When you run a business, there’s a million things to keep an eye out for.
We have a recycling program. We offer paperless billing. We do an amazing job of staying digital and printing less. We’re proud of our Far Reaching Program that has partnered with EcoRise to empower students to create a sustainable business— one that makes money AND changes the planet for the better.
But we got honest with ourselves. We can do more, do things smarter, use less, waste less, and be better to our planet and our wallets. So we gave ourselves a challenge: Find 40 ways to be a greener business.
It certainly pays off in another kind of green: hospitals that reduce energy consumption and waste stand to save $15 billion over ten years. Companies that voluntarily adopt “green” practices have employees who are 16% more productive than average. And a Goldman Sachs study found that public companies who take the lead on environmental policies performed at least 25% better than the rest of the stock market.
So, join us as we take a walk around the office, and see what we can conserve this year.
- Assess the situation. Run through our quiz, below, to see how many of the 40 you might already be doing.
- Make a plan. Here’s a couple guides to what an Environmental Management System plan might look like – that one’s better for large businesses – or, for smaller ones, follow this guide to writing a sustainability plan.
- Get committed: It is relatively easy to enact green standards, but the hard part is maintaining momentum – after all, we all have to remember to toss our water bottles in the blue can, and habits are hard enough without getting a whole team to change theirs. Once you set your goals and plan, your next step should be to encourage employee participation – and find a way to engage them as active members of the process. Be sure to ask for suggestions and keep the dialogue open. When everyone is involved and in the loop about what is happening, it is easier to stay on track.
- Stay inspired: Read up on how a few large companies stay green, and maintain that as part of their identity.
Remember, small changes could even add up to major tax credits. Here’s all 40 things to check off for a greener business. Do one pass through the list to figure out what you’re definitely doing already, then another pass to identify what you could tackle and change.
Lights and music…
☐ Use all LED lights and bulbs.
☐ Replace outdated appliances with Energy Star appliances.
☐ Get an energy audit and make simple changes around your office and house.
☐ Power your office with alternative energy.
☐ Use public transportation, drive an alternative fuel or hybrid vehicles, or bike to work. This has potential for an employee contest for participation!
☐ Add each person’s electronics on a powerstrip, and turn it off after each workday.
☐ Set up a telework program. This could mean allowing employees to work from home, or setting up more teleconferences over traveling for meetings.
☐ Walk around the office an hour after regular business hours. How many screensavers do you see? Set those monitors to power off or go into sleep mode after the same amount of time – screensavers just waste energy.
☐ Eliminate your junk mail. Take a few steps to stop receiving junk mail.
☐ Send and receive all faxes via email.
☐ Upload employee manuals and forms online, rather than distributing print copies. This saves paper, but also makes it easier to keep up-to-date.
☐ Print in draft or “fast” mode whenever possible to save on ink.
☐ Go as paperless as possible and set printers to print double sided.
☐ Digitize files instead of printing and filing papers.
☐ Send contracts to be signed digitally.
☐ Utilize green web hosting.
☐ Examine your supply chain’s environmental practices.
☐ Do business with green vendors.
☐ Commit to Environmental Preferable Purchasing.
☐ Regularly change (or clean, if reusable) HVAC filters every month during peak cooling or heating seasons. Dirty filters overwork the equipment and result in lower indoor air quality.
☐ Install smart lighting to automatically turn off lighting when no one is present and back on when people return. Adjust lighting to your actual needs.
☐ Paint with light colors and high-gloss sheens. Daylight is more easily reflected off the walls, and less artificial light is necessary.
☐ Turn down your thermostat when you leave for work, or use a programmable thermostat to control your heating settings. This not only saves energy, but saves your office big bucks too.
Fake the plates, buy less plastic, plant more trees.
☐ Eliminate plastic bottles. This is a great reason to gift all employees an awesome new company-branded stainless steel water bottle and/or ceramic mug.
☐ Switch to post-consumer waste (PCW) not just the paper with the (recycling symbol) on the box. PCW is not only recyclable itself – it’s paper made from recyclable paper.
☐ When furnishing your office, consider purchasing used or vintage office furniture instead of brand new pieces.
☐ Recycle nonhazardous waste, and commit to a company-wide program.
☐ Start a company compost.
☐ Institute a program for recycling electronics. Check out Recycling for Charities.
☐ If your business has excess food that is otherwise wasted, take part in the Food Recovery Challenge.
☐ Fix all leaky faucets and toilets.
☐ Buy recycled ink cartridges. Each reused cartridge saves about 2.5 pounds of metal and plastic and about half a gallon of oil, all of which is wasted in the manufacturing process.
☐ Ensure your mailing lists are up-to-date regularly, thus saving the paper, printing, and postage.
☐ Set a business casual policy for the office. Not wearing suits means much less dry cleaning, which is better for the environment and your wallet.
☐ When landscaping, practice xeriscaping by using plants native to your climate that require minimal watering and have better pest resistance.
☐ Eliminate paper towels. Use cloth towels or hand dryers.
☐ Reduce the amount of water used per flush by putting a (rubber) brick in the tank.
☐ Instead of buying individual packets of coffee, creamer, sugar, etc. buy in bulk instead. Put it in some of those mason jars you once used for pickles, and you’re all set.
☐ Provide reusable dishes, silverware and glasses for your employees to use at work.
☐ Buy organic and local food for parties and other events.