Earth Day isn’t the only day to think about the impact your business has on the environment. Taking steps to go green not only helps the planet, but it can also save you money and build loyalty. In a 2015 Nielsen survey, nearly half of respondents said that companies’ commitment to the environment impacts their purchasing choices, while two-thirds said they are willing to pay more for sustainable goods.
Technology has made it easier than ever for businesses to go green. This coupled with falling prices on energy-efficient equipment and fixtures can make now a particularly good time to take action. These tips can help you get started, or they can build on your existing measures.
Even if going completely paperless isn’t an option for your business, there may be simple ways for you to reduce use. Arrange to receive statements and bills through email and allow payments to be debited electronically. Explore systems that let you invoice and collect customer payments online, such as those available through online banking. Also look for ways to reduce the amount of paper used in your workflow, such as:
Consider replacing some face-to-face meetings requiring travel with virtual meetings conducted through video or web conferencing tools. Many of these tools offer low-cost options for small companies, and include features such as screen sharing and virtual whiteboards that simulate in-person meetings.
Also look for tools that can help you reduce everyday trips you or your employees might make. For instance, remote deposit and mobile deposit services — which allow you to scan and transmit checks securely using a desktop scanner or mobile device — can cut down on trips to the bank.
When possible, look for vendors that follow environmentally sound business practices, such as producing goods through sustainable methods or using minimal or recyclable packaging. Try to source goods from local suppliers; not only will this lessen the environmental impact of transporting the goods, but it can also help to keep money in your community. Consider highlighting these suppliers and any environmentally friendly brands you sell at your business and on your website.
Look to replace equipment that is nearing the end of its life with energy-efficient models, such as those with the ENERGY STAR® label. The ENERGY STAR website provides information on a number of business-focused products, including computers, servers, imaging equipment, and food service appliances. If you own your building and have a fair amount of sun exposure, you might also consider solar power. Solar paneling prices have fallen considerably, meaning that savings from using solar energy may quickly surpass installation costs. Utility providers in many states offer discounts to businesses that invest in solar power or make other energy-efficiency upgrades. Many also offer energy audits that can alert businesses to their greatest areas of waste.
Furniture, vehicles, and some types of equipment are often available used, and in nearly the same condition as new. If you don’t need the latest technology or features in an item, buying it used can save you money while preventing it from going to the landfill prematurely. For certain categories of items, it may be worth weighing upfront savings against long-term benefits. For instance, if you are considering refrigeration equipment, used models may be considerably less energy-efficient than newer ones. While a used model may be serviceable for a short while, it may ultimately make sense to purchase a new one.
There are a number of simple, everyday steps that you and your staff can take to reduce your business’ environmental footprint. Along with commonsense practices such as turning off lights and turning down the heat or air conditioning when not in use, the actions below can have a significant impact:
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