Here in San Francisco, Earth Day comes at a particularly sensitive time. California is enduring a multi-year drought and the typical winter rainy season has brought virtually no snow to the Sierras or water to reservoirs. The state is drafting water reduction rules for urban areas, and people are paying much more attention to how much water crops use. While climate change likely did not cause the drought, it likely exacerbates its effects. Beyond the drought crisis, broader environmental issues such as fracking, threats to endangered species and fisheries, and ongoing risks from man made disasters like oil spills continue to make headlines.
As a business owner, what can you do? A lot actually. Creating a “green” office is not just good for the environment, it is also a smart business decision that can increase productivity, efficiency and save money. Here are some tips on how to make your office friendlier to the environment and the bottom line.
1. Go Paperless
One of the easiest ways to help the environment is to reduce the use of paper. The manufacture of paper can lead not only to deforestation, but also increase air pollution and water pollution.
Switch to Online Document Storage. Reduce your use of paper by maintaining documents electronically, rather than printing them out and storing them in hard copy format. To do this you’ll need to choose a cloud-based platform to store and share documents. Google Docs and Dropbox for Business are two of the most popular options. Storing documents online is not just environmentally friendly, it reduces clutter, makes documents more accessible and is a smart security option for disaster recovery. Paper does not do well during a flood or fire.
Ditch your Fax. Refrain from faxing documents, instead scan them into pdf format and send as an email attachment. If your business requires fax functionality, sign up for a service that converts incoming faxes to email messages. Two companies to consider are MetroFax and MyFax
Use Electronic Signatures. Fill out forms electronically and use an electronic signature rather than printing out the document and signing it in hard copy. Often, simply pasting a scanned copy of your signature into a document will suffice. In cases in which it is important to establish the authenticity of the signatures, you may want to use specialized software, such as Docusign, to sign documents.
Switch to Online Payroll and Accounting Practices. There are a variety of software solutions that allow you to manage your payroll and accounting online. Freshbooks is a popular service for entrepreneurs and businesses. You can use it to create online invoices, track expenses and hours worked. You can up your online accounting one step further by taking it mobile. Track your expenses on the go with apps like Shoeboxed or Expensify to snap pictures of receipts and track business-related spending.
Take your Note-taking Electronic. If you’re the sort of person that likes to jot down ideas and reminders, Evernote and your tablet of choice are an excellent alternative to old-fashioned pen and paper.
Digital Marketing. Make sure your marketing department is included in the game as well. Communicate with prospects and clients electronically, rather than cluttering up their mailboxes with pamphlets and announcements that they will more than likely throw away.
2. Implement Telecommuting Programs.
In a previous post, I discussed some of the benefits of telecommuting. These include reduction of fuel use and vehicle exhaust production. Telecommuting also saves energy at the office, because consumption around the office is reduced. Fewer people use electricity, water, or paper.
3. Use Green Cleaning Materials and Rely on Eco-Friendly Cleaning Companies
An area in which companies can demonstrate not just their concern for the environment, but also their concern for their employees, is by using green cleaning supplies. Chemicals in cleaning products can negatively impact the air quality in your office and disposal can adversely affect the environment. Fortunately, there are numerous cleaning products that are specifically manufactured with the environment in mind. The Environmental Working Group has a guide that rates cleaning materials according to the safety of their ingredients.
4. Water Conservation
Water conservation is the issue of the moment in California, but saving water helps reduce your expenses no matter where your business is located. One easy way to save water is to install fixtures that use less water and to utilize gardeners and landscapers that are efficient with their use of water. The WaterSense Label Program, run by the EPA, allows you to easily identify products and services that are certified as 20% more water efficient than industry average.
5. Recycle electronics
This is really just about properly disposing of potentially hazardous materials. Many electronics contain hazardous chemicals including mercury and lead. Electronics quickly become obsolete, meaning that they are discarded frequently. Unsurprisingly, then, electronics are also occupying an increasing amount of landfill space. You can also recycle your electronics for free.
6. Energy Efficient Equipment
Make sure that you are purchasing energy efficient equipment and get rid of equipment that is sucking up power. A very easy way to reduce energy consumption is to replace incandescent lightbulbs with compact fluorescent lightbulbs. These bulbs are 75% more efficient than a 60W traditional lightbulb. Another product that makes sense to install is a Smart Strip power cord, which can cut power to devices on standby mode. Emissions attributed to computers on standby mode are significant, accounting for an estimated 1% of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions.
7. Carbon Offsetting
Conserve what you can, offset what you can’t. For example, flying is a significant contributor to climate change, but it’s not really possible to sail to that European business meeting. The solution is to purchase carbon offsets to compensate for your emissions. Carbon offsets are investments in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as wind farms or methane capture projects.
Need another reason toGo Green? There are a wide variety of tax credits and other financial incentives for businesses to make their workplace more environmentally friendly. DSIRE has a helpful website and database of information that breaks down by state all available incentives that support renewables and energy efficiency inthe United States.