use refurbished office equipment
- Invest in equipment that helps reduce waste, such as:
- high quality, durable, repairable equipment
- copiers that make two-sided copies
- dishwashing equipment (to cut down on paper & plastic waste)
- Use rechargeable batteries
- Recharge fax and printer cartridges
- Install reusable furnace and air conditioner filters
Organic & Food Waste
- Choose a landscape design that requires little maintenance and water
- Compost grass clippings and leaves
- Use a worm bin to convert food waste into high-quality potting soil
- Encourage employees to use reusable coffee mugs, plates, bowls, and flatware
4. Go Digital
Forty-five percent of paper printed in offices ends up trashed by the end of the day. And this daily lifespan transpires for over a trillion sheets of paper per year, worldwide. You can help reduce this waste by going digital.
As mentioned in the previous section, you can store documents on cloud based servers rather than print hard copies. This means you’ll never lose anything important due to fire or flood! Furthemore, almost all (formerly) paper-based documents can now be handled digitally. Proposals, contracts, invoices, timesheets, tax forms — all have digital counterparts.
There’s simply no excuse to continue wasting so much paper!
5. Commute Smarter
Last, but certainly not least, one of the easiest ways to have a positive impact on both your planet and wallet is to adjust your daily commute — and encourage your employees to do the same.
Avoid driving whenever possible. Use public transportation, bicycle, or walk to work. If there is no viable alternative to driving, set up a carpool. If possible, work from home and allow your employees to do the same. After all, the greenest commute is no commute at all.
By choosing any one of these alternatives, you’ll save money while greatly decreasing the size of your carbon footprint.
Be Proud of Your Efforts!
Take a little time to publicize your eco-friendly practices. Not only will many of your clients be impressed, you’ll also attract potential businesses and employees that will want to work with a green company.
While there will always be more you can do, the most important thing to do is anything at all. Even the tiniest of baby steps in the right direction is better than doing nothing at all. By implementing environmentally conscious practices in the normal day to day running of your office, you’ll be taking steps toward sustainability and planetary protection. And really, at the end of the day, what’s better that that?
For more information on eco-friendly business practices, see the following resources:
- Quest Resource Management Group
- How to Solar Power Your Business
- Advertising to Green and Eco-Friendly Companies
- One Company’s Journey to Zero Waste Platinum Certification
- How Do I Recycle?: Common Recyclables
Feature image credit: Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock