Green Business

Eco-Friendly Business Practices, Part I

Homeowners aren’t the only ones discovering the benefits of going green. Businesses everywhere are adopting small changes or upgrades to conserve, reduce energy consumption, decrease their carbon footprint, and save money on energy bills too. The best thing is that many of the changes are so easy that any business can do it.

The key is to start adding a new criterion to business decisions, by looking at things through “green glasses.” Remembering that energy savings equals money savings, the overriding question in developing business strategy should be “how ill this help us conserve energy?”

So, if you are a small business owner or someone with decision-making capacity for their employer, consider some of these easy ideas to develop green business habits and increase long term profits simultaneously.

It’s definitely not hard to add up small energy savings to illuminate your work space. Make sure that lights are always turned off when not being used, and especially at night. For a large office building, energy usage savings can reach as high as 80 percent if employees develop the habit of shutting the lights whenever they leave for more than 15 minutes. Make use of natural light everywhere you can in your built environment. Also, replace all standard incandescent bulbs with CFLs. CFL stands or compact fluorescent lamp. They might cost a little more than standard bulbs, but as cited by Energy Star, they can save you about 75 percent in energy bills, and they last 10 times as long. They can pay or themselves in a short period of time.

Water Heating
Water heating is a considerable portion of the total energy consumption of many businesses, particularly service industries like restaurants or hotels. And almost every office building spends more than they have to for hot water. Traditional water heaters hold 20 to 50 gallons of hot water per day and store it, still using and wasting energy when faucets are off. By replacing older water heaters with efficient models, such as tankless ones that heat water as needed, business can save significantly. For a smaller investment, water-saving appliances and fixtures can be purchased to reduce hot water use.

Heating and Cooling
Heating and cooling systems use as much as 60 percent of total energy consumption for the average commercial or residential building in the U.S. Just cleaning or changing filters each month during peak heating or cooling seasons can make a difference. Dirty filters can overwork equipment, lower air quality, and increase costs. Another good idea to save on heating and cooling is to install a programmable thermostat. These make it possible to program the system to turn on just long enough before staff arrives to be comfortable, and automatically turn off at the end of the day.

When electronics such as computers, faxes, and printers are left inactive overnight but still turned on, it wastes money because energy is still being consumed. Believe it or not they also generate heat, which requires the cooling system to work harder. Always shut computers off before leaving for the day. It’s also wise to require employees to use “sleep” mode when computers are inactive instead of a screen saver, as it could save even more energy.

Eco-Friendly Business Practices, Part II
Everyone wants to use energy more efficiently, and businesses everywhere are getting into the act. Especially in economic times like these, every penny counts. Money saved on energy bills can go toward hiring or equipment, both of which can increase profits.

Most U.S. businesses can save at least 30 percent on their bills with a few small upgrades or changes to increase energy efficiency. This has been determined by a joint program comprising experts from the Energy Department and Environmental Protection Agency called Energy Star.

The best thing is that, positive changes for energy efficiency don’t necessarily require radical changes like costly, bulky solar panel arrays on the roof. There are plenty of cost-effective, environmentally friendly choices that business can make and habits they can adopt company-wide to make a huge difference.

Here are just a few:

One of the best ways to minimize the carbon footprint generated by your company is to offer your employees flexible commuter options. There are many creative ways to do this: subsidizing mass transit tickets, allowing telecommuting when possible, organizing carpool committees to coordinate carpool groupings, rewarding carpooling employees with preferred parking, or offering to compensate employees who give up their parking space. Some companies even offer down payment assistance for home purchase or rent subsidy to employees relocating closer to work. Offering incentives like these are a great recruiting tool, and also reduce turnover by keeping workers happy.

The Paper Trail
Massive amounts of paper are used each year in U.S. offices. There are ways to save money on paper usage and reduce waste. Require employees to make dual-sided copies, recycle used paper by printing on unused sides, or use all white space on re-used paper to take notes. When purchasing paper, an environmentally friendly choice is chlorine-free, made from as much recycled materials as possible. Or switch stock to lighter alternatives made from hemp, bamboo, or organic cotton. Another great way to save paper is to post company correspondence such as employee bulletins, manuals and newsletters online.

Check Your Shell
Every office building, regardless of age, could use a regular audit of the exterior to ensure a tight thermal envelope. Weather stripping and insulation should be inspected regularly to make sure they are as effective as possible. Look for gaps around window frames and doors and fill any you find with spray foam, caulk, or batting. Replace any damaged or cracked weather stripping. Install door sweeps under all exterior doors.

Cut the Waste
Most any business can reduce waste, but particularly service businesses such as restaurants or hotels. Restaurants can invest in carbonation systems for in-house use to cut out bottled waste. It’s even possible for restaurants to purchase a diesel truck for deliveries that is retrofit to use filtered grease to run, which comes right from the kitchen. Any business can incorporate a recycling or composting program to reduce garbage considerably.

To assess your business’s energy consumption performance compared to other office buildings across the U.S., go to Energy Star’s website to use their portfolio manager tool. It can be eye opening to see all how far you’ve come or how far you still can go to make positive green changes for your business.