17 Ways to Make Your Small Business More Earth Friendly — Reduce Costs, Increase Efficiency, Add to Your USP

(Be sure to read all the way to the bottom where I’ve included links you can use to get listed in green directories, join campaigns, and add credibility to your site if you’re running a green business.)

Let’s start this month’s article with a friendly disclaimer. I am aware that not everyone agrees with Al Gore, Leo DiCaprio, Al Sharpton or Pat Robertson. There’s a quite a debate with interesting scientific evidence and support for several perspectives on the issue and I respect that. So, if you don’t believe global warming could be the end of civilization, there are other compelling reasons to take action to be environmentally friendly in your business.

Respect for the planet and life all around you is the most basic of those reasons, but here are three others: it can reduce your costs, increase your efficiency, and add to your USP (unique selling position).

By following the familiar reduce, reuse, and recycle mantra you can save financially, which will allow you to invest more into growing your business or free up family finances.

You can increase your efficiency and get more organized by making small “green” changes such as printing less. For example, fewer piles of overflowing paper will make it easier to keep that working space clean and uncluttered so you can stay focused.

Sharing that you care, whether it’s about the planet, the people, or some other angle, or some other cause entirely, helps you connect with your market and become more “real” than just a hidden person behind a faceless website. It’s okay to allow your personality and passions to shine through your website and marketing. In fact, it’s smart marketing!

So with those benefits in mind, here are some small steps you can take to make your business greener:

1) Reduce the amount of paper you use. Before you print, think. Do you *really* need to print out that email or document? If you just need a backup copy, pick up an inexpensive USB thumb drive and use it to save copies of important files.

2) Reuse and recycle. Keep a small box or tray for paper that you’ve printed on but no longer need and announce to your children that they are welcome to color, paint, cut, etc with the paper. Kids don’t mind recycled paper and some really creative projects can result from paper that’s already been used.

3) Buy EnergyStar appliances. Watch the energy usage on any appliances you purchase–computers, sergers, sewing machines–whatever tools are required for your trade. Always turn them off when not in use.

4) Go paperless for billing. Many business models easily lend themselves to e-billing. If yours does, do it. It will save you not only paper/envelopes, but also time and postage. Bills get where they need to go quicker, too.

5) Use organic, recycled and/or natural elements. If you’ve got choices in the materials you use, take a few minutes to research your options. You may be pleasantly surprised by the range of choices available.

6) Choose reusable. Instead of notebooks and paper for your to do lists, consider a dry erase board or go to a digital online version. Try Google Calendar instead of a paper planner. If your products require certain materials during the production process, can you use something reusable instead of disposable?

7) Buy in bulk. You’ll save time as well as trips back and forth to the store if you purchase in bulk.

8) Change your lighting. Open the windows in your home office or working area and enjoy the beautiful, natural light! Replace your old style light bulbs with energy-saving fluorescent bulbs to save energy and reduce your electric bill.

9) Choose a VA (virtual assistant) instead of an in-person assistant. Work with employees or contractors who work from their homes and you’ll help save the gas and emissions from cars driving back and forth as well gain as many, many other benefits.

10) Combine errands and schedule meetings selectively. Can you do them all on one day? Fewer trips in your car are better. If you can eliminate some errands by having the USPS carrier (who’s already driving by) pick up packages or meeting with clients via Skype instead of in-person, consider it.

11) Buy Green Tags. With green tags you can compensate for your CO2 usage. I purchase mine through https://www.greentagsusa.org/GreenTags/index.cfm

12) Go 100% Replanted. Through http://www.replanttrees.org you can have trees planted to make up for your paper usage.

13) Choose your packaging materials carefully. You can find green packing materials starting at http://www.sustainablepackaging.org or http://clearbags.com/?category|BIOBAGS Recycle or reuse when feasible.

14) Deliver your products digitally. Can you offer a digital version of your products? How about offering your patterns as a PDF download? Or a PDF ebook option of your printable book? Encourage the digital options. Check out http://www.e-junkie.com for an easy way to sell digital items online.

15) Sell locally. No need for shipping if you sell to local customers. Try craft shows or farmers markets if they fit your products. You can find listings online at http://www.indiecraftfairguide.com or http://www.indiecraftshows.com Depending on your products you could also work out discounts or commission based deals with tourist shops, locally owned bookstores and other businesses or organizations in your local area.

16) Support green businesses. Does your webhost power their servers with green energy? Does your printer offer recycled paper for brochures or business cards? Look for ways to support other businesses who are making an effort to be green.

17) Share your commitment! Websites listed below maintain link directories of eco-aware businesses. Add yours if you’re taking action steps to be earth friendly.

• EcoFirms: www.ecofirms.org/support.php
• EcoBusinessLinks: www.ecobusinesslinks.com
• Green People: www.greenpeople.org/addlisting.cfm
• Coop America’s Green Pages: www.coopamerica.org ($75)
• OCA Green People: www.organicconsumers.org/btc/BuyingGuide.cfm
• US Green Commerce: www.usgreencommerce.org/bestbb

Got more suggestions? Leave a comment below and share your ideas.

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