10 Ways Your Business Isn't Being Environmentally Friendly
According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), small businesses employ 47.8 percent of the private workforce. With that many people committed to going green, you and your fellow small business owners could make a huge difference.
In honor of Earth Day, we’ll review ten small business sustainability mistakes you might be guilty of, with actionable tips on how you can start being environmentally friendly going forward.
1. Not Buying Reusable Kitchen Supplies
The kitchen is often a very wasteful place in an office. However, by purchasing reusable plates, coffee mugs, and silverware, you’ll eliminate unnecessary trash. In addition, you’ll save money because you won’t be constantly buying new items.
2. Leaving Equipment Turned on When It Isn’t Being Used
This is a common but easily avoidable mistake that you and your employees are probably making. When you close your business for the day, you should make it a priority to turn off equipment. Soon, it’ll become part of your daily routine.
If there are repeat offenders who continually leave equipment turned on, just stay persistent. It takes time to create new habits.
3. Printing Documents that Could be Sent Digitally
In this day and age, almost every type of business could go paperless. So, unless it’s absolutely necessary to have a physical copy, don’t print it out. In addition, with free file storage available on Google Drive, Box, or Dropbox, there’s really no excuse not to store most of your documents digitally.
4. Not Considering Energy Efficient Vehicles
Does your business require vehicles in order to operate? If so, you probably know that electronic or hybrid vehicles are generally more expensive than traditional alternatives. However, depending on your business’s needs, the fuel savings may make up for the higher initial investment. Plus, these vehicles emit far fewer emissions than traditional vehicles.
Plus, with so many grants available for a variety of sustainable business practices, you could be leaving money on the table by not driving a hybrid.
5. Using Non-Energy Efficient Light Fixtures
Energy Star certified fixtures use 90 percent less energy than traditional light bulbs, according to Energystar.gov. Given that these fixtures also last 15 times longer than traditional bulbs, you’ll be spending less money and generating less trash.
6. Using a Single-Serve Coffee Maker
Getting your caffeine fix is probably a pivotal part of your day, and that’s okay. Still, you’ve probably never considered how much waste your single-serve coffee maker generates. To fix this problem, replace it with a filtered coffee maker that use a recyclable filter, and reuse the old coffee grounds as plant fertilizer.
7. Taking Separate Cars
Without thinking about it, it’s easy for everyone to hop in their own car to get where they need to go, but that’s very wasteful. Whether you’re carpooling to the office each day or driving as a group to a meeting, taking as few cars as possible is an easy way to help the environment.
8. Failing to Incentivize Environmentally Friendly Behavior
Depending on your business, it might be possible to reward customers for being environmentally friendly. Ideally, you can make it work for you and your customers.
For example, if you run a small grocery store. you can incentivize “green” behavior by offering customers points towards a raffle for bringing their own reusable grocery bag. By giving your customers a reason to be environmentally conscious, you could
9. Letting Good Furniture Go to Waste
Anytime you move office spaces, you’ll likely be getting rid of furniture. Instead of disposing of old furniture, look for retailers who will buy your furniture. Even if the furniture is in very bad shape, you can find somewhere to donate it. Or, if you’re feeling creative, and want to save some money, try looking for ways to reuse your old furniture.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “food and packaging/containers account for almost 45 percent of the materials landfilled in the United States.” Chances are, your business is contributing. To avoid this, don’t purchase individually wrapped goods. Instead, buy in bulk, and use reusable drinking bottles and coffee mugs.
10. Not Applying for Sustainability Grants
The federal government wants your business to be more environmentally sustainable. In recent years, they’ve started to put their money where their mouth is in the form of subsidies and grants. Don’t make the mistake of missing out on potential savings. Check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency to see if your business qualifies.
Sustainability is becoming increasingly important to consumers, particularly Millennials, who are the most willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings, according to Nielsen. Considering that Pew Research projects Millennials will become the largest generation in the United States by 2019, you’d do well for yourself—and the planet—to focus on becoming more environmentally friendly.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.