Small Steps Business Owners Can Take to Green Their Business

Running an office doesn’t come cheap for small business owners. But there are some simple ways to reduce costs and make the workplace more environmentally friendly without a complete overhaul.

Simple moves like changing printing practices and shifting employees’ habits can reduce a small business’s carbon footprint.

Wean the Company Off of Printing

Most small businesses--particularly the larger ones--rely heavily on printers to distribute documents. But curtailing printing can be one of the easiest, and most impactful steps a business can take to reduce costs and improve the environment.

A reduction in printing saves on paper, ink and printer maintenance, but it will also save in office space to store hard copies, said green expert Marc Lallanilla. He suggested companies promote sending documents, memos and other information electronically and use computer-based folders to keep everything organized.

Cloud computing provides a low-cost way for small businesses to safely store their data online and eliminating the need for energy-draining storage appliances.

In certain situations and environments, printing is avoidable, but using double-sided or environmentally-friendly paper gets the job done without creating a lot of waste.

With double sided printing “you will save tremendously,” claimed Ana Paula Tavares, senior vice president of the Rainforest Alliance, adding that office supplier Staples has started selling paper that is certified by the Rainforest Alliance.

Simple Actions, Big Reward

While it may seem trivial, if all the employees in an office simply shut off lights and powered down equipment when they weren’t using it, it can dramatically reduce a company’s electricity costs.

“Even when printers and computers are in standby mode they are still pulling power,” said Lallanilla. He advised printers or fax machines to remain off until in use. Tavares echoed that and said that even if the computer or printer is shut off for an hour or half hour, it will make a difference.

When it comes to lighting choices, swapping out old light bulbs for more energy-efficient ones will also save the company money on its electricity bill and have a positive impact on the environment. “According to some estimates lighting consumes 44% of the electricity,” said Lallanilla.

Limit Travel

One of the most expensive costs for a small business owner is traveling to business meetings, especially with rising fuel and airfare costs. Small business owners can easily reduce the costs and reduce their carbon footprint by using video conferencing.

If a small business owner doesn’t have an existing video conferencing system in place, it can use an Internet-based service like Skype, which can be free other than the cost of the video camera. “Anybody with a computer can have a video conference and save tremendously,” said Tavares. “It’s a travel alternative.”

Lallanilla noted that teleconferences also reduce the “wear and tear” on employees, which in turn boosts productivity.

Letting employees telecommute can also save the environment and a company’s bottom line. Lallanilla described the benefits of telecommuting as “astounding,” as long as the company is comfortable giving employees the freedom to work from home.

Small steps to become more green can become more meaningful when added together.

“[Greening the office] has a significant impact when you multiply the number of businesses moving in this direction from the small hardware store to the large multinational corporation,” says Lallanilla. “Add it up and it has an immense impact on landfill waste, recycling and commuter traffic.”