Please welcome a guest blogger: Susan Seliger Editor-in-Chief, RiverWired.com – Good Green Fun
Small businesses are what make America great. And their influence – if they choose to go green – can be as big as the mighty corporations getting all the attention for joining the eco-friendly fray these days.
"Independent firms with less than 500 employees employ half of the private sector workforce and use half of the electricity and natural gas consumed by the commercial and industrial sectors, In 2006, small businesses accounted for 99.9 percent of the 26.8 million businesses in the country."
- Jonathon Bardelline, in The Big Impact from Greening Small Businesses at GreenBiz.com.
So here are 7 simple steps entrepreneurs can take to be a little greener — no matter what your core business may be.
1. Ask your employees for green ideas first.
You don’t need to hire a Director of Sustainability. Ask the people who always have the best ideas – your team. After all, if they have to implement these plans, it’s smart to get their buy-in from the start. Offering bonuses for eco-ideas that save the company money wouldn’t hurt.
2. Buy everybody a mug.
Giving each employee the gift of a ceramic, reusable mug engenders good will – and it will save you a fortune on those nasty Styrofoam cups. The average office worker uses up to 500 disposable coffee cups per year – and Styrofoam takes about one million years to fully decompose. If you put your logo on the mugs, you can give them to clients and visitors to use and then take home. Not a bad way to reinforce your identity as a company that cares.
3. Replace the office refrigerator, microwave – and all your equipment – with energy-efficient models.
Newer Energy Star-Rated appliances use up to 40% less energy than older versions. Look for star ratings on fax machines, copiers, printers and everything you use.
4. Recycle Paper – this is a big one – and easy, too.
Do we really have to remind you about this one? About 40% of the garbage in our landfills is paper that could have been recycled. Buy recycled paper – along with biodegradable paper plates and napkins. Encourage copying on both sides. Have bins for recycling paper in convenient locations – like next to the coffee machine – to give added incentive to toss paper in the right spot.
5. Apply the 3 R’s to electronics and office equipment, too
The eco-mantra, reduce, reuse, recycle, doesn’t stop at paper. You can refill ink cartridges. Recycle electronics safely – Staples and Office Depot are getting into the recycling act. When in doubt, go to Earth911 to see where to recycle – or donate – in your area. You may even qualify for a tax credit for donations to local schools or non-profits.
6. Replace bottled water with a water filter
Bottled water costs too-to-three times as much as gasoline. Americans spend more than $8 billion a year on bottled water – and generate over 1.5 million tons of plastic that will not break down in landfills for tens of thousands of years. A water filter costs pennies per gallon. You do the math.
7. Consider laptops – instead of desktops – for staff.
A laptop’s LCD screen uses 1/3 the energy of a typical Cathode Ray Tube. And employees can take laptops with them – at night or when they travel — to get more done. Win-win.