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Five Tips for a Greener Business

Is your business or workplace green?  Could it be any greener?  Being “green” is a major concern today among small and large businesses alike.  Companies that gain a reputation for being environmentally friendly are more attractive to consumers.  Marketing products and company processes as environmentally friendly has a lot of appeal to consumers.

1. Energy Efficiency

Lighting consumes the most electricity in many facilities, and we often take lights for granted. They can consume up to 35% of energy in commercial buildings according to Energystar.  Inefficient, outdated lights that emit heat can also affect energy needed to control temperature.  Air conditioning must work harder to keep an area cool if there are extra heat sources like incandescent bulbs.

Replacing inefficient lights with compact fluorescent lighting cuts down significantly on wasted energy.  LED bulbs are also an option; they require less energy and may far outlast the life of fluorescent lights.  Currently there is debate about which efficient light is the superior eco-bulb, but either is far more efficient than incandescent lights.  LED lighting tends to be very expensive, so fluorescent bulbs are the way to go if cost is a consideration.

In many workplaces, computers make up a heavy portion of energy use.  These devices are tricky because they tend to use energy even when you think they’re not.  For example, computers and printers have “standby” modes where they may appear to be off, yet they continue to draw power.   A good solution to this is to use power strips with several outlets for computers.  This way, monitors, computers, and any other devices can be shut off with the flick of one switch (after computers and printers are properly powered down of course).

2. Office Paper and the Three R’s

Reduce, reuse, recycle.  This concept is important in all aspects of modern life, including in business.  Paper use is a huge issue with most businesses.  In this age of digital information it seems we should be using less paper, but businesses go through huge amounts of it anyway.  The best way to reduce the use of paper is to keep things digital.  Share documents online or via email.  Save important files electronically instead of printing them out and storing them in file cabinets.  This also cuts back on your need for storage space, and makes it easier to move information should you relocate or renovate the office.  Plus, less paper means less clutter around the office.

Of course, you can’t eliminate paper use entirely, so it’s important to shop for environmentally responsible products when selecting printing paper.  Recycled paper with a high percentage of post-consumer content is the best environmental choice.  Although, because no paper products are completely eco-friendly, it is important to print double-sided when possible, and reuse misprinted pages or old documents as notepaper.  And, as always, recycle!

3. Cleaning up the Commute

Driving back and forth to work daily collectively adds up to billions of wasted gallons of gas each year in America due to infamous rush hour traffic.  There are several ways to cut back on the wasted energy and carbon emissions that result from our daily commute.  Carpooling is an excellent option.  Even adding one passenger to your commute will take one car off the road and create environmental benefits.  The more passengers in the car, the more gas and carbon emissions saved!  Other commuting options such as biking, walking or public transportation (or any combination thereof) are also fantastic ways to take some of the stress off the road (and off of you).

Is it possible to phase out the commute altogether?  With our sophisticated and varied communication technology today, many people are able to work from home.  Telecommuting has become increasingly popular for many Americans, and currently works for over 40 million people nationwide.  If working from home is not an option, consider shifting work hours to work longer hours four days a week instead of five.  Not only does this cut transportation costs by 20%, but it gives you longer weekends too.  Or, you can try a combination and arrange to work from home one or two days a week.  If you are an employer, consider allowing employees to work more flexible hours or telecommute to promote an eco-friendly atmosphere at your business.

4. Buy Sustainable Materials

Recycled paper is an important component in any green office, but what about other supplies?  Pens, pencils, and even office furniture can be made with recycled material as well.  Look for fair-trade and sustainably grown coffee for the break room.  Purchase replacement printer cartridges that have been recycled; in many cases they cost less than new ones.  Everything from cleaning supplies to shipping material can be found from “green” sources.  Another great idea is to pitch out the disposable cups in the lunch area and provide employees with reusable alternatives.  As an employee, you can bring your own coffee cup to work and cut back on the waste created by disposables.

5. Consider Renewable Energy Sources

An option companies don’t always consider is the source of their electricity.  In many states, electricity deregulation offers a choice of energy providers.  This means that you can purchase a portion, or all of your electricity from renewable resources.  Buying renewable energy stimulates the growth of the industry and decreases your company’s carbon footprint.  The greater the demand for renewable energy resources, the more manufacturing jobs and energy sector jobs can be created in the United States.  In addition, purchasing power sources like wind and solar contributes to US energy independence.  If renewable energy doesn’t work for you, there are a variety of choices that can still reduce your emissions, such as selecting natural gas over coal.  Explore your options and you can ensure your electricity supply is environmentally friendly and affordable.

Perhaps the most import step to creating a truly green workplace is to engage everyone in the process.  Employees and employers alike should all be aware of the benefits of “greening up” the workplace, and everyone needs to participate.  Communication between employees and managers is crucial.  Sustainability should become a company mission and everyone should be informed of this message.  Scatter recycling bins around the office where they are easily accessed, have employees save paper to be reused as packaging material, and offer contests or incentives for the “greenest employees.”  Be creative and have fun so that everyone from the top executives down will be happy participants in your company’s sustainability mission.

Jessica Kennedy
Energy Curtailment Specialists, Inc.

Jessica can be found on Twitter and Google+.

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