Every business wants to increase revenue and cut expenses. How about if you do both of those things, and help the planet at the same time?
How? By going greener in your business.
Yes, I know—you’ve heard for years: “I’d love to go green but it’s too expensive and difficult!” Maybe you’ve even said this.
The good news is that’s nonsense. Done the right way, going greener can be easy, cheap, and profitable.
Let me say that differently: sure, there are plenty of expensive, difficult ways to green a business. But there are also lots of ways to go greener that you can do quickly and easily, for little or no cost. Since going green is a process and not an absolute, start with the easy, cheap, and profitable things!
Then you can allocate the money you save into new green initiatives that might not have quite so high an ROI.
1. Cut Your Paper Costs by 60 Percent or More—In Two Easy Steps
As your printers and copiers wear out, replace them with the “duplexing” kind, capable of printing both sides of the paper automatically. Set the defaults to double-sided printing, and train your staff to keep those settings unless they’re doing something that needs to be single-sided—which, usually, is a very tiny percentage of the paper flow. When I did this, I immediately started saving about 40 percent of my paper costs (and I use recycled paper, which usually does cost more).
And even before that, train your employees to bump up the default screen magnification or font size (using the View: Zoom command in Microsoft Word or most web browsers, and the Settings or Preferences command in e-mail programs) so that even though it takes the same space to print, the screen displays bigger type: comfortable enough to read. I used to print documents that were more than five pages or so, but now I’ll read even 50 pages on the screen, because the big print doesn’t make my eyes tired nearly as fast. Now, I sometimes go many days without even turning on my printer.
2. Plug the Energy Holes
How much energy is leaking right out of your building, or sucked away by “energy vampires”? If you’re like most businesses, you’re losing a lot that you can recapture with two quick, inexpensive methods.
Put your hand next to an empty electrical socket on a wall that borders the outside. If on a cold winter evening or a hot summer day, you feel a temperature difference between the inside and outside air, you’re feeling your hard-earned money slipping through the wall. Air that you’ve paid to heat or cool to the optimum temperature is migrating outside, increasing your complicity in global climate change while running up your energy bill.
You can easily stop this air from flowing out. A tiny investment in foam insulators and outlet protectors will pay for itself very quickly. In the US, where I live, many utility companies will give you the foam insulators for free. Even if you have to buy them at the hardware store, they’re very cheap. It takes under two minutes to unscrew the socket or switchplate cover—remember, you only have to do the ones on outside walls—pop in the foam pad, and screw the cover back on.
Now, for any outside-wall socket that doesn’t have a plug in it, pop in an outlet protector: a little piece of plastic designed to keep baby fingers out of trouble. Hardware stores have them in the baby department.
Finally, caulk any windows that leak air around the edges (use removable rope caulk if these windows are designed to open) and install door sweeps if you’re losing air around exterior doors,
Once you’ve blocked all that air from migrating back and forth, get rid of your “energy vampires”: equipment that stays on all the time, in standby mode, even when switched off—anything that turns on instantly without any warmup is probably guilty of sucking out a surprisingly large amount of power over time. The easiest way to deal with this is to buy multi-outlet power strips that have an on-off switch. Get in the habit of turning the power strips off until you need them, and your printers, copiers, computers, coffee machines, microwave ovens and other devices will stop drinking power all night long. If you train your staff to flip those switches, you’ll be amazed at how much you save.
3. Market to the Green Consumer
The green market is growing at better than 29 percent a year, according to Allen Rubin, director of the National Environmental Hall of Fame.
And as soon as you begin to take some steps toward lowering your carbon footprint and conserving resources, you’re entitled to approach this lucrative market. The more you do to go green, of course, the deeper you can go with messages about sustainability to win new business and higher revenues. But even if you’re just starting with the easy steps above, you can make this a marketing opportunity—NOT by “greenwashing” or pretending to be greener than you are, but by using these tentative steps as a jumping off point to engage your customers and prospects. For example, an in-store or social media campaign that says “this is what we’ve done so far. If you were us, what else would you do to go farther down the green path?
More Easy Green Ideas
If you’re excited about saving more energy and resources, here’s a gift for you: a free copy of my e-book, Painless Green: 111 Tips to Help the Environment, Lower Your Carbon Footprint, Cut Your Budget, and Improve Your Quality of Life-With No Negative Impact on Your Lifestyle. Just visit http://painlessgreenbook.com/earthday, and enter the code, “earthday” (without the quote marks).
Want to market green products and services to green AND non-green audiences? Marketing consultant, syndicated columnist, and copywriter Shel Horowitz shows you how to “reach green, socially conscious consumers with marketing that has THEM calling YOU.” He specializes in green and ethical marketing strategies and materials for businesses and organizations. The primary author of the category bestseller Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green: Winning Strategies to Improve Your Profits and Your (John Wiley & Sons, 2010), Shel writes the monthly column Green And Profitable. His website is http://greenandprofitable.com.