If your company is making a conscious decision to “go green” – and not just for appearance’s sake - I genuinely applaud you. Just don’t make the same mistake that Texas-based canning company WHH Ranch did, using shredded checks from a nearby bank to package their shipped goods to customers.
As good as their intentions might’ve been, they probably could’ve made a wiser decision about which paper products they chose to recycle…perhaps something a little less identity-thefty, no? (And, as Consumerist.com points out, “It’s great that WHH Ranch agreed to stop packing goods in shredded checks, but what sort of insanely reckless bank was handing them out to begin with?!”)
While I know that we talked a lot about the importance – and rewards – of companies going green, I’m also well aware that not every company has the resources of a Fortune 500 company like Whole Foods or Bank of America – both of whom are as well-known for their social responsibility as for their lucrative earnings. (Hey, I’d be giving out cash incentives every time someone bought a hybrid car if I was raking in 10 figures a year, too…probably.)
But just because your business is smaller doesn’t mean you can’t contribute in a big way to the overall environmental effort. Here are nine ways for your company to inexpensively (and legally!) increase its environmental impact:
- Stock up on eco-friendly office supplies. Look for pens and pencils made with alternative materials, and start printing your company letterhead on natural paper. Switch to energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs and electronic appliances. You can buy bulk supplies online to save money.
- Stop the presses. Did you really need to print out those 12 emails? Seriously? Reduce the amount of paper you use by printing only what is necessary. Presenting a report? Create it on PowerPoint and print only one copy to distribute at the meeting, promising to send it to them digitally. As often as you can, proofread on the screen and print fewer drafts of reports and letters.
- Save energy, save the world. In addition to upgrading to energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances, install a programmable thermostat, which helps you maintain a steady temperature, avoiding extreme air conditioner or heating usage. Even better, take a cue from Ohio-based business owner Peter Danis, who bought $2,700 in “clean energy credits” from a local energy firm. The money offsets the greenhouse gasses emitted by the Danis’ business by supporting solar, wind or other clean-energy programs.
- Implement a recycling program. The demand for post-consumer – recycled office products is much higher than the supply which keeps the prices high on post-consumer paper products. Recycling saves natural resources and reduces tons of waste entering the landfills. Find a recycling program near you at Earth911.
- …and think outside the cardboard box. Recycling isn’t just for paper and plastics anymore -everything from computers to coffee is reusable. Dell and HP have programs in place to take back old computer equipment when you buy new, and Staples and Office Depot offer e-waste recycling programs. No effort is too small either, as evidenced by Texas-based gourmet coffee company Aspen Beverage Co., which gives its old coffee grounds to a nearby landscaping company to use in new mulch mixtures.
- Tell your staff to stay home. If possible, allow your employees to telecommute from home a few days a month. They’ll contribute to the preservation of air quality and road maintenance AND save money on gas – you won’t get any complaints there.
- Brag about it. Posting your green policy somewhere visible, such as on your company’s Web site, does double-duty: it shows potential employees and customers that you are socially responsible, and makes you more likely to hold yourself accountable for sticking to it (the whole “practice what you preach” thing, y’know?).
- Partner with other companies committed to green practices. It’ll be like having a workout buddy – someone to keep you motivated to work toward your goal. Find like-minded companies with whom to work or share ideas in Energy Star’s Small Business Network List.
- Green your mind. Keep looking for ways to implement and sustain your efforts. Companies like Co-op America and Energy Star provide resources for businesses that are environmentally friendly (or want to be).