Going Green: 5 Easy Things For Small Businesses To Try

Last night I attended a teach-in called “Making Your Business Greener”, hosted by MetroIBA. I have to admit, as a small business owner, being “green” often takes a back-burner to thinking about other aspects of owning a business: marketing, meeting deadlines, accounting. . . well, you get the idea. But this seminar made me think about how going green could benefit my business—really! Here are some ways they mentioned that your business can save some money, improve company morale, and get some great PR:

1) Take a close look at your energy consumption. As it turns out, there are some easy ways to reduce consumption that result in significant annual savings, such as:

  • Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs or retrofit LEDs. HUGE energy savings!
  • Put your computers to sleep at night (or when you’re not using them). Would you believe that 60% of computers are left on all night? A “sleeping” computer uses only 4% of the energy of a powered-up computer.
  • Replace old-fashioned CRT monitors with LCDs. Not only do they look cooler and take up less space, they’re WAY more energy efficient!
  • Get some Smart Powerstrips. Appliances that are plugged right into the wall continue to suck energy, even when they’re off. Smart Powerstrips put a stop to that, directing energy to computers and more only when they’re turned on—saving you money on electricity! The marketing folks who make the things say it pays for itself in 6 weeks.
  • Get a free energy audit. Power companies like Xcel Energy offer this service for free. Contact your local power company for info.

2) Evaluate your company’s resource procurement. Hmm. . .this is a fancy way of saying you should set criteria for what you purchase. Should you buy “green” energy? Consider paying $4/month extra for wind power from your power company. Should you only buy non-toxic cleansers? Consider purchasing Restore brand cleaners. Maybe you buy a certain amount of recycled materials, or give preference to organically-grown products. You decide, it’s your company. But be intentional about it. Then let your clients know your efforts. It’s a good marketing tool, too.

3) Reduce your company’s consumption. There’s a number of ways to go about it: duplex copying and printing (saves 25% of paper consumption), teleconferencing vs. travel, electronic memos and pay stubs, and more! Get creative: what do you NEED, and what can you do without?

4) Make “Green” your company culture. Companies that sucessfully build a culture of sustainability do it by enlisting the talent and creativity of their employees to come up with ideas and carry them out. A lot of companies are finding that going green is helping them to recruit high-quality employees and improve company morale.

5) Recycle. While recycling at home has become second nature, recycling at work is not as wide spread. Recycling batteries and refilling printer ink cartridges saves money and Mother Earth. You can also recycle your office paper, compact fluorescent lightbulbs (crucial, since they contain a small amount of mercury), cell phones, computers, and electronics. If you’re in the Twin Cities area, check out twincitiesfreemarket.org for recycling old office furniture and more.

Overwhelmed? Don’t be! The one take-away message from this seminar was that small changes add up. So, if you try only one thing this month, it’ll have an effect. Don’t know where to start? Get an energy assessment from the Alliance for Sustainability or a SCORE test from BeSustainability.com.

STILL want more resources? Here are some sites for getting up to date on going green:

www.greenbiz.com

green.alltop.com

coopamerica.org

www.upongreen.com

OK, so you do this stuff. . .now what? Let your clients know that you’re making an effort to be sustainable! If you have an office, hold an open house and let them see your plans in work. Give tips in your e-newsletter or share a new employee-designed initiative to save energy, reduce, or recycle. Demonstrate your green-ness by printing with Soy Inks, using recycled-content papers, and using e-alternatives for advertising.

A footnote: thanks to Dan Marshall of Peapods.com (a Mix client!) for conceiving of and moderating the event.

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2 Responses to “Going Green: 5 Easy Things For Small Businesses To Try”

  1. Terry Gips says:

    Thanks for the great blog!
    I’m glad the presentations we did last night were so helpful.

    If people would like to learn more, I’d recommend a free membership in the Alliance for Sustainability (www.afors.org or call 612-331-1099) as well as taking a two-evening seminar I lead on Sustainability and the Natural Step Framework. It will give you an understanding of sustainability, its benefits and who’s doing it, and help you do an assessment of your business, develop a vision of it becoming sustainable and create a sustainability action plan that will save you money and time, while improving performance and becoming environmentally and socially responsible. If you’d like to learn more, please feel free to give me a call (612-331-1099) or check out my website, http://www.sustainabilityassociates.com

    A final thought: Sustainability can be fun and inspiring. Ultimately, it’s just common sense.

    Sustainably,
    Terry

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