5 tips to help your business start and stay green
An essential guide to creating an environmentally friendly office
If you’re starting a new business, it makes sound business sense to think green.
Far from costing you extra, a well-considered environmental policy will actually save you money and could help you win more business. In fact, according to government sustainability agency wrap, going green could save you between £400 and £1,000 a year for every employee.
So what can you do to ensure your business has an ecologically friendly foundation?
1. Buy green
First of all, when furnishing your business, consider buying pre-owned or refurbished furniture. It will immediately reduce your set-up costs and your impact on the environment.
When buying consumables such as paper, make it a company policy to look for recycled options. Recycled paper can use up to 90% less water and 50% less energy than new, which soon adds up when you consider wrap estimates that even a best-practice office uses at least seven reams (3,500 sheets) of paper per head per year. Similarly, recycled pens and copier cartridges will help reduce fossil fuel consumption and the amount of waste sent to landfill.
You can also reduce the amount of packaging waste you create – and your carbon footprint due to fewer deliveries – by consolidating orders from the same supplier.
2. Save energy
The Carbon Trust estimates that the average office could save at least £6,000 a year by switching off equipment at weekends and bank holidays. Photocopiers left on overnight burn enough energy to make 5,000 copies, so switch everything off before you go home. Lighting alone can account for 15% of an office’s electricity bill, so invest in energy saving bulbs that use up to 80% less power and last 10 times longer and switch lights off if they aren’t needed.
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Heating is another significant cost – so don’t heat rooms unnecessarily and avoid overheating. Turning down your thermostat by just one degree will take your fuel bill down by around 8%. It’s also important to keep boilers properly maintained, otherwise they can add as much as 30% to your annual energy bill.
3. Reduce, re-use and recycle
Government figures estimate that we throw away more than 80 tonnes of printing and writing paper and five billion drinks cans every year. Using emails and PDFs where you can – and reducing document margins and making double-sided printing the default on your computers when you can’t – will help you reduce your paper waste and your running costs.
It’s also a good idea to install recycling bins for paper, plastics and aluminium so that they can be easily recycled rather than end up as landfill. To ensure recycled waste gets used, look for products with post-consumer recycled content of at least 30% when buying office supplies.
4. Involve everybody
Engage your staff by inviting them to suggest green initiatives – whether it’s suggesting a new local supplier to reduce your carbon footprint or improving work processes.
Encouraging your staff to carpool or use public transport where they can is another simple way to reduce your carbon footprint, and could save them a fortune in fuel and car parking charges. Better yet, sign up to the government’s Cycle to Work scheme and you could save your employees 42% off the price of a new bike, as well as encouraging them to get some regular exercise which is great for health, morale and concentration.
5. Clean up the kitchen
Last but not least is the company kitchen. Traditional cleaning products contain phosphates which contribute to the growth of wildlife –threatening algae in our rivers, lakes and seas, so clear them out in favour of environmentally-friendly alternatives.
Make sure you buy recycled cleaning utensils, kitchen roll and toilet paper, and choose fair trade coffee and other food items if you can. Plumbing in a water cooler with filter and providing glasses will also help reduce the amount of plastic bottles and drinks cans you generate.
Ultimately, how you choose to help our environment is up to you. But if you adopt even a few of these suggestions, it could make a big difference for your bottom line and for future generations. Try utilising a carbon footprint calculator designed specifically for small businesses to see how much of a difference your new business could make.