Written by Beth Hildreth on April 26, 2013
Categories: Blog Posts

It seems everywhere you turn, large companies are making the shift toward making the workplace green. Businesses like IBM, General Motors, and Johnson & Johnson, have all embraced methods for a reduction in waste, green manufacturing, and energy conservation. The results are impressive.

Reports show many of these companies citing significant reductions in company-wide spending, higher levels of overall efficiency, and (one of the biggest motivators) increased annual revenue. Yet, no matter the driving factors, the reality remains that not every company has the means nor the resources to successfully manage similar changes. With small businesses making up nearly half of the private workforce in the U.S., many are taking cue from large companies, and proving that even small changes within can still make a big impact.

For many small business owners, it’s easy to recognize when change is needed. Yet at the same time, it’s not always as easy to stray from conventional methods and then redirect using the guidance of unfamiliar philosophy. Incorporating green practices into your small business doesn’t have to be uncomfortable, or involve great challenge. Experts recommend approaching this kind of transformation by first identifying specific areas of concern, such as excessive energy consumption, or lack of recycling. Assess the significance of each problem and from that point, begin formulating a realistic plan of action based on your own specific circumstances. Initiate your changes slowly, yet be mindful and deliberate with the choices you make. Remember to always keep in mind that all of your efforts are geared toward increasing the success of your company, and reducing it’s overall impact on our environment. Consider these tips as you begin making your small business more green:

1. Get everyone on board. Implementing change of any kind will never be successful unless every employee or member of your staff agree to be a part of the transition. From the very beginning, make sure everyone is aware of the changes you’ll be making-no one likes to be surprised when they see half of their computer files deleted in an effort to save energy. Give employees the chance to ask questions, and to benefit from a complete understanding for your reasons in making greener business changes. Most importantly, allow them to be part of the process.

2. Reuse, Reduce, Recycle. If you’re not already doing this, you’ll begin to see significant savings just by implementing this basic philosophy. Reuse everything as much as possible. Paperclips, folders, even inner-office envelopes, can all be reused again and again. Reduce by starting with a detailed inventory of office supplies and seeing what which items generate the most use, and which are simply wasted or even unused. Invest in a printer that features double sided printing for an overall reduction in paper costs. Recycle anything and everything. Set up specially marked bins in accessible places throughout the workplace. Make sure everyone knows where they’re located and which items they’re able to recycle. Several area waste removal companies charge minimal fees for recycle pickup each week. Or alternatively, collect the recyclables yourself, and bring them to a local recycling center.

3. Buy only what you need. When starting a new small business, it’s easy to buy various items that you think you might need, but aren’t completely sure. Instead, buy only what you know you’ll need, and hold off on any additional purchases until you’re absolutely sure you need it.

4. Work from home. Telecommuting is becoming more and more acceptable by a wide range of companies-both large and small. Having the flexibility to work from home even just one day a week, can make a significant impact in reducing local pollution levels. In addition, telecommuting can also help reduce fuel costs and other fees associated with car maintenance, and even help employees achieve a better balance between work and family life.

5. Utilize Power Save options. If you’re a small business owner, it’s more than likely that you depend on at least one, if not dozens of electronic devices. In an effort to reduce your energy consumption (ie. electric bill) take advantage of Power Save options, making sure all employees are trained to do so as well. When you close up shop at night, make sure all applicable electronics are turned off.

6. Buy used furniture. You may be somewhat seduced by the idea of replacing your old office furniture with shiny new, perfectly stained desks or shelving. Yet, buying new means sacrificing a lot more additional funds. Purchasing used furniture is more affordable, and also promotes the idea of reusing worthwhile items. Upcycle used furniture by sanding down scratches and applying a fresh coat of paint or stain.

7. Bring on the plants. Plants don’t only add to the decor, many also help keep clear the air of certain toxic chemicals. It’s also been proven that having plants in the workplace increase a person’s level of happiness, and therefore, raises their potential for better work efficiency.

8. Be thoughtful and intentional. Being mindful in the workplace will save time and energy, and promote better overall efficiency. Take better care of current supplies and furniture for fewer future replacements. Take notes on a laptop or your ipad to reduce paper waste. Consider offering employee incentives as well, such as lunch or a coffee shop gift card, for those who exhibit exceptional efforts in helping to green your business.

by: Kate Agliata, Editor of My Green Birmingham