ByMadeleine Somerville

May 15, 2015

One of the most challenging aspects of making eco-friendly changes is just where on earth to start. There’s definitely no shortage of resources or products to help in this admirable ambition, but at times it can seem like an overwhelming amount of choice — where do you begin? Do you tackle your energy consumption? Your waste? Do you spend money on installing green technology or save money by consuming less?

And let’s say you own a small business — between marketing, advertising, payroll, merchandising, customer service and actually selling your product, you’re swamped. Undergoing a green overhaul that goes beyond buying LED light bulbs or recycling may seem a bit beyond your area of expertise — not to mention the time it can involve. You could always hire someone to do an energy audit of your business, but I’m guessing that’s a few hundred dollars that are needed on other budgets.

Real-World Application

So, what if you could find someone to do it for free? And what if inviting someone to do this magically free energy audit helped them, too, by providing work experience and allowing them to make positive change in their community? Sound too good to be true? Well, this mutually beneficial situation is precisely the idea behind the Green Impact Campaign, an initiative that pairs small business owners with student volunteers in order to help reduce their environmental impact.

Green Impact Campaign
Daniel Hill and Dave Hussey, founders of Green Impact Campaign. Photo: Green Impact Campaign

The brainchild of developers Daniel Hill and David Hussey, the Green Impact Campaign sprung from a history of environmentalism paired with intimate knowledge of the unique problems and opportunities faced by small business owners. Initially developed as a 20- to 30-hour certification workshop for volunteers in order to learn the skills to properly assess small businesses, Hill and Hussey quickly realized that the idea needed to be simpler, sleeker, and more accessible. So, the two rejiggered their vision to include a mobile-based app. Now, instead of training volunteers through a course, they could simply give them a quick half-hour intro to the app, and the technology would walk them through the rest.

What initially began as a small-scale project quickly grew to spread to 60-plus universities, with more than 200 small businesses saving an average of 20 percent after completing the assessment.

Image courtesy of Green Impact Campaign.

The process is simple: If you own a small business and you want to be greener, you head to Green Impact Campaign and register with the program. The campaign then pairs you with a participating student volunteer who visits your business and, using the GEMS (Green Energy Management System) app, walks you through a comprehensive energy audit and provides a custom report detailing possible ways to save energy, lower utility costs, and reduce your carbon footprint. You can then track your progress online to see how much money and energy you save by making the recommended changes.

For Hussey and Hill, the decision to focus on small business is smart — in the U.S., small businesses alone are responsible for around $60 billion in energy costs, and half a billion metric tons of carbon emissions every year. According to the Green Impact Campaign, “the average small business has the potential to cut their energy consumption by 15 to 20 percent through simple, low-cost energy-efficiency upgrades.”

Through pairing small business owners with student volunteers, Green Impact Campaign estimates it has saved the equivalent of 2,805,216 excess kilowatt-hours, 76,863 trees, or the removal of 247 cars from the road. And do you know why it’s working so well? Because it’s easy.

The Human Element

Human beings are wonderful — trust me, I’m a fan — but we are also inherently lazy. And unless we are passionate about making positive environmental change, asking people to go out of their way to be green is often asking too much. In order for environmental initiatives to be successful, they have to be just as easy — if not easier — than the alternative. Think curbside recycling — it works with virtually no cost to buy in. Instead of putting something in a black bag and dumping it on the curb, you put it into a blue bag and dump it on the curb. Done.

The Green Impact Campaign has the same idea — offer a way for small businesses to be greener that doesn’t require much upfront other than visiting a website, something the average person does dozens of times a day.

By the time it comes around to actually taking action, the benefits to the business owner are clear, in easily measurable terms — your business has the potential to save this much energy, reduce waste by this much, and, best of all, you could be saving this much money! At that point, the cost of inaction suddenly seems to loom larger. It’s ingenious, really.

Have I convinced you? Click here if you’d like to give your business an earth-friendly makeover with the Green Impact Campaign, and use the buttons below to share this article with other small business owners in your circle.

All it takes is one click!

Feature image courtesy of Dave Fayram

By Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.