Making efforts to “green” your business not only helps preserve this planet we share, but also shows your customers that your company is committed to doing its part to act responsibly. Additionally, these conservational tips will likely save you some green.
Go paperless. This is easier than ever (thanks, technology). Besides saving trees, going paperless reduces clutter and physical space required for file storage.
• Request e-billing from vendors and utility companies, and offer e-billing to your clients and customers.
• Create PDFs of important documents so you can e-mail information rather than printing and mailing it.
• Converting to an electronic filing system saves reams of paper and, very possibly, your sanity because keyword searches make important files easier to find. However, don’t forget to back up your files on an external hard drive or a secure cloud-based product.
Re-recycle. In 2013, it’s a no-brainer that your business should have recycling bins. But before you toss that piece of paper you no longer need, can you get a few more miles out of it?
• If it’s only printed on one side, cut into smaller pieces to use for scratch paper and leaving notes.
• Shred old paper and use as packing material (as long as there is no sensitive information printed on it).
• Reuse envelopes as mini-files for receipts until you do your books at the end of the month.
Do dishes. If you offer clients coffee or water, ditch the Styrofoam and plastic bottles and opt, instead, for glasses or ceramic mugs you can wash at the end of each day with an eco-friendly detergent and reuse.
Reduce fuel use. If your business requires a lot of driving, choosing hybrids for company vehicles would be ideal. If that is outside of the operating budget, maximize fuel efficiency by making sure company vehicles have regular maintenance, using cruise control when possible, and carefully planning routes to reduce excess driving.
Brown bag it. That figure of speech actually encourages waste, but “pack a lunch in a reusable, insolated lunch box or bag” didn’t have the same ring to it. Going out to lunch means to-go meals packaged in Styrofoam or plastic boxes and unnecessary driving. You can encourage employees to bring a lunch by providing a pleasant place to eat, dishes, utensils, and kitchen appliances such as a microwave, toaster oven, and refrigerator. Lead by example; when packing your lunch, use machine washable, cotton bags from Snack Taxi instead of plastic sandwich bags.
Green your clean. This may require a little research, as not all “green cleaners” are created equal. Look for concentrated products that reduce packaging and shipping and require you to use smaller amounts. Check ingredients and steer clear of chlorine, phosphates, petroleum, and fragrances.
Support other eco-friendly businesses. Greenify your network by using goods and services from other green businesses and sending them referrals.
Upcycle. Try to furnish and decorate your office space with thrifted and upcycled items.
• Shop for used furniture.
• Cut cereal boxes diagonally from the top left corner to the middle of the right side and wrap in colorful paper for desktop storage of books, magazines, and more.
• Give old glass bottles or vases new life by painting, coating with tissue paper or wrapping with colored twine or raffia.
• Paint mismatched picture frames to make a matching set that can be used for everything from family photos to motivational quotes to showcasing client testimonials or write-ups of your business by local publications.
Power down. Taking a few small steps to reduce your energy use lowers your utility bills and reduces your carbon footprint.
• At the end of the day, power down computers (or, at the very least, monitors), turn off all lights, radios, and office equipment.
• Use a timer for outside lights so they aren’t illuminated during daylight hours, and use Energy Star light bulbs.
• Invest in a programmable thermostat so your furnace and air conditioner don’t kick on while the office is uninhabited.
Alicia Vanderschuere is the founder and CEO of rosieMADE, LLC, an online community for women-led businesses and a resource for products made by women in the USA. RosieMADE offers eco-friendly products that can help your business go green while supporting other women in business. Go to rosieMADE.com for original gift ideas and to learn more about what it means to give a USA-made gift from rosieMADE. While you’re there, join the Rosie Network of women-led businesses.