In today’s socially conscious world, consumers want to do business with companies that care about the environment. Regardless if you are a longtime entrepreneur or launching a new business next month, now is the time to hop on the green bandwagon.
Marcos Cordero, co-founder of the Green Business Bureau, a Houston-based company that provides a green business certification, offers a four-step process to reducing your company’s impact on the planet.
Step 1: Establish a vision
Why is going green important to your business? As the company owner, Cordero says it’s important to create a mission and vision around sustainability. Convey that mission to your employees to get them excited.
“Make sure you have senior management buy-in and get your employees engaged in the vision,” he says. “That engagement will help sustain the company’s dedication to going green.”
Step 2: Assign a green team
It’s too much for a small business owner to keep tabs on green activities around the office, so Cordero recommends assigning a group of volunteers to spearhead the company’s environmental effort.
“Going green is, in many cases, a behavioral change,” Cordero says. “It’s recycling, it’s switching plastic plates to ceramic plates. Because of that, it is important to have consistent folks that will be at the forefront of your sustainability effort.”
Step 3: Investigate waste patterns
Sit down with your green team at the outset and talk specifics. First up: energy consumption. Look at lighting. Does your office use CFL blubs? Tip: try Energy Star. After upgrading, take it a step further by installing light sensors in low traffic areas such as conference rooms, hallways and restrooms, recommends Cordero.
Next, look at your heating and cooling bills. Is there anywhere you could cut costs? Try installing a programmable thermostat that turns down the heat in the winter and turns it up in the summer.
Computers are an often-overlooked energy waster. Do you keep your monitors on all night? Cordero suggests hooking up electronic devices to surge protectors.
“That way, you can turn off the surge protector every night before going home instead of unplugging multiple devices,” he says.
Next, investigate waste.
“Do an experiment; log everything that gets thrown out on a percentage basis,” he advises. “Then sit down as a team and discuss ways to reduce the largest waste buckets.”
Consider kitchen plastic ware (solution: permanent dishes and utensils), bathroom paper towel (solution: fabric towels) and printer paper (solution: use both sides before recycling).
Another wasteful activity: water bottle usage.
“Move your company toward faucet filters or install a bottleless water cooler,” Cordero suggests. “We used to get the big 40-pound water jugs. They were difficult to lift and were sometimes messy. Now we have the bottleless water cooler and our water is cleaner and fresher.”
Step 4: Offer telecommuting
Telecommuting is arguably the most effective way a small business owner can save the earth.
“If employees are working from home, they are not consuming gas, which lowers their carbon footprint and it saves the business owner money by not using utilities,” Cordero says. “I know businesses that will mandate one wing of the office telecommute on a certain day so that they can shut down that entire wing. It’s a great idea.”
Worried you won’t be able to keep tabs on your workers? Try video conferencing.
“Services such as Google+ and Skype allow you to have video meetings for free or at a low cost,” he says. “The video image allows you to understand body language and is just as good as talking in person.”
Learn more in OPEN Forum's Going Green 2012 series.
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