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10 Steps Toward an Effective, Green Small Business

There are many easy strategies for making an office greener, but few companies take the time to make such tweaks. Here are some tips for standing out and getting green.

When thinking about a “greener” office, do you envision a fresh coat of moss-colored paint, and then calling it done?

For small-business owners who already have too many items on the to-do list, researching and employing green strategies can seem like schedule overload. But it’s easy to boost energy efficiency, sustainability and environmental awareness without spending much time — or even much money.

Here are 10 quick tips for making changes:

  1. Stake the vampires. Take a look at the energy-saver settings on all electronics, and make sure they’re set to power down or off at the end of the day and on weekends. Many offices suffer higher electricity bills from “vampire devices” that drain lots of energy when not in use.
  1. Check the lights. Use motion-sensor lights on areas that are less busy or only used occasionally. This could involve installing lights on certain rows in a warehouse, for example, or in conference rooms.
  1. Go organic. Use fair-trade, shade-grown or organic coffee in the shared coffee pot. You’ll reduce employees’ exposure to pesticides and herbicides, and help protect rain forests, too.
  1. Replace disposable cups with washable mugs. This is a popular measure in many offices because it reduces waste. According to National Geographic, if an office of 15 people replaced three disposable cups per day with reusable mugs, they’d save about 11,000 paper cups from the landfill each year.
  1. Aim for a paperless office. Although this can be challenging, setting the goal is important — and gives you targets for best practices. For example, you could state that as of the fourth quarter of this year, all contracts will be sent through email (and electronically signed, if possible).
  1. Adjust the temperature. In many offices, the air conditioning is set so high in the summer that employees wear sweaters at work. Setting the temp just a few degrees warmer during the summer months will be more comfortable and save you hundreds of dollars in energy bills.
  1. Share a ride. Offer discounted bus passes and incentives for carpooling and bike riding. Not only will this help every employee have a lighter carbon footprint, but it will also show employees you care, which increases morale.
  1. Buy Energy Star-rated light bulbs, fixtures and appliances. These use far less energy than conventional options. Even better, use more natural lighting whenever possible — it’s free!
  1. Use power strips for computers, printers and other peripherals. This way, multiple devices can be turned off at once, and employees can be reminded to just hit one button at the end of the day (especially on Fridays).
  1. Get employees involved. You don’t need to do all the work yourself — employees are often excited to be part of a green movement and eager to share their ideas.

In general, many businesses find that “going green” is a strategy best achieved in slow, steady stages. Making greenness an ongoing priority will keep you from feeling overwhelmed and can even help your bottom line (see our article, Forget Saving, Let’s Make Money with Green Computing). A coat of green paint doesn’t hurt, either — as long as it’s the low-VOC kind, of course.

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