The motivation for many small business owners to adopt greener practices is simply to reduce their environmental footprint, but there are many other benefits to be gained from running an eco-conscious business. The smallest efforts towards being environmentally friendly can save you money, reduce overheads, improve your brand image, increase competitive advantage and attract new customers. It doesn’t matter what kind of business you run, there are many simple and affordable ways to make your business practices less harmful to the environment.
More and more consumers are choosing brands based on their ethics and environmentally friendly policies. Being green is unlikely to deter anyone from purchasing your products or services, but it will certainly attract the attention of like-minded, discerning consumers. So there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t at least try to be more eco-conscious. It does require a teensy bit of effort to be socially responsible, like anything worthwhile, but the three easy solutions below should be an absolute breeze to implement.
Switching to a green energy supplier like Ecotricity, Greengas, Good Energy or Green Energy will significantly reduce the impact of your energy usage whilst adding no additional cost to your overheads. You might even save money.
Turning off machines and lights when not in use is one sure-fire way to save energy, reduce your environmental impact and cut your energy bills. We often have lights on when they don’t need to be, it’s just habit. It seems absurd, even pointing this out, but it’s amazing how often we have to remind ourselves to do these simple things. Be right back – I’m just going to turn off the light in the room I’m not sitting in.
Lighting accounts for a large portion of household and office electricity bills, so it’s also worthwhile replacing your traditional light bulbs with energy-efficient Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) or Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). Where possible, opt to use individual lamps instead of overhead lights like spotlights.
You can recycle almost anything now – paper waste, cardboard, glass, electronics, machinery, fabrics, furniture, metal and wood, plastic bags and containers, ink cartridges, light bulbs, phones and computer devices. And it’s a lot easier than it used to be for households and businesses to access recycling points, arrange for the council to uplift waste, donate old furniture to charity, or get a local salvage business to collect old metal and wood. By doing so, you will drastically reduce your contribution to landfills, many of which are close to tipping point. No pun intended.
Where possible, consider buying second-hand furniture or items made from reclaimed materials. Not only is this a cost-efficient option, but you’re likely to get some good quality, stylish items for much less than buying new.
When choosing stationery for your business, opt for recycled paper and card. Buy eco-friendly ink cartridges, and only print when it’s absolutely necessary. Send email invoices, letters and other forms of correspondence rather than printing paper copies.
If you work from home, you’ve pretty much got this one covered. But if you need to travel to get to work or attend meetings, think about how you get there and back. Is it possible to leave the car and jump on the tube or bus. Could you cycle or walk, weather dependant? This could also save you quite a bit of money whilst reducing your carbon footprint.
Meetings could take place remotely. Install Skype and hold virtual meetings instead. There’s often no need for us to be face-to-face, and think of all the extra time you will have to concentrate on other matters.
If you send a lot of packages, look for a courier with green options or credentials. Use a local firm for local deliveries. A number of couriers in larger cities actually have bicycle fleets. When ordering supplies, try to buy from businesses in closer proximity to your location. And if you can buy local, do so. You may even be able to pick up the items yourself when you’re out and about.
Excess packaging drives me insane. Individually wrapped bananas, for example. They already have their own natural packaging, so why on earth is there any need to add more? It’s ludicrous. We can’t avoid packaging on all products, of course. It is necessary for protecting goods in transit, and it prolongs the shelf-life of certain products, but I think we can all agree that excess packaging is still used all too often.
There are, however, a number of ways you can reduce the amount of packaging you use in your business:
- Contact (or complain to) suppliers and manufacturers about the over-packaging of their products.
- Avoid buying goods that are over-packaged.
- Buy refills where possible.
- Minimise your own product packaging (including delivery boxes) as much as possible.
- Design your product packaging as efficiently as possible – make sure it can be recycled and/or used for another purpose by the consumer.
- Use packaging materials produced with recycled content.
- Shred paper waste and reuse as protective filler for packaging – avoid foam and plastic filler.
- Ditch the single-cup coffee pods. If you buy takeaway coffee, invest in a reusable travel mug and encourage your employees to do the same.
Purchase or make your own environmentally-friendly, cruelty-free cleaning products for the office. If you use a cleaning company, make sure they use nontoxic, biodegradable products.
When choosing hand soap for the washroom, buy solid bars instead of liquid soap in plastic bottles. Choose toilet paper made from recycled material. Ditch the paper towels for an energy efficient hand dryer or cotton hand towel.
If you pay someone else to clean your windows, find a local firm that uses eco-friendly cleaning products or purified water only. The finished result is actually better because chemical cleaning solutions often leave a residue on glass.
Reduce the impact of your water usage by turning down the hot water setting on the boiler. There’s no need for it to be set at a high temperature. Install a cistern displacement device (CDD) in toilets to reduce water wastage from flushing. This could save thousands of litres of water each year.
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