Do you run an eco-friendly business? That’s a business that isn’t harmful to the environment. While it may be difficult for a small business owner to implement green policies, there are several low-cost ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Read on for ideas you can put in place easily.
What is a green business?
A green business is any company that takes steps to minimize the environmental impact of its operations. In some cases, this environmentally conscious approach to business means selling only eco-friendly products and services, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Any company that uses processes with the lowest possible carbon footprint can be considered a sustainable business.
The importance of green businesses
The reasons why green business practices are important speak for themselves in a way. Scientists widely agree that human activity has created, and is continuing to create, a climate crisis that imperils society and most forms of life, including humanity. Every business thus has an ethical and social responsibility to minimize its impact on the environment. This goal is within reach, even if your small business doesn’t explicitly relate to the environment.
9 green business ideas to make your operations eco-friendlier
Among the easiest ways to make your business more eco-friendly are the following:
1. Go Paperless
Here are some troubling recycling statistics from the University of Southern Indiana. Approximately 1 billion trees worth of paper are thrown away every year in the U.S. Americans use 85,000,000 tons of paper a year; about 680 pounds per person. The average household throws away 13,000 separate pieces of paper each year.
Fortunately, thanks to technology, there’s one easy and cost effective way for a small business to immediately cut down on paper consumption – cloud technology. According to a study by Intuit, 37 percent of small businesses in the United States have adapted to cloud computing, and the percentage will double by the year 2020.
Data storage, file sharing and email are the most common uses of cloud technology for small businesses, according to NerdWallet. Dropbox, Microsoft Office, and Google top the list as the most popular small business cloud products.
Business apps can also cut down on paper. Review our top picks for apps that can make your life easier and cut down on overall paper use, printing, and copying: Business Operations Software for More Efficiency.
2. Offer Employees Remote Work
Telecommuting remote workers have increased by 115% in the last decade. While large corporations have been slow to adapt, small business owners are embracing the opportunity to offer remote work. One of the big benefits? Saving money.
When you have a remote team, your real estate/rental costs are greatly-or totally-reduced. Even if you need employees on site, you’ll save by being able to rent or purchase a smaller space. Additionally, costs related to computers, phones, electricity, heating and air conditioning, for example, will be less.
Another benefit of remote work? It tends to make employees happier and more productive. Employees who enjoy work are more likely to stick around, saving you the expense of hiring a new employee and training them. Here’s more information on the benefits of remote work: Why Offering Remote Work Helps Employee Retention.
By offering your employees flexibility to work remotely, you can beat the competition with a more motivated staff and lower overhead costs.
3. Cut Energy Costs with Solar Power Generation/Heating System
Utility prices are rising and the cost of buying and installing solar systems is going down. Solar power can be a sustainable and cost-effective energy alternative for business owners who own the commercial property where they operate. It’s even a great alternative for businesses run from residential homes.
If you’re looking for small business energy tax credits, start with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA provides federal tax credit IRS forms to help determine eligibility. Home builders, manufacturers, commercial buildings, and hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles can all lead to a helpful credit when tax time rolls around.
Admittedly, installing solar panels is neither inexpensive nor quick, but doing so may be well worth the reduction in your carbon footprint. It can also be a selling point for your brand, as many consumers are more inclined to buy from consciously eco-friendly companies. And with an influx in eco-friendly customers can come enough new revenue to cover your solar panel costs.
4. Use Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products
A big misunderstanding about eco-friendly living is that it’s too expensive and doesn’t make a big difference. When it comes to cleaning products, this just isn’t true. Using eco-friendly products can actually be very cost-effective.
Eco-friendly products aren’t just good for the environment, they’re good for you and your employees. Going green while cleaning can help improve overall indoor air quality, reducing health risks like skin irritations.
If you clean your own space, like a home office, consider cleaning with baking soda and vinegar – effective and inexpensive! If you have a cleaning crew, encourage them to use commercial cleaners that are certified to be environmentally friendly.
5. Make Recycling Easier for Your Employees
Put time-tested recycling practices in place. Recycling is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to be eco-friendlier. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, about 75% of solid waste thrown away is recyclable. Encourage your employees to pitch in by making recycling easier. Consider putting paper recycling bins under desks and near copy machines and printers. Set up clearly marked bins for recycling in the break room so employees know exactly what should be put in them. For more recycling ideas read 9 Tips for Small Business Recycling from waste experts Pegex, Inc.
6. Choose Only Sustainable Event Planners
Business events often result in the generation of tons of trash. While one event may not make a difference, that trash contributes to landfills. That said, if you’re already big on events, you probably can’t just go cold turkey on networking, fundraisers, and the like, for the sake of not generating waste. If you work with sustainable event planners, though, you can keep your events environmentally friendly.
Sustainable event planners might use solely compostable or recycled materials to serve food at your event. They might also be connected with cleaning businesses that use only eco-friendly materials. They may even work exclusively with event spaces that are fully solar-powered – which ties right into the next green business idea on this list.
7. Set Up a Green Transportation Program
Just taking one car off the road has environmental benefits. If you use cars or other vehicles in your business, look for the green alternatives. Environmentally friendly cars aren’t just small sedans. There are bigger commercial vehicles that use clean energy.
Additionally, every employee who drives to and from your office adds substantially to your company’s environmental impact. Public transit somewhat solves this problem, but it mostly still requires the burning of fossil fuels. That leaves biking as the only viable commuting method for a sustainable business like the one you’re going for (minus walking for anyone who lives close enough). To incentivize bike commutes, you can set up a workplace biking program.
Try offering bonuses or other incentives that encourage your employees to switch from driving to biking. You yourself should use electric scooters or a bicycle for transportation to and from work and encourage your employees to ditch their cars if possible.
It’s not always convenient, of course, to get employees to make the green switch. You can also encourage employees to use public transportation by offering a commuter per diem they can use for a bus pass, train ticket, or other mode of transportation.
Then, install an indoor bike rack or storage room at your office to keep your employees’ bikes safe from theft. Ensure that your employees will have adequate time to cool down from their bike rides, or add a changing or locker room to your space. Best of all, take your team out on a group bike ride every now and again for simultaneous team-building and exercise – all with no carbon emissions.
8. Buy Office Furniture Secondhand
Textile production is among the biggest global uses of freshwater, so every time you buy new couches or chairs for the office, you put money into a cycle that drains a precious natural resource. To solve this problem, you can exclusively buy office furniture from a reputable secondhand office furniture dealer.
Alternatively, you can purchase new items only made from upcycled materials. Upcycling is a method where old or discarded materials are converted into something reusable. Visit thrift shops, antique stores, or flea markets to look for good quality desks, chairs, tables, lighting, and other furnishings you need for your office. These furniture items can fill your space without any of the usual water consumption.
9. Prioritize Eco-Friendly Clients
As important as it remains to be eco-friendly in all that you do, it’s still tough to successfully start an eco-friendly business. However, you can help those looking to turn brand-new eco-friendly business ideas into reality by targeting sustainable businesses with your products and services.
For example, if you’re a lawyer, get to know current environmental law. This way, you can counsel eco-friendly companies on what they can and can’t do to make the world a better place. You won’t just make your own business more eco-friendly – you’ll achieve this same effect for others. This ripple effect might be exactly what’s needed to lessen the impacts of the ongoing climate crisis.