Small Businesses: Here's How To Act on Climate and Improve Your Bottom Line

05/08/2015 11:05 am ET | Updated May 08, 2016

Co-authored by David Levine, Co-founder and President, American Sustainable Business Council

Shari's Café and Pies in Beaverton, Oregon, makes some great pies. Each of Shari's 98 restaurants across the Pacific Northwest uses energy to make those pies. In fact, utility costs were their third highest expense, and the company went looking for a way to trim those costs. They realized they couldn't control utility rates, but they could control their own energy and water usage.

Shari's used the ENERGY STAR Guide for Restaurants and arranged for an energy audit. They also used the ENERGY STAR Lighting Options for Restaurants & Commercial Kitchens guide and the ENERGY STAR Commercial Kitchen Equipment Savings Calculator. Shari's purchased ENERGY STAR certified appliances including griddles, refrigerators, freezers, water heaters, ice machines, dishwashers, fryers, convection ovens and pre-rinse sprayers. The purchase of ENERGY STAR certified appliances has earned Shari's over $300,000 in rebates and incentives since 2010. In 2012, Shari's estimated their electrical usage was down 6% and natural gas usage down 11%; their per-restaurant water consumption saw an 18% reduction. These changes allowed Shari's to save $650,000.

Yes, a savings of $650,000.

Across the country, small business owners are gaining a competitive edge and improving their bottom line through energy efficiency. Many owners are even able to redirect cost savings to new investments or new positions. It's a win-win; a win for the economy as well as the environment.

And we know that business owners are thinking about the harmful impacts from climate change, especially as climate change fuels more extreme weather events. Polling commissioned by the American Sustainable Business Council found that 87 percent of business owners named one or more consequences of climate change as potentially harmful to their businesses. These are owners from all political stripes -- and they all get it.

EPA's ENERGY STAR program partners with over 12,000 small businesses -- from auto dealers and grocery stores to restaurants and lodging businesses -- and is helping businesses reduce the pollution that fuels climate change while saving billions of dollars in the process. EPA resources like the new ENERGY STAR Small Business Action Workbook and EPA's Greening Guide for Small Businesses, Smart Steps to Sustainability 2.0, can help business owners make these savings a reality.

Here are a few more examples of small business owners who are working with EPA to green their businesses:

Madam's Organ -- Washington, DC

"It's an absolute no-brainer to sign up for [EPA's] Green Power Partners program. The process is super simple, it saves money and we feel that we are doing our small part towards energy conservation."

- Bill Duggan, Manager

Fine Violins -- St. Paul, Minnesota

2015-05-08-1431097283-8257916-Fein_Violin_5.7.15.jpg"One of the advantages of being a business owner is that you can mold your business to fit your values. During our lifetime we can work to make the world a better place. I've always enjoyed outdoor stamina sports, but I also have asthma so I'm extremely affected by air pollution. Using wind energy helps make a small dent in cleaning our air. Green power is good for business. Many of my clients mention their appreciation, and some have exclusively directed their purchases of several thousand dollar instruments based on our use of green power."

- Andy Fein, Owner

Dentists on Washington -- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Dr. William Costello, DMD, of Dentists on Washington"Regardless of your industry, there are choices available which allow you to minimize your negative impact on our planet's environment. We at Dentists on Washington have chosen this path of environmental stewardship and striven to become Philadelphia's first Eco-Friendly Dental Practice. We chose 100% wind power for our electricity needs. This is just one of the steps that allows us to fulfill our responsibility to our patients, community and environment."

- Dr. William Costello, DMD

Madison Computer Works -- Madison, Wisconsin

"The environmental impact of humans has always been important to our family. This was inherent in the family's nature, so it simply followed that our business would also consider it important to minimize its carbon footprint whenever and wherever it was feasible."

- Brian Lisse, Owner


HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR BOTTOM LINE
Business organizations like Practice Greenhealth are helping hospitals employ ENERGY STAR tools, and educating them about construction design, tracking and measuring strategies to drive efficiency. ASBC is committed to sharing these tools with the more than 200,000 businesses in our network. These tools will help owners and managers make informed decisions and ultimately strengthen their businesses. These smart energy efficiency efforts can also spur job creation. AAdynTech of Paramus, NJ, has grown its business manufacturing LED lighting to meet the strong demand for lights that consume less power, and thus mean smaller energy bills.

Owners can green their businesses in a variety of ways including instituting energy efficiency improvements and reducing water usage in addition to utilizing green power. Here are a few helpful links:

For more information, visit http://www.epa.gov/osbp/green-partner.htm.