Going green doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. In fact, greener practices can actually simplify office procedures and save you money. Follow these six steps to put your business on the path to sustainability.
Evaluate your current system. What eco-friendly processes does your company already use? Maybe you have an office recycling program or only buy from eco-conscious vendors. Evaluate how effective any changes you’ve already made have been.
Next, decide what changes you could make to see both immediate and long-term results. Ask your employees and partners for their opinions. Come up with a plan to gradually decrease your business’ carbon footprint. Start small, using some of the examples in the following sections, to develop a truly maintainable plan.
Look at your office’s expenses. Do you spend a lot of your supplies budget on paper that just ends up in the shredder? Consider printing important documents double-sided, or switching to electronic memo systems. Electronic sharing programs like Google Docs and Dropbox allow you to make documents available to your employees without wasting ink and paper. As an additional bonus, electronic copies can’t be misplaced or accidentally ruined.
Do you spend a significant portion of your budget on disposable cups, plates, and utensils for the break room? Encourage employees to bring their own mugs and water bottles instead of using disposable coffee cups in the break room and at the water cooler. Provide space for storing utensils and dinnerware.
No business can run without electricity, internet, and a public restroom, but you can improve those systems to make them more efficient. Plug computers, audio-visual systems, and copiers into power strips to avoid phantom loading: the electricity that is used when a device is left plugged in, even when it is powered down. Switch to LED exit lights and energy efficient bulbs in your office space.
Consider installing automatic dispensers in your office restrooms. Automatic paper towel and soap dispensers can limit waste and mess. Add motion-detecting faucets and toilets to help your company conserve water, and install occupant sensor lighting systems in restrooms and common areas to reduce your energy expenditure.
If you are in a location that you can renovate, consider changes that will save money and energy in the long run. When you have to replace equipment, invest in Energy Star rated appliances and electronics.
The windows at your business location affect heating and cooling costs, just like your house windows. In Toronto, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and other notoriously cold cities, switching old or single-pane windows out for vinyl or multi-pane replacements could decrease your monthly heating costs (Moncada Windows, Doors & Siding). Repair or replace your windows to see an immediate return.
Get your employees on board with your plan for going green. Send out a memo and have an initial training to help your employees follow through with their part in the expected changes. Be concise, positive, and enthusiastic.
Track your progress as a company and as individual departments. Consider offering a reward to the department that recycles the most, uses the fewest sheets of paper, or contributes the most to the company’s green plan. Assign further planning to a designated committee and encourage members of your company to share their ideas.
Once you have the foundation of your plan in place, think about ways to keep it going strong. Make sure that becoming environmentally-conscious is a high priority for the company as whole. Bring your green plan up frequently in meetings and report progress to the entire company.
Get everyone involved. Offer incentives for employees who use public transit, carpool, or bike to work. Hold contests where employees bring in their recyclables or come up with a greener way to manufacture your products. Hold service projects where employees work as teams to clean up a local park or sponsored section of the highway, plant trees, or help install solar panels on local buildings (including your own).
Putting a concentrated effort toward making your business more energy efficient will both save you money and reduce your carbon footprint.
Anica Oaks, the author of this post, is a recent college graduate from University of San Francisco. Anica loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she’s used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty. You can connect with Anica here.
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