You care about the environment, and you’d love to make your small business green. You may worry about the costs of sustainability for a smaller company, though. How do you go about reducing your brand’s carbon footprint while remaining profitable?
In a survey by Nielsen, 81% of consumers stated companies should improve the environment. People care about the processes and measures taken to protect the world for future generations. They even base buying decisions on how green a business is.
Going green doesn’t have to cost your company money. In fact, it can save you on costs. Here are nine key ways small businesses can easily become more eco-friendly:
1. Conduct an Environmental Audit
The best way to make changes is awareness of where you need improvement. Hire a professional company to conduct a green audit and figure out where you’re wasting energy. Some of the suggestions they offer may be out of your budget at the moment, but you can certainly benefit from many ideas. An audit gives you a solid plan moving forward.
2. Use Green Building Materials
If you’re still in the planning stages of launching your business or want to add on to an existing building, the materials you choose have a huge impact on how green the structure is. Research environmentally friendly concrete production — old concrete can be used as an additive for new mixtures — and wood from sustainable sources. Look for ways to reuse existing materials. Seek ways to save on energy through construction, such as adding solar panels or geothermal systems.
3. Use Recyclable Packaging
If you sell physical products, use packaging consumers can easily recycle. Make sure any plastic is the right grade to be recycled. Look for paper that has been recycled and can be used again. Think about how people use your product and compare the cost of materials versus eco-friendliness to develop the best solution possible for the consumers, your business and the environment.
4. Encourage Employees to Reduce Waste
There are small things you can do to make an impact. Add recycle bins throughout the office and adopt a policy of placing used paper in them. Whenever possible, go digital instead of printing materials. There are many different ways to recycle in an office setting. Put recycling containers in the break room so people can easily separate aluminum, glass and plastic.
5. Cut Down on Lighting Costs
The average company pays a hefty electric bill, but you can reduce expenses and energy use by getting creative. Start by replacing all your bulbs with energy-efficient ones. Adopt a lights-off policy when the office closes down, leaving only emergency lighting in place. Install motion sensors in bathrooms, so fixtures are off when the room isn’t in use.
Use as much natural light as possible to reduce the need for artificial lighting. Sunshine is healthier for your employees than artificial illumination, as well. Check the government’s ENERGY STAR website for energy standards. Since 1992, they have helped businesses save $150 billion in energy spending.
6. Encourage Carpooling
Express your desire for employees to help the company become greener. Encourage carpooling or biking to work. Provide a place for bikers to park their equipment and secure it safely. Offer incentives for carpooling, such as leaving 10 minutes early. Set goals as an office on how much you’ll reduce your carbon footprint and reward the entire company when you hit those objectives.
You could also allow employees to work remotely at least a few days a week. Work-from-home options reduce their commute time and save on pollution, as they won’t have to drive to and from work.
7. Add to Local Ecosystem Preservation
Do you have some extra land around your office or manufacturing facility? Add a pond and some plants and create a mini-ecosystem. Encourage your workers to help keep the area pristine and hike on nearby trails if they’d like. Provide paid volunteer hours so staff can work on any eco-friendly project they’d like.
For example, if one employee is passionate about a local endangered species, let them work with a preservation group to improve the area for that animal group.
8. Source Green Goods
One of the easiest ways to become greener is by sourcing the items you use from eco-friendly companies. If you pay for website hosting, seek a server with green practices. If you buy paper for the office, purchase recycled options. Look at the aspects of the businesses you get materials from and make sure they are also committed to improving the environment.
Whenever possible, buy locally. You’ll help the environment simply because the other company won’t have to drive far to deliver the items to you. Fewer carbon emissions go into the atmosphere when a truck drives 2 miles versus 200.
9. Conserve Water
According to the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), droughts cost the U.S. about $9 billion a year. Reducing water use helps protect this limited resource. Some ways to reduce water usage for your business include looking at the manufacturing processes you and your suppliers use.
Install automatic faucets and low-flow toilets in your office’s bathrooms and kitchen facilities. Landscape the prpoerty with drought-resistant plants. Collect rainwater to feed plants that require regular watering.
Ask for Ideas
If you want to commit to a greener business model, be open to ideas from your employees and customers. Let them know you’d like to reduce your impact on the environment as much as possible, and encourage their input. You might even enlist an employee or team of staffers to head up a new initiative with one of the proposed ideas.