THE BLOG
04/28/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

16 Ways To Turn Your Business Green

Whether you have a large factory with hundreds of employees, or a two-person office, there are many ways to save money, energy and resources by implementing these simple practices.

1. Buy and use post-consumer recycled paper for all of your printing needs. Print double-sided for all documents that must be printed. Set your printer to automatically print double-sided. Revise internal and external communications to reduce the unnecessary use of paper. For example, go paperless by using e-mail messages, and review mailing lists. Any reduction in paper and printing will save on operating costs.

2. Recycle or refill printer ink cartridges. Many stores like Office Max or Staples will recycle your cartridges for you, some will refill them.

3. Whenever you purchase new office equipment, be sure it is Energy Star rated to save you money and to save electricity. Printers, scanners, fax machines, and telephones all have an Energy Star rating, choose the one that will meet your needs and save money.

4. Once you have purchased your new equipment, dispose of your old machines responsibly. Take them to an E-Waste facility because most older office equipment is filled with heavy metals.

5. Be sure to plug all office equipment into power strips that can be turned off at night. Most computers and office machines draw power even when they are turned off. This is called a "phantom load" of electricity. The costs will sneak up on you!

6. Set computers to automatically sleep or turn off whenever they are not in use. Use motion sensors to turn the lights off in offices and restrooms when they are not occupied. Use programmable thermostats to automatically turn down the heat and air conditioning in your office at night or whenever the office is not occupied.

7. Whatever the size of your building or factory, have an energy audit done to see where you could save energy. You may need more insulation or your HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system could be out of date. Provide fresh air to all employees. Be sure large warehouses and factories exhaust fumes to comply with health standards.

8. Get a lighting audit and change your old fluorescent tubes (usually T-12s) to new tubes, T-8s with energy efficient ballasts. Change all other light fixtures to CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs) or LEDs (light emitting diodes). Provide as much daylight for your employees as you can. Daylit spaces increase productivity, worker retention and health in addition to reducing energy bills.

9. Create a recycling program for your business. In the office, create bins to collect scrap paper for reuse. Recycle aluminum cans, glass, cardboard, office paper and newsprint or whatever your municipality will take. Get a water cooler and provide ceramic or metal mugs for your employees so they do not have to use plastic water bottles or disposable cups. Educate your employees about recycling and why it is important. Make sure the recycling system is fun and user-friendly!

10. In the factory or warehouse, work with your city or county to recycle big items such as steel, packing crates, commercial cardboard, glass, sheetrock or construction waste. Recycling is a lucrative business, and you can save money by selling your waste products rather than paying for them to be sent to the landfill.

11. Use non-toxic cleaning materials throughout your business, not just for the janitorial jobs, but for cleaning machines and industrial processes as well.

12. Encourage the use of alternative transportation for your employees. Buy bus or train passes for your employees so they can use public transportation to get to work. If public transportation does not reach your business, create a ride-share board so employees can carpool rather than driving alone. Flextime and Telecommuting is a great way to save energy and keep your employees happy.

13. Create a bike lock and storage facility so employees can bike to work. Provide them with a locker room and shower so the whole process is appealing and easy.

14. Evaluate the outside of your building; the lighting, parking lot and landscaping. Outdoor lighting can be on a motion sensor for safety; the parking lot can have solar lights, and be landscaped with drought resistant plants (this method is called xeriscaping). In addition, rainwater can be collected and used for watering plants. If you have a flat roof, look into getting a grant for solar panels. You can lease them, rather than do the whole installation yourself.

15. If you run a fleet of vehicles, delivery trucks, vans or company cars, purchase hybrids or use biodiesel in your vehicles. In addition, there are many ways your business can save money by doing an energy audit of the amount of fuel you use and the number of trips your vehicles make.

16. Education is key; you need a "buy-in" from your employees to get them to participate in your green programs. Make the education process fun by creating a "green team" from many different departments who will think of ways to increase participation. Work with your suppliers to educate them about your new green programs and see if they can minimize their waste or use less toxic products in your supply line.

Greening your business isn't just good for the earth, it is really good for your bottom line. After you meet with success in several areas like recycling and energy savings, publicize this to your customers. Talk about your savings as you make sales calls. Write about your new green agenda in your annual report and all promotional materials. Get local TV, radio and newspaper media involved in publicizing your efforts. Customers want to buy an environmentally friendly product, and they want to support businesses that are trying to make a difference in this world.

Start a corporate program that gives back to the community. Support local environmental organizations on their clean up days, or send volunteers to Habitat for Humanity as they finish building a house for a family in need.

Build team spirit between departments by competing for the most volunteer hours, the greenest department or the most successful recycling program.

Written by Nancy H. Taylor, author of Go Green: How to Build an Earth-Friendly Community, Gibbs Smith Publishers, Layton, Utah 2008. For more information, please visit http://www.nancyhtaylor.com.