With more consumers demanding eco-friendly products and practices from the companies they patronize, many businesses are now focusing on sustainability. But while this goal is worthwhile, achieving it can cost time and resources. Fortunately, there are environmentally conscious ways your business can be more sustainable that will actually save you money. In this article, we offer some practical ideas for making your enterprise more sustainable.
Here are eight ways to have a more sustainable business:
1. Go with a goal.
You won’t know if you reached a goal unless you define it using some concrete numbers and create a schedule for reaching it. Simply saying you want to “be more sustainable” is too nebulous an objective to be useful.
In contrast, committing to reducing your electricity use by 10% in the next year gives you a concrete number to shoot for. It also gives you a period of time in which to achieve it. From there, you can identify methods for reaching that number.
2. Source sustainable products.
Whether it’s an item you use in the office or a product you sell to consumers, look for sustainable versions. Don’t worry that you’ll need to spend hours researching such products, either. Fortunately, wholesale platforms already exist that specialize in such items.
For example, wholesale apparel marketplaces such as Faire let clothing retailers use filters to source women’s wholesale apparel that’s both on-trend and sustainable. Shop owners can easily locate garments and accessories that will appeal to consumers’ fashion savvy and their eco-consciousness. For everyday office supplies, business product suppliers offer a bevy of sustainable choices, such as the GreenerOffice assortment at OfficeDepot.
3. Reduce energy use.
Reducing your energy use is arguably the easiest way to raise your sustainability quotient. In doing so, your business will reduce its carbon footprint and save money by spending less on utilities like electricity.
Start by turning off lights in rooms that are empty and shutting down equipment that is not in use. Such devices can include computers, copiers, and battery chargers. You can also minimize air-conditioning use by raising the thermostat temperature and opening windows to let in fresh air.
You can install smart thermostats that monitor your HVAC use and automatically adjust your climate controls accordingly. Installing sensors or timers for lights also turns them off automatically without your having to worry about manual controls.
If you’re upgrading equipment like computers and copiers, look for energy-efficient models with power-management features. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star website can help you select energy-efficient versions of everything from monitors to enterprise servers.
4. Cut down on paper consumption.
According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the average office worker uses about 10,000 sheets of copy paper a year. How much paper does your business use? Are you still printing memos, meeting agendas, employee forms, service agreements, and invoices? How much time do you spend sorting and storing these pieces of paper? How quickly can you locate each paper document when you need it?
Reduce your paper consumption by producing all of these documents digitally instead. Digital documents can easily be shared via email, messaging platforms, and file-sharing systems on smartphones, desktops, tablets, laptops, and other devices. Once in file form, they become instantly accessible no matter where you are located. Your business will not only be more sustainable, you’ll save money by reducing paper purchases and spending less time tracking down paper documents.
Like most businesses in the country, yours probably already recycles. At strategic locations around your office, recycling bins accept used paper. And in your lunchroom, employees most likely separate waste into trash and recyclable aluminum and plastic.
But you don’t have to stop with these common practices. Food waste can go into a compost pile that then helps fertilize your landscaping. Your landscapers should also be encouraged to compost natural materials such as grass trimmings, leaves, and debris from trees.
If you have old computers, monitors, and batteries, don’t just throw them into the trash when they become obsolete. You can take these old devices to electronics recycling centers. If your device is still working, consider bringing it to a thrift store after wiping it clean of sensitive data. Office supply centers will also allow you to bring in empty ink and toner cartridges for recycling. Many offer you cash or coupons as an incentive for your efforts.
6. Encourage eco-conscious — or reduced — commuting.
The EPA states that the average passenger car puts out 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. Think of how much CO₂ isn’t added to the atmosphere if your employees carpool to work just twice a week. You can offer them incentives to do that by giving carpoolers access to the prime parking spots near your front door.
You can also encourage alternative commuting options. To promote the use of public transportation, buy bus or subway passes for your workers. For those who prefer to cycle, install bike racks.
Allowing your workers to do their jobs from home effectively removes their carbon emissions from the rush-hour commute. You may also be surprised at how productive and happy they become as a result. They won’t have to deal with the hassle of going to and from work, and they can manage work and home time more effectively.
7. Buy from local businesses.
Sourcing your inventory from local businesses reduces the impact you have on the environment. Instead of being delivered long distances by truck, ship, or plane, the goods you order won’t have to travel as far. Fewer heavy trucks on the road means less congestion and lower pollution.
By developing relationships with local suppliers, you keep the money in your community and foster local goodwill. Because your supplies won’t have to travel as far, you can generally receive your orders much more quickly. You can react to market demands more readily when your supply sources are close by.
8. Support a sustainable cause.
If you want your sustainability efforts to impact your entire state, country, or the world, consider supporting organizations that promote sustainability. Your contribution to their work will have an impact far beyond your business and local community.
You might support Greenpeace, which combats climate change as the biggest threat to the planet. Or you could donate to the Ocean Conservancy’s work to keep the ocean healthy, which helps keep everyone healthy. The Sierra Club, dedicated to protecting natural habitats and global ecosystems, would be another worthy recipient of your sustainability dollars.
You can make direct payments to these organizations and receive tax deductions as your reward. You can also encourage your employees to contribute by matching a certain portion with company funds.
Making your business more sustainable benefits your brand, community, and — most importantly of all — the planet. And because many sustainable practices also save you money, it just might make your business more profitable as well.