Is your small business green enough?
As the Paris Climate Accord has recently shown, leaders cannot always be relied on to make the right decisions for the future of our planet. It is important that the private sector mobilize and take the green initiative in its own hands. In fact that’s what many companies are now doing. Some of the United States’ biggest companies have paired with state, city, and county governments and vow to meet Paris climate goals in this open letter. The movement is using the #WeAreStillIn on social media.
Your company can join this movement and there are plenty of good reasons for doing so. Here are just some of the benefits: Consumers prefer doing business with sustainable and environmentally friendly businesses. Going green does not have to cost much and may even save you some money. Green businesses will be better prepared to navigate the regulatory and market changes which will come with the environmental issues outlined in the Paris agreement. Setting a positive example for employees will boost morale and company loyalty.
Here are some simple ways to make your business more environmentally friendly. (Skip to the end for a downloadable checklist to get you started!)
Make green thinking a part of your business culture (most importantly)
Perhaps the most important point is to make green a part of your business culture. Get your employees to think about green initiatives around the office and champion them. They will be much more invested in adhering to the environmental plan put in place if they contributed to it. Create an environmental committee which has regular meetings to review office policy and evaluate existing and new strategies. This will help the office reach its environmental goals. If your business is small enough, you may get the whole company to participate during a monthly meeting for example.
Switch to compact-fluorescent (CFL) or LED light bulbs
As your light bulbs burn out and need replacement consider using Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL) or Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs instead. Although the upfront cost of the bulb is slightly higher, the increased life span and reduced energy consumption can really add up to big savings over the lifetime of the bulb. Switching your bulbs over at home is a good idea, but it makes even more sense at the office where there tend to be more light installations which are also switched on for longer periods of time. Even if you choose not to change over all your light bulbs, merely switching over the the most used lights can make a drastic difference to your utility bill. Read up on which bulb is right for your needs.
Eliminate plastic bottles
Last year, the average American used 167 disposable water bottles, but only recycled 38. (Fishman, Charles. “Message in a Bottle.” Fast Company Magazine July 2007: 110.) What’s more is that although most people assume bottled water is cleaner to drink, some bottled water is simply purified municipal water. Skip the middle man, and save a lot of plastic being sent to the landfill by installing a water filtration system right in your office. You will get fresh, purified water with the added benefit of bringing back the water cooler as a socialization space in the office.
Do business with other green businesses
Extend your green policies to your vendors. Interview and inquire about their sustainability efforts. Do businesses with manufacturing facilities that have made a commitment to reducing their carbon footprint. You customers in turn will be happier that your whole supply chain is environmentally ethical.
Commute less (or use public transport, hybrid, electric or man powered vehicles)
It is not uncommon for businesses to let their employees work 1 or 2 days per week from home. Productivity of those employees is not affected, and in fact it often improves during the days they get to work from home. If you can conduct a meeting online, try to do so instead of driving across town to meet with a client. You’ll save yourself the time in commute as well as the fare or gas cost to make the haul. Start a carpool group in your office, if your office consists of only a few people, see if neighboring offices would be willing to partake and increase the number of people sharing rides.
Use Green Cleaning products
In addition to being better for the environment, green cleaning products are also healthier for people who may be exposed to them. Cleaning products residue can be absorbed by the skin when touching treated surfaces or inhaled as particles become airborne. Make the switch to a eco-friendly line of cleaning products and reduce the environmental impact as well as the harmful chemicals that employees in the office will be subjected to. Its a win-win.
The best policy for documents is to stay in the digital format, but for those times when they must be printed make sure you use the Eco setting on your printer. Turn on the double sided printing option by default so that you use half the amount of paper. When shopping for printer paper, look for paper that is labeled as Recycled or Post-Consumer Waste (PCW). Not only does recycled paper reduce the amount of garbage that ends up in the land fills, but it also reduces the amount of trees, water and chemicals we use to produce new paper.
A good idea before making any changes is to conduct an energy audit. Most states or provinces will subsidize energy audits or offer them for free. An audit before and after you green policy updates will give you a benchmark for any improvements you put into place. In addition to seeing the quantifiable difference after greening your business, you will have an idea of what strategies are most effective.
Make sure to record all the efforts you make and tell your clients about what you are doing. You can advertise on your website by displaying any badges or certificates you may earn as well as creating a section dedicated to the environmental mission statement or green practices of your business.
Like these tips and want more? Download the free business greening checklist below! Let us know what your favourite greening practices are in the comments.