Small Businesses Can Make a Big Impact with Green Practices

Tonya Jackson, Director of Sustainable Technology and Operations, Lexmark
greentrees.jpgWhile the green movement was prominent in the early 1970s, changes in the political and social landscape forced this attempt at environmental activism into the background, causing it to quickly fall from the spotlight. At one time, the lack of publicity and lobbying around the movement was translated into the belief that sustainability practices were just a fad. More than 30 years later, the environmental push continues to gain momentum, demonstrating its importance and the commitment of citizens to protect the planet’s natural resources and conserve their own resources.
Today, with such notable attention around “Planet in Peril,” the green movement is front-and-center in the media, and central to most companies’ agendas. From billion dollar corporate giants to five-person organizations to home offices, the ways in which a business can conserve are limitless. It’s our belief that “going green” means “thinking smart” and operating efficiently.

Often times, the hardest part about greening any company is figuring out the best way to start. To help overcome this potential roadblock, SMBs have access to a range of different organizations and programs dedicated to helping them go green. For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program, “EPA Climate Leaders ,” partners with individual companies to help reduce the negative impact they have on the environment. The EPA pays particular attention to reducing carbon emissions and works collaboratively with SMBs from start to finish, helping each company lay the groundwork for future sustainable initiatives. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development, which created a framework for businesses to understand how they impact the societies they operate in, is another helpful resource SMBs can turn to for advice and guidance.
Obviously, implementing systemic green initiatives decreases a corporation’s carbon footprint, offering significant energy and cost savings. Smaller companies can also employ strategies that create an environmentally sensitive office, which inevitably leads to cost savings as well. For example, three main contributors primarily drive an organization’s carbon footprint: the energy usage within its own facility, waste generated and employee travel. These major drivers can be significantly reduced if thoughtful green methods are implemented and encouraged across the business – from energy conservation and a reduction in employee travel, to company-wide recycling programs and smart water management practices.
To get started, companies can initially identify energy saving opportunities.
Installing energy efficient lighting to reduce energy consumption and using reflective roofing materials to lower reliance on air conditioning are two ways a business can lessen its impact on the environment. Adjusting heating and cooling schedules and the temperatures at which heating or cooling takes place can also reduce costs for the business and lessen potential environmental impacts. If an SMB does not have the resources to allocate to these projects, there are plenty of other ways that they can “green” their office.
For example, appoint an environmental advocate within the company, who will spearhead facility wide recycling programs and engage employees within the office to do their part to make their workspaces environmentally friendly. Take steps to make recycling receptacles available, not only within the office, but also in the dining area as well will ensure that paper, plastic and glass are all recycled accordingly.
While large scale water management projects, such as installing low-flow and waterless plumbing fixtures and recycling processed or “gray” water are best suited to global organizations, there are plenty of other ways that smaller companies can mimic large project results. If the office has a garden, courtyard or indoor plants, taking steps to install mini tanks or buckets to catch rainwater ensures office greenery stays refreshed, without tapping into the supply of clean, drinkable water.
The demands for employees to travel for face-to-face meetings with customers, partners and co-workers, many of whom are separated by long distances, can have a negative impact on the environment. In an effort to reduce greenhouse emissions related to travel, businesses can encourage the use of real-time alternatives, such as conference calls, Web-based meeting technologies and videoconferencing. Using these tools not only saves resources and reduces travel budgets, but can also increase the frequency and quality of communications.
Due to the advent of corporate green practices, office products, such as printers, are now equipped with a power saver mode, which reduces the total energy consumption of the device. Also, it is important to employ all-in-one devices (AIOs) or multifunction products (MFPs) – printer, scanner, copier, fax. Purchasing one product, as opposed to three or four, saves money as well as electricity, conserves materials and space, and results in fewer trips to the office supply store. Select printers that have two sided printing capabilities and multi-up options and then use those features while printing to significantly reduce paper usage. SMBs can also conserve materials and minimize waste by using high yield cartridges and returning those cartridges to the printer manufacturer at end of life for recycling.
Partner selection also plays a key role in an organization’s environmental efforts. When choosing an environmentally conscious vendor, look for a supplier that has an existing green design program in place, such as Lexmark’s “Design for Environment,” which focuses on minimizing the environmental impact of its products.
Implementing environmentally focused practices within the business world is no longer a choice, but a necessity. With the cost of energy skyrocketing and the increased need to preserve and protect our planet’s natural resources, any effort, from a certified environmental management systems overhaul, to implementing a facility-wide recycling program, can blaze the trail needed to create smart, efficient and eco-friendly office environments. The move towards green is not a trend or fad. It is a requirement for organizations that understand the benefits of operating efficiencies and conserving resources through responsible business practices.

One thought on “Small Businesses Can Make a Big Impact with Green Practices

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