Being an eco-conscious business is no longer just something that’s the right thing to do – it makes financial sense. Environmental policy and energy efficiency are priorities of the Obama administration, so businesses that don’t take voluntary steps to reduce their carbon footprints may face regulations later on. What’s more, consumers are demanding more sustainable practices from the companies they patronize.
New Year’s is perfect time to hone a game plan for the year ahead. Here are seven steps to get your business greener in 2010:
1. Write a sustainability plan. Put your environmental goals in writing, so you have a roadmap to follow throughout the year. Any plan should include a mission statement describing what you’re trying to achieve and set some attainable goals for the year ahead – along with descriptions of how you’ll achieve those goals. Find out more about sustainability planning here.
2. Focus on low- and no-cost first. Before you install solar panels, look for easy, affordable ways to cut waste. You may be surprised: Simple steps, such as setting energy-saving modes on office computers, installing motion sensors to control lights or writing an office recycling policy can generate big effects and savings at little cost.
3. Get an audit. Most utility companies offer their commercial customers energy audits for free or at little cost. An auditor can tell you how where your business uses the most energy and the expected financial payback of various upgrades, so you know where to target your precious dollars.
4. Track your progress. Keep tabs on the steps your taking and monitor how much money and waste or energy you’re saving. Not only will this provide great motivation (and bragging rights), but it will allow you to see whether your sustainability plan is working. You might, for instance, track your monthly energy bills or track your carbon savings.
5. Find financial incentives. States and cities are suppose to use some of their federal stimulus dollars toward energy-conservation projects and many are rolling out grants and other financial incentives for businesses making energy-efficiency improvements. Also, many utilities already offer rebates and low-interest loans to business customers making energy upgrades, such as installing high-efficiency lights, or installing renewable power sources. Don’t overlook these incentives and take advantage while you still can – they may not be around forever. You can find a list for incentives in your state here.
6. Mobilize your employees. The most successful environmental initiatives in the workplace are those that involve all employees, so think creatively about getting employees motivated to pitch in. Some businesses form “green” committees made up of employees, while others reward perks to employees who take steps to reduce their carbon footprint.
7. Make it fun. Keeping your business on track with its sustainability plan will require persistence. But you’ll boost the odds if you make it fun and interesting. You might have competitions in the office to see who can reduce the most waste or host a regular educational series on environmental topics.