How to “Go Eco”: Your Environmentally Friendly Guide to a Greener Business

Table of Contents

  1. Why Go Green as a Company?
  2. How to Become an Eco-Friendly Business
  3. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
  4. Green Your Energy Use
  5. Make It a Team Effort
  6. Green Your Branding and Marketing
  7. Green Your Supply Chain
  8. The Future is Green

To say “times have changed” would be an understatement. Customers are more aware than ever before of how the companies they do business with impact the environment — and they’re willing to change their buying habits to support businesses that are environmentally conscious. In a Nielsen survey, 55 percent of respondents said they were willing to pay more for products or services from companies that are committed to being socially and environmentally responsible.

Today, it’s easy and economical for businesses to implement ways to help the environment. Eco-friendly office products, equipment, and supplies are readily available at a reasonable cost, and you can “green your business” by implementing a few simple changes.

Why Go Green as a Company?

In recent years, consumer awareness of environmental issues such as hydrocarbon emissions, waste, and water quality has grown exponentially, especially among the millennial generation. Not only are buyers on the lookout for green companies — they also do their homework to make sure that organizations who claim to be environmentally friendly companies are walking the walk. In 2017, Cone Communications conducted an in-depth consumer study that revealed:

  • 63 percent of Americans are optimistic that business will take the lead in driving environmental change
  • 76 percent expect companies to support climate-change issues — and 73 percent would stop purchasing from a company that did not align with their values
  • 65 percent said when a company takes a stand on an environmental issue, they will do research to see if the claim is authentic

Environmentally friendly practices have become a key competitive differentiator in a broad range of industries, from real estate to banking to restaurants, and the benefits don’t stop there.

Many green business practices — such as using energy-saving equipment, installing “smart” thermostats, and trading in empty toner cartridges — can actually save you money. According to one study by the Healthcare Research Collaborative, for example, initiatives resulting in reduced energy use and waste in healthcare organizations could save $15 billion over a 10-year period.

And going green can also help you attract quality employees, as many job seekers look for employers who are committed to helping the environment.

Fortunately, creating an eco-friendly workplace is easier than you may have thought. Here are some environmental office solutions to help you benefit the planet … and your bottom line.

How to Become an Eco-Friendly Business

Transforming your company into an eco-friendly business doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking — it just requires making some manageable changes in the way you run your operations and the products and services you use.

What’s Your Carbon Footprint?

As the saying goes, knowledge is power, and calculating your carbon footprint is the first step in understanding how to become an eco-friendly business.

What does your company’s carbon footprint look like? If you have no idea, there are several free calculators online, such as CoolClimate Network’s interactive tool. First you’ll need to gather some information, such as

  • Current number of employees
  • Square footage of your office
  • Your monthly electricity, gas, and water usage
  • Your business travel practices, including employee commutes
  • Annual expenditures for products and services like printing, maintenance, hardware, etc.

After you’ve entered your information, the calculator will show you a carbon footprint summary in terms of tons of CO2e per year. You’ll see your total footprint as well as a breakdown by transportation, facilities, and procurement.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The simplest way to green your business is to embrace these three classic principles:

Reduce your usage of disposable materials and energy sources.

  • Cut back on your paper usage by switching from manual to digital processes for record-keeping, invoicing, correspondence, inter-office communications, and other tasks. For documents that must be retained for business, legal, or compliance purposes, consider scanning instead of making copies for paper files.
  • Keep mailing lists up to date to reduce waste on undelivered mailings.
  • Ask your team to include a note in their e-mail signatures asking the recipient not to print the message if it’s not absolutely necessary.reusable shopping bag
  • Single-serve coffee pods generate a huge amount of un-recyclable waste, so opt for a traditional coffee maker with a reusable filter in the office break room.
  • Help your customers reduce their use of plastic grocery bags — which many stores are phasing out — by offering reusable grocery tote bags as promotional giveaways.

Reuse or re-purpose used items instead of throwing them away.

  • Consider switching from disposable to refillable pens.
  • Encourage your team to use and re-use paper clips instead of staples, which cannot be recycled.
  • If your office furniture is starting to look shabby, consider re-upholstering and refinishing your existing pieces instead of buying new. If you must replace your furniture, find out if another business can use it, or donate it to a local charity.
  • Create a central location in your office for supplies, furniture, and equipment that can be reused, and encourage employees to “shop” there before buying new items.

Recycle what you use, and use recycled materials whenever possible.

