Green Practices - Good for Nature - and Business
Business owners who operate "green" offices do more than protect the environment - they save money on electricity, supplies and operations in general. And they avoid running afoul of environmental protection laws. Violation of clean air laws, pollution control laws, wastewater quality laws and other regulations can lead to stiff penalties.
Here are a few simple measures to reduce your business's carbon footprint and help your bottom line.
- Go digital. Invest in printers with built-in wireless networking so several workers can access a single machine. Consider digital invoicing to save paper. Scan files for electronic storage.
- Use recycled paper for your printers and copiers. Some vendors offer recycled options for stationery, envelopes and business cards.
- Use videoconferencing. Reduce your carbon footprint and save on travel expenses by meeting digitally instead of driving across town or flying across the country.
- Install Energy Efficient Lighting. Use CFL or LED bulbs because they save energy, and open blinds to take advantage of natural lighting. Switch off lights you aren't using, and consider investing in energy-efficient fixtures.
- Heating, air conditioning, utilities. Lowering the thermostat by one degree produces an annual savings of 5 to10 percent. Make sure your heating and cooling equipment is properly serviced, and ask your utility providers about services that cut costs. If you need to replace your HVAC unit, investigate energy efficient options.
- Equipment, computers. Switch off office equipment when leaving at the end of the day. Consider using laptops instead of desktop towers and monitors for a dramatic energy savings. Buy Energy Star appliances whenever possible.
- Place bins in offices and workstations, near printers and copiers and in the break area to make recycling convenient for everyone. Take office equipment that you no longer use to a recycling center for proper disposal.
- Conduct an energy audit. If you own your building, you can hire a professional to conduct an energy audit and identify places where you’re losing energy without knowing it. Prime targets include gaps around doors and windows, poorly insulated walls and attics and aging light fixtures and appliances.
Making your business “green” takes effort, so make sure you get credit for it. Mention your environmental efforts and certifications in your marketing materials and on your website.
Complying with Government Regulations
Certain industries, including manufacturing, automotive, agriculture, construction, transportation and any business that uses and disposes of chemicals may have activities that fall within government environmental regulations.
The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, establishes and enforces environmental regulations. Currently, each of the 50 states manages and monitors compliance with those standards. Requirements for your area, as well as contact information for your state or area Pollution Control Agency is available on the EPA web site at (www.epa.gov).
Your state may also provide general environmental compliance assistance to small businesses. Services may include permit assistance, on-site compliance assessment visits, confidential assistance on designing compliance strategies and plans, and guidance on new regulations.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov) is an excellent resource for locating federal and state agencies to help with your compliance issues and questions. The SBA provides a detailed online rundown of how to locate organizations with information on air pollution, environmental compliance and management, ecosystems, clean-up, environmental permits, pollution and chemicals, water, waste and many other subjects.
Environmental control specialists, likewise, can serve as consultants for your business either on an occasional or an ongoing basis. These firms will help you conduct testing, file required paperwork and reports, and implement changes to ensure compliance, both now and in the future.