What does it take to “green” up a small business? Not nearly as much as you’d think. In fact, having a more sustainable business can lead to more sales and leads. Not to mention being a practical way to save money.
In reality, consumers want sustainability from brands. In fact, a lot of people will pay extra if it means helping the environment. It’s a trend that is changing the way a lot of companies manufacture goods and market services.
From IKEA going solar to the new Pringles can, many businesses are moving forward with sustainable practices. It’s too bad most governments won’t do the same.
Why Build a Green Small Business?
Creating a sustainable platform does more than just help the environment, reduce pollution, and potentially save millions of lives. It can also be a way to boost sales and brand reputation.
So, whether you believe in climate change or not is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. It’s practical to get on board simply because that is what the consumer wants.
And as I mentioned above, it can save you quite a bit of money in the long run.
But, what are some practical ways to go green for a small business? The Internet is full of ideas and delusions of grandeur. In truth, not all methods are going to work well for every business model.
Let’s look at several ways to add a green strategy to the small business.
1. Switch to LED Lighting
This first one is a bit of a no-brainer. And despite some people touting incendescent bulbs, they are simply innefficient and will cost you far more money in the long run than using LEDs.
It’s true that LED bulbs are more expensive per unit. But, they also consume a fraction of the power while having nearly 10 to 15 times the life span.
They are also far more resilient while providing a vast range of lighting whether you want a soft yellow glow to a natural illumination.
2. Promote a Recycling Program
Setting up a recycling bin in the business would perhaps cost you $5 at a cheap store. Then, make sure the contents are tossed in the correct dumpster.
But don’t just set it up for your staff. Make sure you have it out in the open for customers to recycle as well.
You could even take it a step further by letting staff bring in stuff from home to recycle. The point is to get as much recycling as possible while giving you something to share on social media.
Think of it as a green marketing tactic.
3. Buy “Green” Cleaning Products
Thanks to the desire for green cleaning products, there are plenty to choose from when it comes time to replace toxic chemicals. In fact, I’ve used several that were on par with brands like Chlorox and Lysol.
You might have to shop around and find the perfect replacement for your specific needs.
When combined with other green small business practices, though, you might resonate with those consumers who appreciate sustainability. Especially if your company uses a lot of these to begin with.
4. Revamp the Restrooms
There are all kinds of ways you can save money in the restroom. For instance, you can install sensor lights and water faucets. This prevents someone from wasting resources after leaving the room.
Even with LED or CFL light bulbs, a restroom with the lights constantly on is still consuming power. And replacing paper towels with energy efficient hand dryers saves on waste, as well as clean up.
How many public restrooms have you been in where paper towels were overflowing the trash bins?
5. Power Off the Office
Energy efficient “sleep” modes on devices still use power. You might as well shut everything off at night when no one is using equipment.
Of course, there are going to still be some things you’ll have to leave on at night. Such as security systems, servers, and other required elements. But monitors, computers, printers, and other devices don’t need to be on 24/7.
Depending on how many devices you have at your business, this could save quite a bit of money over the course of a year.
6. Use Green Suppliers
Because building a green small business is on everyone’s mind, many suppliers are also taking notice. Find providers that use green practices, products, shipping materials, and other elements of sustainability.
How many documents can you print out on recycled paper? I personally know a few small businesses that print reams of nothing more than screenshots or notes that have no real bearing on how the company performs.
It’s such a waste, really.
7. Donate Instead of Discard
I can’t tell you the number of times I brought home either computer equipment or furniture that a business was simply going to toss in the dumpster.
Instead of tossing old devices, desks, or chairs, why not donate them to those in need? It doesn’t take more than a bit of your time to send that stuff to a thrift store or give employees first crack at taking something home.
You could also use this as a method to bring in new customers. Advertise on social that you’re getting rid of something for free. Someone who many become a regular customer may stop by to pick it up.
At any rate, it saves you time from taking that stuff to the thrift drop off.
8. Promote a Healthier Work Environment
It’s in everyone’s best interest to promote a healthier work environment. Not only can this work to build onto a green small business, but it may improve overhead costs.
For example, healthier people are far less likely to get sick. The end result is getting your money’s worth out of your staff.
If you pay sick leave, the company is spending money when an employee is not productive. And depending on how “fun” you can make the environment, you may find employees truly excited to come to work.
9. Support a Community Compost Garden
One thing I’ve seen cropping up quite a bit lately is that of a community compost garden. This is when businesses combine their efforts to engage the community by donating and building up a small plot of land.
Now, this may not be a practical element depending on where you’re located. After all, there needs to be land available for something like this to be worthwhile.
However, it may be a good idea to contact the city to see if it’s possible in your locale. For one thing, it’s a great way to get your brand out there in front of people.
Every community garden I’ve seen sponsored by businesses also have banners referring to those companies.
10. Switch to Green Web Hosting
Maintaining a presence on the Internet means using a web host. And if there is one thing that contributes greatly to CO2 levels, it’s that of massive data centers for websites.
Not only do these facilities consume an incredible amount of electricity to maintain the servers, but the cooling methods also tap the grid.
Switching to a green web host gives you bragging rights. And some companies, such as GreenGeeks, gives you badges you can place on your website announcing to customers that you’re website is “green.”
11. Consider Working Remotely – If Possible
So, not every green small business is going to be able to handle remote work. There are simply some things you cannot do from home. But what about the work that can be done digitally?
Not only does remote work help keep your business overhead down, but it also reduces the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Instead of people driving to and from work, employees can stay home and perform the same tasks.
All the while using their own electricity and water, which saves your business money in utilities.
And thanks to a myriad of technology available, there’s an awful lot that employees can do without actually stepping foot into a business.
12. Add Solar Panels – If Possible
Solar panels are another one of those things that may not be practical in every situation. But, think about why so many corporations are mounting them to roofs lately.
Solar power is getting more efficient and less expensive every year. And not only can they save you thousands of dollars over time, but they can also keep your business running when the grid is shut down on purpose.
Case in point, California has had to shut down the grid to prevent lines from sparking and causing even more fires than they have already. A solar array can keep your company working when everyone else has to shut down.
In reality, there are a number of ways you can use renewable energy sources to power your business. If you’re feeling ambitious and really want to get the attention of consumers, you can always consider biogas.
I’ve also seen restaurants reuse old cooking oil to power generators that reduce how much power the business pulls from the grid.
Going Green Isn’t Difficult for the Small Business
Because there is so much consumer interest in the green small business, many manufacturers and providers are joining the cause. It just makes greater financial sense to appease the next generation of consumers.
And the best part is that you can get started today just by making a few changes in how you conduct business. Whether it’s donating old equipment or shutting things off at night, even the smallest changes can have great results over the next 12 months.
Michael has been interested in the practicality of living green for quite some time. He works closely with GreenGeeks Web Hosting as the Content Marketing Team Lead and an author of various articles.