Are you looking for ways to help your small business be more environmentally friendly? There are a number of ways you can do this while also enjoying other potential benefits like helping your business’s bottom line and improving your company’s efficiency. Here are 100 simple things you can do to help reduce waste and energy use in your small business.
Paper is one of the biggest sources of waste in workplaces. While it might not be possible to cut out paper entirely, using less paper can be a major benefit.
When you do need to print, using both sides of the paper can help you cut your paper use by about half.
Color printing can also use more energy and materials. So choose black and white whenever possible.
You can also use less paper by simply reducing the margins so that you can fit more on each page.
When purchasing paper, buy from companies that make paper out of recycled materials.
Instead of printing out documents to share with your team and then printing more every time you update a draft, just use cloud tools like Google Docs to collaborate without printing hard copies.
You can also use apps like Evernote to save thoughts and collaborate without using paper.
When updating your team on new initiatives, use email or other online tools instead of sending memos.
You can also cut out paper when making presentations by using tools like Powerpoint instead of printing documents for each person.
Or you can go more low tech and utilize a whiteboard to share ideas.
If your office subscribes to newspapers or magazines, you can save money and paper by encouraging team members and clients to read the news online instead. Most, if not all, newspapers and magazines offer a digital subscription plan.
You can also read books in digital formats instead of buying hard copies.
For your marketing efforts, there are tons of online and mobile options that use less energy and materials than print advertising.
Direct mail promotions often use a lot of paper that usually just gets tossed in the trash. So cut them out of your marketing plan if possible.
If you do need to use direct mail for any marketing or communication efforts, update your mailing lists regularly so you don’t send items to anyone who shouldn’t receive them.
When you do use paper around the office, you can make it easy for you and your team to recycle that paper by setting designated bins by printers or copiers.
Inkjet printers use significantly less resources than laser printers. So invest in those models when possible.
You should also pay attention to the output capabilities on any printers or copiers you buy. Don’t purchase models that are meant for businesses that print much more than yours.
The ink cartridges you use can also be recycled when empty. Send them back to the manufacturer or find a business that will accept them.
In some cases, you may also be able to simply refill those cartridges with ink and use them again.
For small supplies like pens and highlighters, they’re more likely to dry up or run out of ink if you use them irregularly. So just use one until it runs out and then get a new one.
Lighting is another major source of waste. But LED lights are more efficient than incandescents.
No matter what type of bulbs you use, dust can make them less effective. So have them cleaned regularly to maximize lighting.
You can also place mirrors or other reflective surfaces around the office to really stretch your lighting.
During parts of the day, you may only need a little bit of artificial light. Dimmers can help make sure you only use the amount of light that you need.
When you leave a room or part of the office, or when it’s not necessary to have a light on in a particular area, make sure to turn those lights off so as to not waste electricity.
It might seem simple, but there could be situations where employees accidentally turn on lights or leave them on. Labeling switches can help avoid confusion.
Motion sensors on your lights can also help you make sure that lights aren’t in use when no one is around.
You can also make use of natural light in your office by installing skylights or keeping shades open as long as it makes sense for your heating and cooling needs.
In some cases, shade outside of your windows can help keep your office more comfortable. Planting trees can help you accomplish this.
Insulation in your walls and ceilings can also help you keep your office at a comfortable temperature without using excess electricity.
In the cold months, area rugs can also help you keep the floor of your office insulated.
If you have any cracks in your windows, doorways or other parts of your office, it can lead to energy waste. So make sure you locate and cover those drafts. Start with these energy hacks to find and stop air leaks.
You should also make sure to close doors completely after leaving or entering the building.
Insulating window covers can also help you keep hot or cool air inside your office.
On days when the temperature outside is moderate, simply open the windows and turn off all heating and air conditioning units.
It’s also a good idea to not go crazy with the thermostat. Set it a few degrees higher in the summer and a few degrees lower in the winter to lower your energy use.
You can also get a smart thermostat so that you can set different temperatures in different parts of the office or at different times.
If your employees are constantly engaging in thermostat wars and adjusting the temperature in the office, it can lead to lots of wasted energy. So choose a temperature and then cover the thermostat to avoid any back-and-forth.
You can also set a programmable thermostat to a higher or lower temperature (depending on the time of year) once everyone has left for the day and you don’t need to worry as much about comfort.
If you have conference rooms or other areas of the office that are only used sometimes, don’t pay to heat or cool them all the time. Shut those vents on days when no one will be using those rooms.
Your heating and cooling equipment can lead to lots of waste if it’s not running efficiently. Get it checked annually or a couple of times a year to make sure everything is running as it should.
If there are parts of your office that only have a couple of employees, or if certain team members tend to be hot or cold, use small heaters or fans instead of paying to heat or cool the whole space to their specific preferences.
You can also sign up for an audit from your energy provider or environmental groups to locate sources of potential waste.
Office equipment and electronics can also lead to some office waste. When you’re planning on purchasing new computers, recycle the old ones with the manufacturer or retail store.
You can also cut down on electricity use by unplugging computers and other electronics when not using them. Don’t just rely on sleep mode.
