5 simple ways to make your small business more eco-friendly

As a small business, becoming more environmentally friendly might fall under that category of “I’ll get to it later.” You mean to get around to it, but there are lots of other priorities, and just the idea of it sounds expensive and time-consuming, right?

However, the cost of making your business greener is likely less than you think, and it’s not nearly as difficult as it sounds. What’s more, there are numerous advantages for businesses that embrace an environmentally friendly culture, like benefits to your bottom line, the efficiency of employees and operations, and boosting your brand’s image.

In celebration of Earth Day, here are a few simple tips to help your green efforts get underway.


This is hands down the easiest and most effective way to make your business more eco-friendly, not to mention the most cost-effective.

Place recycling bins next to printers and photocopiers, in kitchen areas, and around any spaces where employees hang out. If your small business operates in an office setting, you could even put a small recycling container at each workspace.

Just because it’s an easy solution doesn’t mean you should overlook the potential impact of placing recycling bins around your business. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 75% of American waste is recyclable, but only 30% is actually recycled. Any efforts to help minimize this gap are important and worthwhile.

Plus, recycling can have real benefits for a business’ bottom line by reducing waste costs.

Remember that recycling isn’t exclusive to paper and plastics. There are lots of larger items, like office furniture and electronics, that can be recycled instead of ending up in a landfill.

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Eliminate plastic

Plastic is an increasingly common material used for a wide range of everyday products. But did you know that only a small percentage of plastic generated in the US is actually recycled? In 2015, the US produced approximately 34.5 million tons of plastic, but just 3.14 million tons were recycled.

Plus, as of 2014, there were more than 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the world’s oceans with a total weight of around 268,000 tons. That’s enough plastic to circle the Earth 425 times.

Sure, your office might have a culture that promotes recycling, but why not introduce a proactive measure to reduce plastic waste?

Install a water cooler to eliminate the number of plastic water bottles (the key troublemaker of plastic waste) that make their way into your small business. Embrace the water cooler culture and all the fabulous memes that come with it.

Encourage your staff to bring in reusable bottles, or better yet, if you’re planning to order some branded water bottles as swag, purchase a few extras to give to your staff.

Go paperless

Along the same lines as eliminating plastic, going paperless at your business means being proactive about reducing what needs to be recycled.

Given that we live in a digital era, going paperless is likely easier than some business owners expect. In fact, some may be halfway there already, so why not go the extra mile and ditch paper altogether.

What going paperless entails varies from business to business, but some of the more common and effective ways to eliminate paper include sharing and storing files in cloud-based systems, switching to digital invoices and payments, doing away with photocopying, nixing paper handouts at meetings, and using electronic signatures. Also, if your business typically sends out holiday cards to clients and business partners, make the switch to a digital card instead.

Going paperless has the obvious advantage of reducing how much your business spends on supplies like paper, postage, and printer ink, but it can have many other benefits as well – such as eliminating clutter around the office, improving collaboration, minimizing time wasted searching for a document, and speeding up payment transfers.

There’s also nothing wrong with informing clients and customers about your business’ shift to being paperless. Including a heads up about the change in an email or via social media is an easy way to let others know what your business is doing to support the environment.

Energy savings

Energy consumption will always be a factor for businesses, but there are ways you can mitigate those expenses and your small business’ carbon footprint.

Encourage your staff to shut off equipment and other items when not in use. Turning off lights and adjusting the temperature outside of business hours can help save energy.

There are benefits to turning off lights during the day as well. Consider turning off lights during some of the hotter days in the summer, which will help keep a room cool. This is particularly useful if your business uses incandescent lighting, as 90% of the energy they use is given off as heat.

If your business’ budget has room for purchasing some energy-efficient tools, start by switching to LED lighting. LED light bulbs might be pricier than other light sources, but they are worth the investment since they use less energy than other bulbs and last significantly longer (up to 25 times longer than a typical halogen bulb and 10 times longer than CFL lighting). You can also install occupancy sensors in rooms that aren’t always in use, like bathrooms and conference rooms, which automatically turn lights on and off based on occupancy.

Greening efforts as a team

If you’ve been looking for some team building activities, this could be a perfect opportunity to make green initiatives a part of your company culture.

Bring your team together to pick up trash at a local park or get involved in a tree planting initiative.

It’s a great way to get your staff together outside of the office, support a worthy cause, and enhance your business’ corporate social responsibility. Plus, volunteering as a team can also improve employee morale, which in turn increases workplace productivity.

Remember that even small changes can make a difference when it comes to minimizing your business’ carbon footprint. Whatever practices you introduce, embracing the changes as part of your business’ culture will have positive benefits for your brand, your employees, and the planet.

Earth Day may come once a year, but the message that it conveys is one we should practice all year long.

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