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Going Green -- How to Make Your Business Greener

Becoming a Sustainable Organization

By "going green" and becoming environmentally responsible, many companies have significantly reduced costs and increased sales. In the future, as predictions about the availability of energy, water and other natural resources are validated, going green may also enable companies to keep customers and investors happy, maintain market share, become more efficient, avoid legal liability for environmental damage and stay in business.
Driving the move toward going green and becoming a sustainable organization are high oil prices, global warming, a sense that chemicals are causing real harm, knowledge that natural resources are finite, and an increasing number of customers and shareholders that are demanding a move toward corporate social responsibility, particularly focusing on creating a green, sustainable organization.
Adopting environmental practices helps companies save money, find new sources of business and avoid trouble. Green companies believe that it is more economical to go green than it is to continue adding harmful chemicals to the atmosphere and the environment in general. Going green also helps companies enhance their public relations, and improved public relations and positive public perception can have a strong impact on company profit.

How to make your business greener

Going green doesn't necessarily require major changes in how companies are run. A number of small steps, some of which don't cost money to implement, can very significantly change how business is conducted. Here are some actions companies can take to go green:
  1. Conduct an energy audit - Most local utilities offer businesses free on-site consultations on how they can reduce usage and save money. Frequent suggestions include: Improve insulation, install timers to automatically turn off lights, use energy efficient light bulbs, keep temperatures at comfortable ranges that are not excessively cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
  2. Conduct annual "Going Green" or "Sustainable Organization" Surveys - Survey your employees to assess how well your organization is doing with regard to implementing green business practices. The survey should request suggestions for becoming a greener organization. This can be a separate survey focused on going green issues only, or it can be added as part of an employee opinion/satisfaction survey. Conducting the surveys annually will enable your organization to assess going green progress and provide information, suggestions and insight for future actions.
  3. Go paperless - Encourage e-mailing. When paper is necessary, photocopy on both sides and use old letterhead for scrap paper.
  4. Recycle - Recycle glass, paper, plastic, metal trash and manufacturing waste materials. Go through your trash. You'll get a new sense of how much it costs to buy, store, and dispose of stuff. Eliminate unnecessary photocopying and reuse packaging for shipping.
  5. Reduce commuting - Encourage carpooling (provide preferred parking for carpoolers). Offer transit passes to employees who take the bus or subway, and bike racks for cyclists. Encourage employees to telecommute where possible.
  6. Reduce business travel - Teleconference instead of traveling. For must-go trips, keep track of the miles driven and flown and buy "carbon offsets" from a non-profit like Carbonfund.org to make up for the greenhouse gas emissions.
  7. Buy green - Tell suppliers that you're interested in sustainable products and set specific goals for buying recycled, refurbished, or used. Make the environment, and not just price, a factor when purchasing.
  8. Detoxify - Many offices have toxic substances, such as used batteries and copier toner, on hand. Talk to suppliers about alternatives to toxics, and make sure you properly dispose of the ones you can't avoid using.
  9. Rethink transportation - Consider the petroleum it takes to ship and receive products. Evaluate the impact of products you buy or sell, and find ways to mitigate those impacts. Purchase or lease energy-efficient cars and trucks for your employees' business uses and delivery of products.
  10. Provide leadership and resources for going green - Assign a respected executive-level person to head up Going Green/Organizational Sustainability initiatives, and provide financial and other needed resources. Include "going green" in your company's mission statement and business plans.
  11. Get employees involved - Create a team to lead the company's eco-efforts and determine where you can have the biggest impact for the least amount of money.
  12. Communicate about Going Green issues - Inform suppliers and customers about your efforts. And get in touch with local regulatory agencies, many of which offer financial incentives to businesses that implement green initiatives. Keep employees and shareholders/investors informed about going green progress.
  13. Save water - Monitor sinks and toilets for leaks that waste water. Eliminate water waste in manufacturing processes and in watering the company's lawns.
  14. Explore opportunities for implementing alternative energy sources - Evaluate opportunities for using solar energy, bio-fuels, wind power and other alternative energy sources.
  15. Implement green manufacturing processes - Use energy-efficient equipment, and streamline processes to use fewer steps and less materials and packaging.
  16. Implement green policies - Establish policies and standards such as hardware energy consumption, waste disposal, using recycled and environmentally superior content, water and energy efficient products and alternative fuel vehicles, among other measures.
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