Small business professionals: Ready for a fun challenge? We’re guessing yes, because as a successful entrepreneur, you enjoy tackling new challenges. We call it the Save-the-Planet game. When you play it, not only will you help the environment, but you can also save money and even improve your business reputation with your customers.
The game works like this. The following are ideas for making your business more environmentally friendly. As you implement each idea, you’re ready to move a step forward. Like with any game, you’ll start off easy, and advance to a more difficult challenge and earn more benefit points with each level of the game. So let’s get started.
1. Start with the basics. The 3 Rs: recycle, reduce and reuse.
These are the easiest and quickest steps you can take to score points and make your business more eco-friendly. Call this Level 1 of the game.
According to the Smart Steps to Sustainability report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), almost one-third of municipal solid waste in landfills is made up of paper and packaging. Reducing your business’s paper-based waste can help save precious landfill space, which is growing more limited by the year. Take just a few steps to minimize the amount of paper waste your company generates.
There are several ways to recycle paper in your office. For starters, use it as packing material or to wrap boxes. Place all used paper in your city-issued recycle trash receptacle instead of the standard garbage bin. If none of these options work for you, call a local waste-management company to help you. They can even recycle your glass and aluminum products as well.
Print only when you must, and be sure to print double-sided, or even print multiple pages onto each side of a single piece of printer paper. You can reduce the need to print by reviewing, share and storing documents online — for example, by switching from your traditional fax machine to an online fax service like eFax.
Don’t throw your used paper away. Use it as scrap paper for taking messages. Keep it on your conference-room table, so your team can use it for taking notes in meetings. Get creative!
Note: Equally important in reducing the waste your business generates is disposing of it properly. Many products contain harmful chemicals that cause damage to the environment while others are made with small amounts of valuable elements (like gold) that, if extracted, can save energy and resources otherwise needed to mine those elements again.
The National Center for Electronics Recycling (NCER) tracks 25 states that have laws on the disposal of electronic products such as computers.
2. Purchase eco-friendly products
At Level 2 of the Save-the -Planet game, you’ll be actively seeking out new products for your business — no different in performance from your old versions of these standard office supplies, but manufactured with content that makes them more eco-friendly. Some examples:
- Look for post-consumer recycled materials
These are products used with materials recycled after consumer use in another form, which would have otherwise been disposed of as solid waste. Favor when possible products that boast a percentage of post-consumer recycled content on their packaging.
According to the StopWaste Partnership, one ton of paper made with 30% post-consumer recycled (40 cartons containing 10 reams each) will save more than seven trees.
The most common example is standard paper, but virtually any product can contain post-consumer material. Other examples include mouse pads and other desk accessories, scissors and other metal-based products, pencils and file folders. According to the Forrest Ecology Network, the typical office supply vendor should have 2,000 products with some post-consumer recycled content.
- Look for water-efficient products
The EPA’s WaterSense program identifies products that use less water for manufacture and ongoing use. The agency claims that the products certified under WaterSense are 20% more energy-efficient than similar products without the certification.
Examples of water-saving products include weather based irrigation systems, water heaters, sinks and faucets, showerheads, toilets and urinals. You can look for WaterSense-certified products here.
- Look for bio-based products
Bio-based products are made partly from biological materials and are therefore biodegradable and less of a long-term burden on the environment. The EPA’s BioPreferred® program looks for products with at least 25% bio-based material, which it believes is the minimum for a positive environmental impact.
Examples of bio-based products include soaps and other cleaning products, inks and toner cartridges for printers, furniture and shipping containers. Look for BioPreferred-certified products here.
3. Monitor and improve energy efficiency
Want to earn some big Save-the-Planet points, and lower your energy expense at the same time? Then it’s time for Level 3 of the game. Look into these great strategies for making your business more energy efficient.
- Monitor your office’s room temperature
Making even minor changes to your office’s temperature can add up to energy conservation and major savings. According to a US News & World Report feature, for example, if you typically keep your room temperature at 75 degrees and then set your thermostat to 72, you could save 9% on your utility bill. With a programmable thermostat you can easily adjust different settings for after hours.
- Move to more efficient lighting
According to the Department of Energy, LEDs are far more efficient than traditional bulbs. Their report on Solid State Lighting notes that 40-50% of the total light output of fluorescent and incandescent lamps can be lost before it exits the fixture. In other words, switching from old fluorescent lamps to LEDs for office lighting can in many cases at least double the useful life of each light.
Moving to LEDs where possible is clearly good for your business’s bottom line. And as for your “Save the Planet” points, consider this fact, also from the Department of Energy’s report: LEDs offer the potential for cutting general lighting energy use nearly in half by 2030, saving energy dollars and carbon emissions in the process.
The Department of Energy has found that an independent energy audit — where a consulting firm examines all of your energy consumption and identifies ways to maximize efficiencies without compromising your business processes — can save you up to 30% on your overall energy costs.
So that’s it, the Save-the-Planet game. It’s the game that helps the environment while also helping save you money. Are you ready to play? Game on!