As a business owner, you have the unique opportunity to green your business at the individual level and in your workplace. Greening your workplace also sends a message to your employees and customers that operating in a sustainable way is part of how you do business. While they may not teach you these tips in business school, rethinking energy and resource use at all levels of your enterprise can save you money and improve your business’s image, as well.
Use Commuter Checks
The Commuter Check program exists all over the United States. It’s a way that businesses can save tax dollars while also encouraging their employees to utilize public transit. These checks can be used to cover a variety of more sustainable transit options, such as public transit, vanpooling and bicycling. Employers who use Commuter Checks can save 10 percent on their payroll salary, and employees who use the checks can save up to 40 percent on their commuting costs. Employers can provide the checks as a substitute for taxable salary or as part of a benefits package.
Switch to Energy Efficient Lighting
Changing your regular light bulbs to more energy-efficient ones can seem like a token gesture to green your business. In reality, however, this small change can make a big difference, especially over time. Compact fluorescent light bulbs use up to one-quarter less energy than a regular bulb, and they also produce less heat, which can reduce your air conditioning bills. They also last about 10 times longer than regular incandescent bulbs. Considering that 10 percent of your office energy bill may be from lighting alone, the switch can also save you money.
Green Your Printing
Many offices go through reams of paper on a daily basis. Altering the way you print and the type of products you use to print can have a noticeable change in the sustainability of your business.
- Buy Recycled: Buy recycled paper for printing, and remember that buying paper products in bulk means less packaging wasted. Have your ink and toner cartridges refilled, rather than buying new ones.
- Reuse Paper: Have a bin especially for paper that has only been printed on one side. This can be used to print drafts or other non-“official” documents; it can also be used for scratch paper.
- Print Less: If everyone in the office has a laptop, why do all reports need to be printed out on paper before a meeting? While it is necessary to print sometimes, try to use electronic files in place of printing, when possible. In the meantime, change your printer settings to print on both sides automatically.
Reducing Packaging Waste
You can make an effort to reduce packaging waste on items you order and on items you send out. When purchasing supplies, try to order from companies who use sensible and low-carbon footprint packaging. When you need to ship items, consider reducing the amount of packaging you use and use recyclable containers whenever possible. For example, consider using air pouches instead of packing peanuts or paper in your shipping boxes.
Use Greener Cleaning Supplies
While it’s sometimes necessary to utilize harsh or toxic cleaners in your office, it’s usually possible to reduce the total amount of these chemicals you use. Switch to environmentally-friendly, non-toxic or water-based solvents for the bulk of your office cleaning; you can then use the harsher cleaners intermittently. For example, plain white vinegar is exceedingly inexpensive and non-toxic, and it can be used on counters, sinks, refrigerators, and just about any tough or smelly cleaning issue you can think of.
Do Away with Disposable Cups
Most offices have coffee machines and many have refrigerators where employees can store beverages. Instead of supplying employees with disposable foam or paper cups, encourage employees to bring their own mugs from home to keep in the office. This small change will quickly reduce the amount of waste you generate.
Switch to Low-Flow Water Fixtures
If you’ve already tackled all the “low-hanging fruit” of greening your office, you can consider making some more major changes. Structural changes, such as changing your sink fixtures, will reduce your resource use immediately but may take a while to pay off. Low-flow fixtures can use up to one-third of the water of a regular faucet, while producing the same pressure. This is because low-flow faucets use aerators to increase pressure and create a pleasing flow, with less water output. Look for the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense label when shopping for low-flow fixtures. In many cases, an aerator can simply be added to a regular fixture at low cost; this will increase pressure and reduce the overall water use at the sink.
Spread the Message
Alert your employees to the fact that your small business will be practicing waste reduction and recycling practices and outline exactly what changes will be made to green your business. Showing your own commitment to sustainability will encourage your employees and make the changes more successful. You can also tactfully and discreetly mention your office’s forward-thinking stance on resource use and waste in promotional materials for your business.