Mary E. Parsons

Ways to Go Green Without Spending a Lot of Green

Many business owners are looking for ways to go green without having to make a major investment in the project. Becoming more environmentally friendly is a noble undertaking, but for some businesses, the costs can seem prohibitive.

Thankfully, as an employer, there are a number of actions you can take to update wasteful procedures so that they pay for themselves with eventual savings. To get your employees involved in the search for (and practice of) sustainable opportunities, follow these tips:

Go Digital and Paperless

Most companies depend heavily on computers to store data. Investing in a digital archive system will optimize the storing of your business’ information and also limit the need to create paperwork. There can be open archives available to entire departments, as well as individual archives for each employee.

Despite the advances in technology, many people still depend on hard copies. To manage this, create a committee to review the documents that are routinely printed in your office — perhaps some of them can be made available digitally instead. Emphasize that limited printing will lower paper costs and reduce the need for physical storage space.

Copy machines are a big source of paper waste, so try and be aware of how much paper is discarded in the process of copying documents. Placing paper recycling bins next to the copier so that unneeded paper can be recycled or reused is a quick and easy way to promote green practices. Giving employees individual codes they must enter before making copies can help promote more mindfulness about what really needs to be printed and what doesn’t.

Rethink Your Supplies

Making small changes around the office — such as stocking pens with refills rather than using disposable brands — can make a big difference over time. Consider using environmentally friendly paper, ink and toner. Additionally, take a look at supplies associated with your coffee maker, as that is a common source of waste. Encourage employees to supply their own mugs. (Now you don’t have to buy more!) Install a water cooler or a water filtration system, and give each employee a water bottle to refill rather than providing plastic, disposal ones.

Installing low flush toilets and low flow aerators in faucets can save water. Employees can participate in the initiative by turning taps completely off and reporting any plumbing issues such as running toilets and leaky taps. Powering down computers and other equipment at night can save energy. Whenever possible, rely on daylight rather than overhead fixtures. Keep the lights off when rooms aren’t being used, and consider installing motion detectors in rooms to regulate the lighting. This will lower your bills and help your equipment last longer.

Remember, You’re All In This Together

To maximize the impact of your company’s effort to go green, try allowing employees to work from home once a week, and promote carpooling by providing special parking spots or flexible hours. Hold a meeting to discuss the costs, procedures and the overall benefits of making changes.

You could start a contest to come up with cheap suggestions, and allow your workers to implement the most popular and cost-effective initiatives. Posting reminders around the office about managing waste could also help. Ultimately, making recycling a constant in your office — along with other ways to go green — will ensure it becomes habitual for your staff.

As a business owner, you’re tasked with continually balancing costs and efficiency. Updating your office so that it’s more environmentally friendly is an ideal opportunity to reduce spending over time. You’ll use fewer supplies and lower your bills in a way that benefits not only your company and surrounding community, but the environment as a whole.

Mary Parsons is retired from a 30-year career in the insurance industry. She worked in the claims department of a major insurance carrier as a claims adjuster, manager and a member of a catastrophe team. Since her retirement, she has developed a career as a freelance writer. As an insurance professional, she has been a contributor to several insurance websites.