Earth Day is coming up on April 22, and it’s a great reminder for small businesses!
Why you ask? Because “going green” perfectly aligns with your business goals to save money, remove clutter and improve your processes. Here we share five ideas for creating a more environmentally friendly office.
1. Choose post-consumer recycled content, like paper
- Every ton of 100% post-consumer recycled paper used will save 24 trees.1
- Recycling aluminum and steel can save 75% of the energy over using new materials to make steel- and aluminum-based products. 1
“Post-consumer” recycled content (defined by a percentage) is the amount of a material, such as paper or glass, which has been recycled after being used. This means the material would otherwise be headed for a landfill.
Every product has its content certified by the supplier in terms of its post-consumer recycled material. Want to make your office more eco-friendly? Look for items, such as paper, with the highest percentage of post-consumer recycled content.
2. Choose eco-friendly, biodegradable cleaning products
- More than 85,000 new chemicals have been introduced in standard household products, and the EPA deems 70% of them as possibly harmful to human beings. 2
- The EPA claims phosphorus, one of the chemicals it calls "Volatile Organic Compounds" (VOCs), represents up to 40% of certain cleaning products — dangerous for the water supply. 3
Today, you’ll find a variety of “green” cleaning products: anti-bacterial soap for your office bathroom, floor cleaner, glass and wood solutions for cleaning desks and computer screens.
Next time you shop for office cleaning supplies, examine the labels for eco-friendly properties. Green Seal is a great resource that rates the environmental impact of cleaning products.
3. Replace old lights with LEDs
- Energy-efficient lighting can save 25-70% in energy use.4
- Traditional incandescent bulbs have a life span of 750; energy efficient LEDs can run for 30,000 hours. 5
Your old incandescent bulbs are likely costing you more money than their more energy-efficient LED counterparts. That’s because the traditional incandescent generates most of its energy as heat instead of light. So, unless you’re standing by the bulb to stay warm, most of the energy your old bulbs generate is wasted.
According to the US Department of Energy, if light-emitting-diode bulbs, or LEDs, largely replace the incandescent bulb in homes and offices over the next 20 years, we will reduce lighting electricity demand by a third and keep 40 new power plants from needing to be built.
That’s the big picture, eco-friendly reason to switch your office lighting to LEDs. But there’s another reason: your bottom line.
For a helpful overview of the pros and cons of each type of bulb, read this feature from Green America.
4. Get an energy audit for your office
- Every degree on your thermostat can save you 1-3% on your bill. 6
- An audit can save 30% on a business’s energy costs. 7
Conducting an energy audit is another great way both to improve the environmental friendliness of your office and to cut costs.
Many organizations now conduct comprehensive audits, investigating all aspects of energy efficiency: heating and cooling systems, insulating, air sealing, lighting, and the power consumption of equipment.
Most of the firms will also offer you a proactive energy-management plan, with ideas for improving efficiency and cutting costs. Taking advantage of energy audits help save your business money while making your workplace more eco-friendly.
To give you an idea of what to expect, here’s a great presentation on best practices for office energy audits.
5. Move environmentally unfriendly tasks to the cloud
- Every year, Americans send 135,000,000 tons of trash to landfills. 8
- Increasing the efficiency of energy use and data storage could cut 30% of power use in businesses. 9
So what makes an office environmentally unfriendly, anyway? In a word: stuff. Paper, computer hardware, toner and ink cartridges for faxes and printers, IT equipment.
Want to “green” your office quickly — and save money too? Cut down on the stuff. Recycle old hardware like outdated computers and phone systems.
Switch from your fax machine to an online fax solution like eFax. All of your business faxes are managed in the cloud. You can receive, sign, send and store faxes entirely online, even with your smartphone! No paper, no toner, no costly analog fax phone lines, and best of all…no fax machine. Happy greening!
- Stanford University: http://bgm.stanford.edu/pssi_faq_buying_recycled
- GreenBusinessNetwork.org: http://www.greenbusinessnetwork.org/gbn-members-advocate-for-toxic-chemical-reform/
- San Francisco Chronicle: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/household-cleaner-affect-environment-79335.html
- US Department of Energy: http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/energy-efficient-holiday-decorating-tips
- US Department of Energy: https://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/ssl/sslbasics_ledbasics.html
- EnergyHub.com: http://www.energyhub.com/blog/how-much-is-one-degree-worth
- US Department of Energy: http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/do-it-yourself-home-energy-audits
- Waste Management World: http://www.waste-management-world.com/articles/2014/03/combined-u-s-recycling-composting-rate-drops-to-34-5-for-2012.html
- ENERGYSTAR: https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=power_mgt.datacenter_efficiency_storage_mgmt