When buying new electronics, you can also purchase energy-efficient models that use less power.
Most computers also have settings that let you conserve power, like automatic sleep modes and dimming monitors.
You can also save energy on computer use by purchasing smaller monitors.
Laptops also use less energy than desktops. So use those instead whenever possible.
If your business does any shipping, you can reuse old boxes to reduce waste.
Instead of buying packing materials, use shredded paper or other items that would otherwise go to waste.
For businesses that utilize mobile devices like smartphones, it’s also a good idea to recycle those with the manufacturer or a recycling facility that accepts electronics. Just make sure to erase all your information first, do a hard reset and/or remove the SIM card!
If your office building has an elevator, avoid using it if you’re only going up or down one or two floors.
You can avoid a lot of waste in your office kitchen by saving food waste or unused items that can be used for composting.
Refrigerators use a fair amount of electricity, so it’s only really worth powering if you’re going to have a full fridge.
You’ll also want to avoid energy waste from people constantly opening the door to see what’s inside. Instead, keep a list on the door so people can decide what they want before opening the fridge.
Your fridge will use more energy if it has to keep items cool in a really hot area. So set it away from direct sunlight or any strong heating vents.
If your kitchen sink or any other plumbing has leaks, it can lead to significant water waste. So get them fixed right away.
You can also buy low-flow appliances that automatically use less water.
When you use hot water, it requires more energy. So use lukewarm or cold water whenever possible.
Going out for lunch constantly creates a ton of waste. So encourage your employees to bring lunches from home whenever possible.
That also means that you should have a kitchen with at least some basic equipment so that they can heat or prepare meals there.
If you’re going to use an oven for any food items, bake multiple things at once to improve efficiency.
Microwaves take less time and use less energy overall though. So use those when possible.
Stovetop burners provide another option for preparing food at the office. Improve efficiency by making sure those burners are clean.
The coffee pot is a staple of any office kitchen. But if you set a timer for it to automatically make coffee each morning that means you have to leave it on overnight. Instead, just take a few minutes in the morning to plug it in and make coffee.
You can also decrease waste by tracking how much coffee your office consumes and only making as much as necessary.
To reduce food waste, you can also encourage sharing through potluck parties so employees can share with each other.
You can also encourage sharing of recipes that reduce waste and use sustainable ingredients.
Also in the office kitchen, set up bins to collect bottles, cans, and other recyclables.
Instead of using Styrofoam mugs for coffee or plastic bottles, make sure your team has access to reusable bottles and mugs.
You can also buy reusable dishes, silverware and other kitchen items to cut down on waste from disposables.
A simple water filter can also encourage team members to cut down on bottled water.
To cut down on energy use in your daily commute, start a carpooling or ridesharing program with your team.
Or you can offer incentives to employees who walk or bike to work instead of drive.
You can also cut down on commuting by letting employees work from home when possible. This can also help you save on office energy use.
If you have employees that regularly work from home or have rotating schedules, have people share office spaces so that resources don’t go to waste when no one’s using the space.
If your business doesn’t need much office space at all, you could also share with other businesses through co-working spaces.
Instead of traveling to meetings, use video or phone conferencing to improve efficiency.
You can potentially cut down on energy use by using a 4-day workweek with slightly longer workdays.
Or you can let your team come in an hour earlier or later than the traditional 9-5 so that they can avoid sitting in traffic while wasting gas.
Another approach is to install solar panels at your office to use the sun as a source of energy.
When buying furniture or other items for your office, buying used can mean less energy output and less waste.
You can also do the same when buying electronics, though you should still ensure that they run efficiently.
If your business has any large pieces of equipment that run on electricity, running them during off-peak hours, like late at night or early morning, can help you save on energy costs.
For your cleaning purchases, concentrated cleaners allow you to use less overall.
For a fun teambuilding activity, start a community garden at or near your office.
You can even use it to grow your own food instead of buying pre-packaged food items.
For client or team gifts, you can even plant trees around your office or at a local park.
To remind employees and others to recycle regularly, put a simple note in your email signature.
You can also put up signs or other reminders around your office, especially near recycling bins, trash cans, and printers.
To get the latest sustainable energy sources, make sure your energy provider uses sustainable practices. If not, make a switch.
To cut down on throwing away usable items, designate a space where employees can bring items to trade or share with one another.
Or you can take up a collection for local charities to dispose of unused items.
To encourage your employees to recycle, aside from just making it easy on them, offer some kind of prize or incentive for those who go out of their way to recycle.
Or you could create a more involved competition to further incentivize recycling or reducing waste.
You can also get your employees involved in coming up with ideas for recycling and reducing waste around the office. Hold a meeting or perform an informal survey to brainstorm.
To improve your energy use, you first need to know where you are. So keep track of your energy use by month to see what is working and what isn’t.
You can also set goals for reducing energy use and then track those goals each month or year.
Are you looking for ways to help your small business be more environmentally friendly? There are a number of ways you can do this while also enjoying other potential benefits like helping your business’s bottom line and improving your company’s efficiency.
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