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5 Ways Your Small Business Can Go Green for Earth Day

earth day.

Major corporations around the world are answering the call to “go green” with public commitments to choose renewable energy sources, meet LEED certified building requirements, and reduce waste. Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan, for example, includes a commitment to reduce the company’s environmental impact by 2030 through greenhouse gas reduction, water conservation, waste and packaging reduction, and sustainable sourcing. Apple is pushing for 100 percent of its supply chain to use 100 percent renewable energy. Starbucks is redesigning its stores to meet LEED building standards, including piloting the use of reclaimed materials, like shipping containers in its storefronts.

As a small business owner, you can make an impact, too. While your business may not be on the same scale as Unilever, Apple or Starbucks, smaller changes to energy consumption, materials use, and day-to-day habits can still add up to a big difference.

1. Make "going green" part of company culture.

From recycling programs to energy conservation, your green initiatives will be most successful when the entire company is on board. Before introducing new initiatives, talk to your employees about your vision for a greener company. Share your goals and brainstorm opportunities for waste reduction and increased energy efficiency. When possible, consider setting concrete, measurable goals. For example, if reducing waste is a goal, start by quantifying the amount of waste your company currently produces on a weekly basis. Next, set smaller monthly reduction goals with a target number to hit in 6 or 12 months. Unifying the company around a single, measurable goal will strengthen employee engagement and commitment.

2. Reduce unnecessary energy use with a programmable thermostat.

A programmable thermostat lets your business turn off air conditioning or heating overnight when employees and customers are not on site. Lowering the temperature by 7 to 10 degrees for an eight-hour period reduces energy use and may save your business up to 10 percent on its annual heating and cooling costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

3. Limit your paper trail.

Depending on your business, it may not be possible to go 100 percent digital. However, you can still find opportunities to use less paper. The World Wildlife Federation (WWF) recommends setting your printer and copier’s default to double-sided, using thinner paper, and to reuse paper if only a short document is printed on one side. Encourage paperless meetings, where staff keep the meeting agenda and notes in a shared virtual document rather than printing out an agenda for all attendees. You can also challenge staff to a monthly contest to see who can use the least amount of paper, keeping a running total of individual paper usage and crowning one staff member the “Paper Saving Champion” at the end of each month.

4. Simplify recycling.

From plastic bottles to cardboard to paper, your business and employees may produce a fair amount of waste each day that can be recycled. Help make it easier to recycle these items by adding designated recycling bins and cans throughout your office space. If you have a small kitchen area, provide coffee mugs, plates, and utensils that employees can use instead of paper plates and to-go cups, plastic utensils, and take-out containers.

5. Opt for an LEED-certified workspace.

Companies wishing to make a bigger statement about their commitment to being green can opt for offices in buildings that meet sustainable design requirements. The US Green Building Council (USGBC)'s LEED program assesses building performance across five categories: energy, water, waste, transportation and human experience. According to the USGBC, LEED-certified buildings are healthy, efficient and sustainable.


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