With so much discussion in the news about environmental awareness, many small business owners are taking a look at how to operate in a more eco-friendly fashion. Going green can save your business money, help streamline operations, and show customers that you’re responsible and forward-thinking.
While a water filter and a recycling bin in the office dining area are helpful, there are other steps that small business owners can take in order to have an even greater impact on the reduction of their carbon footprints. More specifically, recent technological innovations have made it easier than ever for businesses to be more earth-conscious without harming operability.
There are many ways to make your business more environmentally sustainable. Consider these five tips to take active steps toward conserving our planet for future generations.
1. Use renewable energy
Flicking a light switch or pressing the power button on a computer may not seem like it’s adding to pollution since those technologies don’t appear to run on fossil fuels. However, they do have an impact on the environment even if they’re not emitting exhaust fumes.
What can you do about this? Two words: solar panels.
You may have heard that solar panel technology is expensive to install and doesn’t pay itself off in value for many years, but that’s not entirely accurate; installing solar panels is quickly becoming more affordable. The time that it takes to break even is largely dependent on where your business is located.
With the proper maintenance, a solar panel system can be one of the best ways for small businesses to minimize ecological impact while also cutting down on operational costs. According to some marketplace data, business owners may be able to save as much as 80 percent (or even more) on their electric bills by installing solar panels.
Top tip: Don’t let your budget stop you from considering more environmentally sustainable business practices. For smaller businesses, in particular, the price of using eco-friendly technologies like solar panels may seem expensive at first, but may end up helping save you money on energy costs in the long run. Review your costs and figure out your “break even” point. If installing a new energy-saving feature costs a certain amount up front, but your monthly bills go down as a result, how long will it take to pay for itself? Depending on the investment, it may even make sense to finance the initial cost, using a business loan or line of credit.
2. Go paper-free to reduce waste
Whenever possible, eco-conscious small business owners are already doing their absolute best to reduce paper use. By now, using email to communicate with employees, clients, and customers is standard protocol.
But that’s just the beginning. There are many ways to apply the paperless principle to every aspect of your enterprise. Conducting communications and paying bills exclusively through digital channels will not only help save trees but will also cut expenses. The associated costs of using paper are estimated at 31 times the purchasing cost, which is $40 on average. That means for every case of copy paper you avoid, you could save around $1,200.
These days, it’s getting easy to avoid using paper. You can keep everyone in your business’s network in the loop with regularly-scheduled email newsletters, updates on your company’s website, and social media posts (just to name a few).
Additionally, there are many online services that you can use to streamline internal operations while doing away with paper at work. For example, Monday and Asana are services that allow businesses to schedule assignments, organize projects, and share links, documents, and media with team members. Digital project management tools like this can help eliminate lots of paper from your office while increasing employee productivity.
3. Work remotely to reduce emissions
When you hear the term ‘CO2 emissions’, what’s the first image that comes to mind? Your answer might be a strip of highway packed with clouds of fumes billowing out of vehicle tailpipes. While cars are unlikely to disappear anytime soon, there are ways that small businesses can reduce air pollution. One way is to let employees work from home. Even one or two days that an employee doesn’t need to drive to work can make a difference.
Thanks to the incredible innovations made over recent years in digital communication technology (such as video chat) it’s now possible for people to telecommute to work with ease. Besides the ability to have face-to-face meetings with employees as well as clients without being in the same room, online applications such as Zoom and Google Suite allow for remote team collaboration in realtime. With all of the different innovations in high-tech, small businesses are now able to conduct business-as-usual without requiring employees to be physically present.
4. Track energy consumption with the IoT
The Internet of Things, or IoT for short, is one of the more exciting ways that small businesses can use technology to go green. Essentially, “IoT” refers to a network of machines outfitted with sensors that send information to a central database. That data is then analyzed and translated into information that people can use to determine how well the machine works, if it will need maintenance soon, if it meets legal parameters, and so on.
With that concept in mind, you can imagine the numerous ways in which the IoT could help small businesses get into a green routine. For example, some restaurants are now using sensors like Monnit (among other tech tools) to make sure refrigerator systems are maintaining the proper temperature, which aims to reduce wasted food and save money.
Some manufacturing companies are also using IoT sensors to monitor heavy machinery performance, which helps predict malfunctions and avoid the costs associated with big repairs.
These are just two examples of how IoT is changing how businesses operate. There are many more possible applications of IoT technology for business optimization. These new technologies are providing business owners with insights into equipment performance that they didn’t have a few short years ago, which are opening up possibilities for small businesses to incorporate sustainable practices in creative ways.
5. Consider doing away with your storefront
Giving customers the capability to purchase products or services online is a big way to potentially reduce your impact on the environment. Selling online has a fairly straightforward effect on becoming more eco-conscious and saving money: if a business no longer has a physical office space, it would eliminate 100 percent of the cost and environmental impact of using electricity, water, and gas at that establishment.
Even for a business that doesn’t completely go digital, reducing the number of people who have to drive to-and-from a storefront to get their hands on a service can help limit the carbon footprint made by that business. Going green doesn’t necessarily mean tearing up an entire business plan and starting from square one. A small business can make a contribution toward protecting the planet without undergoing a complete overhaul.
Being conscious of our effect on the environment doesn’t necessarily mean spending a lot. In fact, the opposite can be true: practicing environmental awareness can result in savings for you, as well as benefits for future generations.
Disclaimer: Fundbox and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction. Please consult a tax professional for information about tax laws and how they apply to your business.