As small business owners, we personally carry a great deal of responsibility on our shoulders. One responsibility that is often overlooked is our responsibility to the environment. We should have the same eco-attitude for our business that we exercise in our homes. While much of it seems common-sense, let me offer a few ideas that you may not have thought of.
Landfill Killer #1: Styrofoam Cups
We are a throw-away society, which naturally manifests in our break rooms. Using styrofoam or paper cups leaves a lasting mark on our environment. Styrofoam doesn’t degrade, it sits with zilions of other styrofoam products in a landfill – and will still be there 500 years from today. Replacing just one cup a day with a re-usable container will eliminate approximately 23 lb of waste year. If that does not grab you, how about stryofoam’s effect on your health. Styrofoam has polystyrene, a chemical that can disrupt hormones, and the chlorine to bleach the paper creates carcinogenic dioxins during production. Just the words polystyrene and carcinogenic are enough to justify buying a work-specific coffee cup.
Landfill Killer #2: Plastic Bottles
Everyone knows that water is the best beverage for overall health. Most people do not drink enough of it in fact. With all the “plus” features of water, one of the “minus” issues that must be dealt with is the excessive amount of plastic bottles discarded daily. These can easily be recycled, yet every year the number stuck in landfills, littering our streets and floating in our oceans is staggering. This goes for plastic bottles of any sort, so you soda drinkers are equally guilty. The solution: reusable bottles. It is not a big expense to have a water filter installed to the break room sink. Employees can drink to their heart’s content – in a reusable water bottle. Better yet, buy a water bottle that is made out of recycled content.
Eliminating Piles of Paper
Gone are the days of traditional filing cabinets. With the few exceptions where a paper copy is required, most businesses today use electronic forms of record keeping. This not only saves the reams and reams of paper, but also frees up more space and reduces clutter. Electronic documents are more easily accessible by multiple people, and often from many locations. You don’t need to physically put your hands on that piece of paper any longer. This also holds true for faxes. There are options now to have a fax number deliver your incoming document right to your email inbox. You will experience improved productivity and there will be a reduced need for paper.
Speaking of Paper
One of the most common green tips is to use recycled paper – and other products for that matter. When spending your consumer dollar, use it on products that are made out of recycled content. The most common seen recently are the reusable shopping bags, replacing paper and plastic bags. Recycled tires become padded playground covering. Recycled glass can be that fascinating light fixture. Recycled paper becomes note pads, stationery, envelopes, and address books. Newspapers are even being crafted into decorative items like coasters and wall art. Here’s a thought – save up your office supply order to place when you have more than one product needed, and have it delivered. This will save time and gas by eliminating those trips to Office Depot every time you run out of individual items.
Time to see the light – literally
Light and electricity are one area that can be easily modified to fit in an eco-conscious office. Aside from the obvious of turning off lights when not in use, you can take it a step further. Move desks, chairs, and tables closer to windows wherever possible. This lets you take advantage of natural light streaming in the windows. If you must use a lamp fixture, be sure to use CFL and LED bulbs. These are far more efficient than regular light bulbs, give off less heat, and last longer. Don’t just stop there. Look for the Energy Star symbol on other electronics to save more. The break room refrigerator is a good item to replace with a more energy efficient model. As for those other electronics, unplug them at nights and over weekends. There is no reason to leave the printer and computer monitor on while you are not there. The adding machine and desk radio will do fine unplugged as well. Remember, every little bit counts.
There are many other things you can do to reduce your business carbon footprint. These are just a few. A quick Google search will give you additional ideas to take this further, including using non-toxic cleaners and adding green plants to your office. Just these little changes, over time, can make a big impact. Be sure to do your part, and get your associates to do theirs. Together we can help preserve our environment both at home and at work.