Color me green: Opening an eco-friendly business

By Michelle Laurey

When you first open your own business, you’ll find there are a lot of things to be planned for. You need a company tax structure, local licenses and permits, a physical location, operating capital to get you through the startup period, office equipment, and more.

However, many business leaders don’t give much thought to how their company will impact the local or even global environment. Even if you consider yourself an eco-friendly person, you may feel that you have too much to do to worry over implementing green measures just yet.

But establishing yourself as a green business doesn’t have to mean planting trees and donating large sums to nature organizations. When you think about the products and equipment you’ll need to get up and running, start thinking about green alternatives. It isn’t difficult to find environmentally conscious products for almost any need, from building materials to office supplies.

Here are good reasons for making your company environmentally friendly from the start and how to do it.

-Taking care of Mother Nature

The main reason is that you’re helping to preserve the environment for both the current and future generations. Businesses emit greenhouse gases from running equipment, especially heating and air conditioning. Power companies have a greater impact on the environment through having to supply all that energy. Many companies also produce some form of harmful waste including plastics, chemicals, and discarded electronics and machinery.

In the past, few companies were built on eco-friendly designs or used green materials.

Reducing negative effects on the environment begins with choosing an office space that takes advantage of natural sunlight. This can save on heating and lighting bills. You’ll also want to ensure you have adequate insulation to better manage utility bills year-round.

If you have the funds upfront, solar panels or smart lighting and thermostat systems will save on electric bills for years to come. Use smart lighting strips, LED lights, and Energy Star appliances to conserve power.

When choosing supplies and furnishings, think about 3Rs (reduce, recycle, and reuse) to lower costs. Used furniture, eco-friendly packaging, recycled toner cartridges, and file sharing apps instead of paper will all save you money and help reduce environmental waste. Take advantage of your city’s recycling program.

-Taking care of your (and your employees’) health

Eco-friendly measures also create a healthier, safer environment for you and your workforce. Healthy employees mean reduction of lost time and more physical energy and productivity on the job.

Natural light is easier on the eyes and elevates the mood. This is also good for potted plants, the only decoration an eco-friendly office needs. They’re attractive, calming, and help to improve air quality by filtering out air-borne toxins and producing fresh oxygen. Plant dividers can reduce noise levels by up to 5 percent.

It’s also a good idea to replace cleaning products with green varieties. Harsh chemicals can leave irritants in the air and unhealthy film on desktops and keyboards. Green versions of these products are easier on those with respiratory problems and better for health in general.

-Taking care of your budget

Environmentally friendly measures like energy-efficiency, use of recycled materials, and water conservation will cut down your costs and monthly utility bills. You could also start printing on both sides of paper to cut your usage in half. Buy recycled paper or boxes whenever possible, and institute a recycling program in-house by providing recycle bins instead of trashcans.

When it’s time to upgrade technology, look into having your devices upgraded instead of automatically buying new ones. You can also save money and reduce e-waste by encouraging BYOD (bring your own device) policies that allow employees to use their own laptops and smartphones to do their jobs.

Another idea for saving money is to implement telecommuting through virtual private networks and collaboration tools like HyperOffice. By permitting employees to work from home on a permanent or revolving schedule, you’ll save on utility bills and give them a chance to unwind. If 32 million Americans telecommuted just one day per week, they could save 74 million gallons of gas annually.

Every penny you save through responsible practices not only provides funds to reinvest in the business, but helps protect the environment.

-Taking care of your reputation

Becoming a green brand also helps improve your company’s reputation. People all over the world are becoming more eco-conscious as they hear about issues like pollution and global warming. They would much rather do business with an eco-friendly company versus a company that disregards or downplays the issue.

A company that sells green products and supports environmental issues will get a more positive reaction from consumers. It tells people that you care about the future and the well being of your customers. Make your eco-friendly commitment part of your marketing and advertising, and you become a company that millions of modern consumers will prefer to do business with.

Color your business green

In summary, using green practices in your company doesn’t have to be an expensive or complicated process. In fact, energy-efficiency and use of recycled and used materials will continually save you money. Green practices will also contribute to healthier, happier employees. An eco-friendly reputation will earn you the appreciation of the public. You can grow the business and protect the environment at the same time.

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Michelle Laurey is a freelance writer who enjoys fitness, relaxing in the fresh air, trying to live a healthy life and daydreaming about visiting new places (and actually visiting them). Her best ideas and problem solutions appear while she’s riding her bicycle. You can reach her via Twitter.

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