11 ways your business can go green in 2011

It makes good business sense to go green, not just from money saved but also from improved employee productivity and good public opinion of ethically responsible companies. Here are 11 ways your business can go green in 2011!

1.    Shut off computers and other equipment at night

You can schedule backups and updates to occur after the usual workday ends, and set the systems to power down after they complete. Some energy saving power strips have usb connections to determine when the computer has shut down, and will power down monitors, printers, etc to save additional energy without any extra effort.

2.    Install motion sensors and timers in less frequently used spaces, such as supply rooms, employee bathrooms and break rooms

Controls like these will help reduce energy consumption and eliminate wasted energy when the rooms are not in use. A properly set timer will ensure the lights don’t go off while someone is motionless in the room.

3.    Green your website with eco-friendly web hosting

The internet consumes a fair bit of power to run and much of that comes from dirty sources such as coal plants, but your web site doesn’t need to! Many web hosting companies now offer carbon-neutral service, and some like my friends over at Green Geeks even offer carbon negative service. This company offsets not only all of the carbon emitted from their business operations, they offset 3 times that amount to create a net positive effect on the environment. If you’re looking to green your website while not breaking the bank, Green Geeks can help you with both.

4.    Switch to recycled paper products

This one is pretty common and has been around for a long time, but surprisingly many people have still not made the switch. Quality recycled paper works perfectly well in photocopiers and laser printers, and is often indistinguishable from virgin papers. Look for at least 80% post-consumer recycled content. Recycled content paper towels and toilet paper are available too, from companies such as Seventh Generation. Depending on your supplier, there may or may not be a slightly cost premium.

5.    Use plants to help freshen the air

Research since the 1960s has shown that certain types of plants produce measurable results in improving indoor air quality. If you have enough natural light, consider placing plants throughout the office area, especially near pollution sources such as printers and photocopiers.

6.    Go paperless with email and digital calendars

I’m often surprised at how many offices still use handwritten schedules, print hard copies of emails to read, and send memos printed on paper. Even if recycled paper is used, it’s still a waste.. of both paper and money. There are many free tools available to go paperless, such as gmail and google calendar, both of which can be integrated with your company’s domain name to retain a professional appearance. You can even take your finances by the reins simply by using a professional tax software of sorts to store your sensitive and important documents in the virtual “cloud”.

7.    Encourage reduced vehicle usage

It doesn’t make a lot of sense to use a 2,000lb+ vehicle to transport a body that’s a small fraction of that weight, but that’s what millions of people do every day. Encourage employees to arrange ride shares or carpools whenever possible, and if mass transit is available, an employee discount option may be available from the transit service. Depending on your area and climate, biking to work may also be a possibility and is a good way to stay in great shape too.

8.    Ban disposable drinkware

Many companies are now banning paper cups and plastic bottles, instead asking employees to use travel mugs for warm drinks, and metal or plastic bottles for water. Instead of bottled water, you can provide a filtered water station. This is a great way to reduce the volume of waste produced, and is a good opportunity for marketing as well; many promotional companies can create branded drinkware for your business that will help the environment while also increasing your brand awareness.

9.    Implement an office recycling & composting program

Most offices have paper recycling bins, and most urban areas have recycling services for cans, bottles, cardboard, and plastics. You can reduce your garbage by over 75% by adding a few extra bins by each garbage can and sorting waste. Organic wastes, such as food scraps and used coffee grounds, can be composted to create a high quality soil amendment. There are many services that will collect this organic waste from your location, some even using bicycles, making it a very green option.

10.    Implement remote work agreements to reduce vehicle travel for staff

Remote working, also known as telecommuting, can be a great way to reduce the environmental impacts of vehicle travel. This may not work for every business, but if an employee is doing desk work, there may not be any reason why they couldn’t do that work from home part time if they’d prefer. It eliminates carbon emissions from their commute, and can reduce business expenses as well, if less lighting, heating or air conditioning is required due to less people in the office. Software such as GoToMyPC can provide access to work software and files from a home computer.

11.    Get a building audit

Building commissioning, which is basically just checking to make sure everything in the building is performing as it should, is a standard feature in LEED buildings, but is often overlooked in other buildings. In many cases, large amounts of energy is wasted due to simple mistakes such as vent fans being installed backwards, sensors not being hooked up properly, improperly placed vents and ducts, or badly designed lighting. Getting an audit of your building’s HVAC and power systems can reveal potential cost savings of thousands of dollars per year, as well as improving employee comfort.

If you work in a smaller office or even a home office, many of these tips will still apply. You can also read some tips specifically relating to greening your home office.

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About

Steve holds a degree in Environmental Engineering Technology from Humber College in Toronto, is a LEED Accredited Professional and a Certified Sustainable Building Advisor. He currently lives in Victoria BC and works as a green building consultant specializing in residential projects.

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