Published on October 22nd, 2007 | by Stephanie Evans
Green Business and the Eco Office
A win-win tactic to encourage the company you work for to stand up and take notice of a great “green” idea is to highlight the benefits that affect their operations and bottom line, such as reduced expenses and improved worker productivity. New and innovative strategies, technologies, products, and services help to both protect the environment and reduce business costs—a nice side-benefit for companies that are continually feeling the squeeze of rising costs and a strained economy.
To help “grow” a greener business, focus on finding creative, sustainable solutions for current situations. Let’s work out some ways that you can help increase your business’s green factor in areas such as telecommuting, energy consumption, shipping and freight services, product packaging, and office supplies.
Telecommuting: Off-site Employees Add Profits
Advances in workflow tools and technology have made the virtual office easily attainable, yet capability alone isn’t a driving factor in the telecommuting trend—productivity is. According to a Gartner Group survey, telecommuters are 40 percent more productive than office-based workers, and businesses are seeing a connection between telecommuting and increased revenues.
So what’s the benefit to the environment? American workers use 23 billion gallons of gas each year getting to and from work. What better way to cut down on emissions and fuel consumption than to keep the car in the garage? Even one day a week of telecommuting has a significant impact on the environment.
Reducing Energy Consumption for Cost Savings
There’s no denying that energy consumption is a growing concern. And, with technology and electronics an ever-increasing staple of doing business, companies siphon from an already strained resource to power those essential workplace tools. Yet, there are available products being introduced into the market that help to reduce energy consumption, save businesses money, and conserve valuable energy resources.
For example, a simple inexpensive surge protector power strip currently on the market pays for itself in energy savings in just a few weeks of use. In many businesses, computers run around the clock, with peripherals attached to them that continue to draw energy whether they are in use or not. Using the sleep mode of the power strip automates a shut-down of energy consumed when not in use. Cost savings associated with the power usage of the computer system have exceeded 70 percent.
Shipping and Freight
The environment pays a heavy price for the cost of moving goods from one place to another. Cargo ships use “bunker fuel,” containing up to 5,000 times more sulfur than diesel fuel. Truck and rail companies use 35 billion gallons of diesel fuel each year, producing more than 350 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. And, currently the worst offender, air freight consumes more fuel and emits more greenhouse-gas per ton-mile than any other type of transport.
Climate impact standards are slowly being adopted and carriers and shippers are working together to integrate responsible transporting of products into the corporate supply chain management. Additionally, a new generation of vehicles is being developed to reduce fuel consumption and emissions, including a hybrid-electric delivery truck for the FedEx fleet. Here are steps you can take to help positively impact your own bottom line:
- Consolidate shipments
- Buy “closer to home” whenever possible
- Choose shippers who actively use practices that are environmentally sound
- Avoid air freight
Packing and package prep:
- Reuse packing boxes
- Use starch-based, biodegradable packing peanuts or shredded paper
- Use less shrink-wrap and cardboard
- Recycle packing materials if you cannot reuse them
Trading Slick Packaging for Earth-friendly Materials
Product manufacturers have historically designed packaging to attract or dazzle potential consumers. Now, they are taking initiatives to redesign and re-engineer packaging to reduce effects on the environment. Although there’s more work to be done to achieve cradle-to-cradle life cycles for sustainability, companies are making strides in doing their part. For example:
- Coca-Cola is changing the shape of the bottle and cap for water bottles to cut the use of plastics by 7 percent.
- Wal-Mart is committed to become “packaging neutral” by 2025, focused on recovery and reclamation of packaging material through recycling, reusing, or composting.
- Estee Lauder spent more than a year to design tubes and caps made from 80 percent recycled aluminum, and much of its packaging is made from recycled paper.
- Restaurants and fast food chains are relinquishing use of the traditional plastic foam clamshell packages that clog our landfills.
Paper: Reduce, Recycle, and Ask “Why” Before you Print
Predictions of the paperless society in the wake of technology have long been cast to the wayside and considered more of a pipedream. We’re using more paper than ever. But there’s plenty you can do to help keep consumption down.
Here are a few quick tips to put on your to-do list:
- Keep files on computers and disks instead of placing printed copies in file cabinets.
- Review documents on screen and use “track changes” type tools when editing your work.
- Send an email instead of a paper letter at every opportunity.
- Buy recycled paper with a high percentage of post-consumer content and minimum bleaching.
- Print on both sides of each page when possible.
- Cut up misprinted material for notepaper or shred it to use as packing material.
- If you have the option to send or receive a brochure in digital format, take it.
- Use a personal sized dry erase board instead of using paper notepads.
Enabling Technologies for Improving Workflow
Enabling technologies designed to improve and streamline operations are of great interest to any business whether it’s a big conglomerate or a small one-person home office. Yet efforts to streamline alone don’t guarantee a “greener” result and should be factored in to the decisions made for maximizing both environmental benefits and productivity.
One energy-saving enabling technology is energy-efficient data storage. With the energy crunch slowly creeping its way into become an energy crisis, moving to energy-efficient data storage devices is more than just a nice, green idea. It lowers the energy bill, frees up energy for other uses, and cuts wasted capacity. In the long term, that translates into spending less on storage.
More resources for Greening Your Business: