Going green doesn’t have to be a chore for small business owners or involve expensive purchases. It can be as easy as changing simple behaviors or raising awareness in the workplace. Here are a few earth-friendly changes you can make around your office.
Buy some plants. Head to the garden store on your lunch break and pick up a few plants for the office. Plants filter the air and add to the general well-being of your employees. Choose hardy tropical varieties for low-light indoor spaces (with a somewhat consistent temperature) such as pothos, snake plant and ferns. Or if you have a sunny window (or some outdoor space), consider flowers or even an herb garden. Employees will love to take a snip of chives or cilantro at lunchtime to sprinkle on their salads. You could also offer a stipend to employees for bringing their own desk plants. Just make sure you put a willing volunteer in charge of watering and maintenance. Nothing is more gloomy than a room full of dead plants.
Replace your forks. Josh Saunders, CEO of Greencurement, an environmental software company in Chicago, encourages small-business owners to change out disposable items with permanent ones. “If you don’t want to buy real plates and forks, opt for biodegradable products,” says Saunders. Or encourage your employees to bring plates, cups, bowls, etc. from home.
Compost. According to the U.S. EPA, more than half (55 percent) of the material in municipal solid waste could be composted. Many common food items, such as fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds and bread can be composted in addition to grass clippings, newspaper, leaves and so on. You can buy a sealed black tumbler for $100 to $200 at a big-box store and put it outside. Call your local university's extension or the local botanical garden for more information, and even ask for an in-office demonstration. You can also contact the sanitation department or check your farmer's market to see if there are any drop-off locations for compost if you don't want to do it on-site.
Consider a telecommuting model. Telecommuting is becoming more and more popular among service-based businesses (such as accounting firms, law firms and so on), and according to Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of telecommuting firm FlexJobs, telecommuting once per week can result in a 20 percent reduction in gas consumption and 20 percent reduction in utilities at the office. She adds that working from home can also decrease stress in your employees.
Buy recycling bins for each desk. Make recycling easy on your employees by providing them with a small recycling bin under each desk next to the trash can, Sutton Fell recommends.
“That way, employees don’t have to get up and put things in a main recycling bin,” she says. “They can just separate trash from recycling at their desks and when it fills up, empty into the larger company can.”
Also, distribute flyers from your local sanitation department informing them of what they can recycle. Or even hold a quick, 10-minute meeting going over the recycling procedure.
Assign a green team. Instead of spending your time policing green practices at the office, consider asking a few volunteers to oversee all environment-saving activities, suggests Bill Roth, founder of Earth 2017, a green business coaching practice based in San Diego and San Francisco.
Replace your filters. Clogged HVAC filters can increase heating and cooling bills. If possible, try to change them every month, especially during most extreme weather seasons.
Downsize your printers. Look around the office and reevaluate the volume of office equipment. Could you downsize from eight printers to two? From five fax machines to one?
Roth says, “The usual response is ‘Are you crazy?’ but after two weeks of reducing your printers and fax machines, everyone in your office will have adopted digital solutions that cost less than paper and are more productive.”
What green initiatives have you launched in your office?
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