  • Place recycling bins throughout your office in areas where they’re most likely to be used. For example, place a paper bin next to your photocopier and an aluminum can bin in the break room.
  • Recycled copy paper is now available through most office supply resources; make sure to choose a product containing a high percentage of recycled materials. Also consider supplying your employees with notebooks made from 100 percent recycled paper.
  • Before you throw away old electronic equipment or empty toner cartridges, check with your supplier to see if they offer trade-in or recycling programs.
  • Avoid using colored paper, file folders, and envelopes, which cannot be recycled.
  • Use padded manila envelopes with paper cushioning, which are easier to recycle than those with bubble-wrap lining.

Green Your Energy Use

Every office needs electricity, gas, and water to operate, but you can make eco-friendly decisions that will reduce your usage and shrink your carbon footprint.

You can decrease your overall energy usage by using CFL or LED light bulbs and energy-efficient appliances and equipment — think refrigerators, photocopiers/scanners, computers, monitors, “smart” thermostats, etc. ENERGY STAR offers an excellent online resource for information about certified office equipment, details on local rebate programs, energy-saving tips, and more.

The way you use lighting, HVAC, plumbing, and other equipment can also make a big difference in your electricity usage:

Lighting: Turn off lights in unused rooms (or install motion sensors to turn them off automatically) and turn off all lights when you leave for the day. If you need artificial light, consider task lighting that’s focused where you need it instead of lighting the entire room.

HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning): Turn off heating and air conditioning when your workspace is not in use. During the winter, open window blinds and let sunlight in to heat your office naturally, and close them at night to prevent heat loss. During the summer, tilt blinds to face upward into the room to prevent solar heat from driving up your air-conditioning use.

Computers and monitors: Ask your team to turn off computers and monitors when they leave for the day and to turn off monitors when they go to lunch or leave their desks for meetings.

Water/plumbing: Repair any dripping taps or leaking pipes to avoid wasting water, and consider installing low-flow toilets and low-flow faucet aerators in your restrooms. If your business has landscaping, make sure your sprinkler system is properly maintained; some systems have rain sensors that will automatically suspend watering when it’s raining.

Finally, take a look at your electricity plan. Many utilities now offer plans for electricity generated partly or entirely from green sources such as wind or solar power.

Make It a Team Effort

As you green your office, invite your team to get involved by adopting their own eco-friendly habits:

  • Encourage them to walk, bike, carpool, or take public transportation to work instead of driving.
  • For employees who must drive, consider offering work-from-home or flex-time schedules to reduce emissions generated while sitting in rush-hour traffic.
  • Ask your team start using coffee mugs, travel mugs, glasses, and water bottles instead of disposable cups.

Many businesses offer perks or rewards for team members who make green practices part of their day. You can make it fun by creating a competition where employees earn points for eco-friendly changes, and award a special prize to the team member who has the most points at the end of the month.

Green Your Branding and Marketing

Your branding and marketing practices offer ample opportunities to make eco-friendly choices.

Take a look at all your marketing practices that involve paper — including brochures, flyers, mailers, business cards, and postcards — and consider greener alternatives. Many printers, for example, use recycled paper and vegetable-based inks, which emit fewer volatile organic compounds than the more commonly used petroleum-based inks.

Did you know that you can also “green” your website? Some web hosting companies incorporate eco-friendly practices such as using solar or wind energy to power their data centers. TechRadar recently did a review of the best green website hosting companies, many of which offer services at multiple price points.

Another way to green your marketing is by adding promotional products to your campaigns. As an alternative to brochures and other paper marketing assets that generate waste, promos place your name and logo on practical gifts the recipient will use and reuse over and over again. Think about promos that represent your commitment to greening your business, such as items made from post-consumer materials.

Green Your Supply Chain

Every business relies on other businesses — suppliers, shipping companies, transportation companies, and other partners — to deliver their products and services. Part of being a truly eco-friendly business is partnering with companies who share your commitment to reducing your impact on the environment. Here are some tips for choosing vendors who walk the earth-friendly walk.

For trucking and transportation companies, ask if they use energy-efficient or hybrid vehicles. You may also want to ask about the age of their fleet, as older vehicles tend to have lower fuel efficiency.

For packing and shipping companies, ask if they use packing supplies made from eco-friendly materials. For example, polystyrene foam can take decades to decompose, while corrugated cardboard can be easily recycled.

For suppliers of equipment or materials, ask about their overall carbon footprints, the sources of their raw materials, their waste management practices, and other factors related to their environmental impact.

The Future Is Green

Adopting eco-friendly business practices is no longer a “nice to have.” Consumers are better informed on environmental issues than at any time in history, and they are even willing to pay more for products and services from organizations committed to protecting the planet. Fortunately, the products and services you need to green your business are readily available, with budget-friendly options, and many changes not only cost you nothing, but will actually save you money. In today’s environment, going green can mean more “green” in the bank over the long run.

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