Easy, Cost-Effective Ways to Make Your Business More Eco-Friendly

by Terri Williams on September 6, 2013
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Former baseball player Mike Piazza once starred in a shampoo commercial in which he declared, “I don’t mind looking good, as long as it doesn’t take too much effort.”

Many small-business owners take a similar approach to running an eco-friendly company: They don’t mind doing their part to help the environment, as long as it’s not too much trouble or cost-prohibitive.

Yet “green” business practices are good for not only the environment, but also your bottom line. Here are some quick, painless, and cost-effective ways to make your operations more sustainable.

Pull the Plug

Even when your office equipment is in standby mode or turned off, “phantom” or “vampire” power loads still drain electricity. In fact, between 5 and 20 percent of your power bill pays for machines and appliances that are in standby mode or for empty adapters and chargers that are still plugged in according to The University of California, Los Angeles. One solution is to purchase power strips that enable you and your employees to easily switch off the electricity that would otherwise be sent to these devices after hours.

Meanwhile, installing programmable thermostats to turn the heat or air-conditioning on one hour before employees arrive (and off when they leave) can result in huge savings — if you use them correctly.

Go Paperless

The average U.S. office worker uses an estimated 10,000 sheets of copy paper a year. Join the digital revolution by using social media to advertise your company’s products or services instead of printing out flyers, handbills, pamphlets, and other documents.

Ask your customers to sign up for electronic billing, which will help to eliminate the printing and mailing costs associated with sending monthly statements — and may speed up customer payments. When you do purchase paper, try to buy 100 percent recycled paper.

Purchase Conscientiously

When buying equipment and fixtures — computers and electronics, plumbing and lighting, refrigerators and microwaves, etc. — aim for Energy Star-qualified products. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, if every computer sold nationwide met Energy Star requirements, energy costs would decrease by $1.8 billion each year, and the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would be equivalent to that of 2 million vehicles.

Energy Star refrigerators are required to use at least 15 percent less energy than standard models, while Energy Star dishwashers save more than 1,300 gallons of water during their lifetime. In addition, Water Sense-labeled faucets can reduce the water flow by 30 percent or more without compromising performance.

Reconsider Tap Water

If your company purchases bottled water for its employees, consider purchasing a filter and using tap water. You’ll not only decrease the number of plastic bottles that end up as landfill, but also save money: The Environmental Working Group reports that bottled water costs up to 1,900 times more than tap water.

For those who are wary of tap water, the EWG states that nine out of the 10 top-selling bottled water brands are only partially transparent about the source, the treatment, and the purity of their H20 products. A 2010 EWG analysis found 38 contaminants in 10 popular brands.

Terri Williams is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.

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