With Earth Day fast approaching, now is a good time to look at some of the ways your business can Go Green in an effort to help preserve the environment. This may seem like a massive undertaking, but the truth is that there are many small steps you can take, each of which will lead to a substantive reduction in your company’s contribution to global pollution.
It’s also important to remember that you don’t have to implement these changes at once. As long as you keep environmentally-friendly concepts in the back of your mind, however, you’ll find ways to integrate many of these practices over time.
Go Green Around the Office
The first place to start thinking about going Green is around the office, and there are plenty of opportunities there. These include:
One easy place to start your Go Green office initiative is with your recycling program. While it’s likely that your office already recycles to some degree, there’s always room for improvement. The best way to make sure your recycling program is functioning as efficiently as possible is to make it someone’s job to monitor it.
You also need to have clearly marked receptacles in various convenient locations around the office, and you need to make sure everyone knows what can be recycled and where to put it. Establishing a system for recycling electronics is another important element to include in your program, and many items like old cell phones that still work can be donated as well.
2. Energy Efficiency
Acquiring and using as many energy efficient appliances and fixtures as you can is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint while simultaneously bringing down your electric bill. This doesn’t mean you must go out and buy all new appliances on the spot, of course, but making it a policy to only purchase energy efficient replacements is a good place to start.
You may also want to invest in some motion sensors and timers to control lights in your offices, as well as purchasing multi-purpose machines rather than individual scanners, fax machines, copiers, and printers.
3. Go Paperless
Eliminating paper whenever possible is an excellent way to contribute to conservation efforts. This can include everything from eFiling all your business tax returns to offering paperless billing for your customers, and it will save you plenty of money in the long run. As a bonus, it also saves you space, since you’ll no longer have to find places to store all of that paper, but it is important to always have a reliable digital backup.
4. Powering Down
You may be shocked to learn how much energy your computers, appliances, and other machinery consume when turned off or on standby. Making it an office policy to turn off power strips at the end of the day, unplug unused appliances, and set computers to sleep when left idle rather than turning on screensavers will all help reduce your energy consumption substantially.
5. Heating and Cooling
Keeping your workplace comfortable for your employees is important, but you also want to do it as efficiently as possible. It’s a good idea to seal any windows and cracks to prevent drafts from coming in or heated or cooled air from getting out. You should also adjust thermostats to a reasonable level and then monitor them, and whenever possible, use portable AC units rather than central air.
Of course, there’s no way to avoid printing entirely, but when you do have to print, there are many steps you can take to ensure it’s not wastefully done. These include using draft printing mode whenever possible, printing on two sides, utilizing software like GreenPrint to maximize the area of the page that is used, and avoiding color printing.
Other printing-related ways to conserve include purchasing only post-consumer waste paper (PCW) and remanufactured toner and ink cartridges. Even simply using smaller font will save plenty of ink and paper in the long run.
While you may not think of your office décor as something that can impact the environment, there is room to improve here as well. For instance, you can purchase used office furniture and fixtures, which are often in nearly new condition, rather than buying them new, and you can decorate with plants to improve air quality while also adding to the beauty of the space. Choosing lighter colors will help enhance any natural light your office receives, helping to reduce your reliance on electricity as well.
8. Water Conservation
You may consider your water bill just another cost of doing business, but there are real savings to be had here too. Installing aerators in all your faucets can significantly cut down on water usage, as can low-flow toilets. You can even improvise by placing an empty plastic container or two in your toilets’ reservoirs to reduce the amount of water used for each flush. And, of course, checking for leaks and dripping fixtures will help you conserve water also.
9. In the Breakroom
What you provide for your employees in the breakroom can have an impact on your carbon footprint as well. Providing reusable dishes and silverware is a great way to cut down on waste in this area, as is offering filtered water rather than bottled.
Go Green While Getting There
Another thing to keep in mind is how travel impacts the environment. There are several ways this can relate to your business, including how your employees get to work and what they do when traveling. Some steps to take include:
10. Work Travel
While not all business trips can be avoided, utilizing videoconferencing whenever possible is one good way to cut down on employee travel for work. When travel is necessary, make it your company policy to only rent hybrid or high MPG vehicles to limit damaging emissions.
Helping your employees get to work in a more environmentally-friendly way is a good step to take as well. This can involve subsidizing transit passes, helping to set up and encourage the use of carpools, and instituting telecommuting whenever possible.
12. Energy Source
Many energy companies allow you to choose a Green energy source to purchase your power from. This is an excellent step to take, and it generally doesn’t change the rate you pay. Utilizing Green web hosting is another area you can consider that will have no actual impact on your business but that can have a real and lasting impact on the environment.
Making "Go Green" Work For You
No matter how well-planned and implemented your Green initiative is, it won’t have maximum impact unless you can get all your employees on board. That means making it part of the culture of your office and making sure everyone understands what you’re trying to do and why.
This can also have an upside for employees, as one easy step to take is instituting a casual dress code whenever possible to help cut down on the need for dry cleaning. Additionally, you can make certain employees responsible for different aspects of the program, possibly on a rotating basis so that everyone is involved at some point.
Providing incentives by creating a friendly competition between work groups is a good way to get people excited about your program as well, and the more your employees are involved, the more effective your program will be. Of course, taking any of these steps will help reduce waste and contribute to conservation efforts, but they will also almost certainly save you significantly in the long term, and that’s a big plus for your business by itself.