By: Stephanie Snyder
Making your business environmentally sustainable does not mean reducing total material demand. Still, it does require more effective use of energy and resources and the mitigation of current waste streams.
Small Changes Go Far
As a business owner, you can start with something very obvious: location, location, location. Consider locations with easy access to bike lanes and public transportation when searching for a new spot, and encourage workers to walk, bike, or carpool to work. Customers can choose to give you some of their extra cash if you provide them with transit, bicycle, and pedestrian access to your company.
Solid Waste Management
In 2017, Americans produced 267.8 million tons of municipal solid waste (or 4.51 pounds per person per day). Companies can minimize waste production and reduce their environmental footprint by lowering everyday employee activities that revolve around single-use goods. Single-cup coffee makers, for example, are now commonplace in many workplaces.
Examine your office and consider all the ways you can theoretically minimize waste, in addition to having marked recycling bins. Encourage the staff and customers to carry their cups and refillable water bottles instead of purchasing paper cups and plastic water bottles.
The Most Expensive Good
One of the highest recurring costs of any small business is energy. Anytime someone in your company uses the coffee maker and printer or switches on a light bulb or the sink’s garbage disposal, electricity is consumed.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, office buildings, which comprise half of the total commercially-used buildings, spend an estimated $1.51 per square foot in electricity. That translates to total energy costs of up to $28,690 for a 19,000-square foot building. To help make sure your business stays lean in this particular department, here are seven tips to consider:
1: Have a Plan of Attack
Knowing where the operational pain points are is the first step to addressing them. You can’t just go about the workplace and start yanking cords and cables off the wall sockets hoping that fewer devices plugged in will cut your energy bill in half. Blindly attacking the problem can result in more operational bottlenecks that can lead to more, instead of fewer, costs. Consider using energy monitoring software that helps identify where exactly most of your energy consumption lies, how to prevent energy waste, and what intelligent energy practices you can implement to extend equipment and machinery lifespan.
2: Invest in Efficient Equipment and Machinery
Well-oiled machinery and equipment mean fewer complications and optimal energy consumption at all times. Like forges and furnaces running at a low heat efficiency, industrial appliances cost more to operate over time. Invest in specialized forge coating to increase your forge’s heat efficiency and reduce the amount of fuel consumed in the process. Brick refractory coating can help reduce your gas bill while also prolonging the lifespan of your industrial appliances.
3: Turn Unused Lights Off
If it’s bright and early, your light bulbs should be switched off unless no natural lighting reaches your office space. You can install light timers to automate this task of shutting off lights after each workday. Any electronic devices should also be unplugged from a power source when they are no being used. Encourage your employees to configure their work computer’s Sleep Mode setting so that the computer automatically sleeps and uses less energy when they are AFK.
4: Switch to Better Lights
Lighting your business space with incandescent bulbs is highly inefficient. Outdated incandescent light bulbs are energy-inefficient and have lower brightness quality than the modern LED bulb. They’re also made with materials that are not only unsustainable, but also more difficult to process when the bulb gets discarded into landfills. A study by the Consumer Federation of America reveals that the average American household can save roughly $1,000 over a decade by simply switching to LEDs. Considering that small businesses use more lightbulbs than the average household, these savings multiply even further.
5: Be a Strategic Landscaper
If your small business controls the surrounding landscape, this opens up new opportunities for more energy savings. You can plant trees at specific sides of the compound lot to block winds or offer shade on hot days to reduce HVAC costs. You can also design a more energy-efficient interior landscape by adding plants throughout the workspace for aesthetic and functional purposes. Plants are proven to help with higher quality airflow and circulation.
6: Train Your Employees
Increase their ability to participate in your energy efficiency initiatives by holding meetings and seminars concerning the subject. Outline a few ways to do their part to save energy, such as unplugging fully charged phones from sockets to avoid “phantom energy” consumption and immediately reporting any plumbing leaks that they come across.
7: Reward Your Employees
The workforce participation is key to ensuring your small business maintains a high energy efficiency level. If it’s just you and a couple of team leads and departmental heads following the new energy efficiency measures you’ve established, your efforts won’t do much in terms of lowering costs and carbon footprint. Ensure that your employees’ efforts to be more energy efficient are recognized and perhaps even rewarded. Simple praise can help get the ball rolling and entice other employees to follow suit.
Becoming more energy-efficient cuts down costs and reduces fuel consumption, leading to a lower carbon footprint.