While many municipalities have paved the way for citizens to lead greener lives, it is not always so obvious how small- or medium-sized businesses can do their part in encouraging a sustainable world. Yet it is not less important for us to practice green living in all aspects of our lives from our homes to our workplaces.
We have fortunately witnessed major corporations putting green policies in place for altruistic as well as economic reasons. But changes have yet to take place at many small and medium businesses. If you own or are employed by one of these businesses there are several things that your company can do to join the bandwagon.
1. Engage Leadership in the Cause If you are a leader in your company, you know that you are a critical part of the culture. Change begins with you and trickles down the organization chart. Your dedication to making your company greener will show your employees this is a serious issue that your company is going to dedicate energy to.
If you are not a leader, you can pitch to your leaders why green business is important. Be sure to emphasize that while there might be some difficult hurdles, many of the changes will be easy and cost effective.
2. Form a Green Committee In the case of turning your company green, it will be easier to form a team to lead the way. Include members of management as well as all other levels of employees. This will give the committee some credibility as well as encourage buy-in from all levels. As employees see their peers working to make the company greener, they will be more inclined to do their part.
Charge your green team with conducting research, creating green policies, training employees, and enforcing and maintaining all efforts. Individual team members can be appointed areas of specialization such as a recycling chairperson, an energy chairperson, and a purchasing chairperson.
3. Analyze Energy Consumption A key area of concern for your green team should be energy consumption. The team should have an energy audit performed. Contract a professional to conduct an overall analysis or ask the utility companies to audit your facility. Once you understand where your company is using energy, determine how it can conserve energy. Here are some things to think about:
- Analyze the benefit of installing automatic shutoff technology for after hours. Such technology shuts lights off either based on time or movement.
- Ask employees to shut down their electronic accessories when they are leaving the office. This includes everything from task lighting to printers, copiers, computers, as well as radios and recharging devices.
- Assess the possibilities of have employees work from home.
- Adopt just in time methods. If your company manufacturers goods that use raw materials requiring energy consuming storage (refrigeration or heat), borrow the method used by major manufacturing companies of just in time material stocking. Have your raw materials delivered just as you need them therefore saving energy costs.
- Choose a green facility. If you are in the market for new offices or facilities, search for buildings that have earned the Energy Star rating granted through a joint effort of the U.S. EPA and Department of Energy.
4. Reduce Waste Start or enhance your recycling program. As a small business you might already be recycling the obvious…paper, bottles, and cans. But can you expand your program to include everything on your community’s recycling program list. If it is too costly to hire a company to haul your recyclables away, you can ask employee volunteers to aid in the recycling process. Can one or several employees volunteer to create and monitor a recycling center that collects office and even household items such as plastic bags, batteries, paperboard, cardboard, newspaper, magazines, or more? That employee can be given the responsibility of taking the items to the recycling center. Incentives such as time off or small bonuses can encourage employees to volunteer.
Don’t forget that a major way to reduce waste is to purchase items that are eco-friendly. You might already be using recycled paper, but can your green committee find other recycled supplies such as refillable toner cartridges, paper towels, trash bags, or even carpeting or other building materials (when originals wear out).
5. Empower Employees Encourage employees to make suggestions to color your business green. Offer rewards for employees who bring ideas to the table that are practical and actually implemented. After all, green ideas often save money. A small monetary or product reward will inevitably pay for itself.
Through Energy Star and the EPA, or through the numerous classes and conferences, your green team representatives can learn more about ways your company can take responsibility for its energy and product use as well as production.