Green Your Business: 7 Ways to Reduce Your Environmental Footprint

PA_PECOBy Questline, Courtesy of PECO

Facilities across the country are looking for ways to go green, and for good reason. Sustainable practices can yield significant rewards, both for the environment and your business. By greening your business you can: save money by reducing waste and increasing efficiency; lessen health and safety risks; attract environmentally conscious consumers and employees; and differentiate yourself from competitors.

Measuring and Reducing Your Environmental Impact

Your carbon footprint is a measure of your impact on the environment based on the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted as a result of your business activities. You can estimate your environmental impact by using the Carbon Footprint Calculator. Next, bring your carbon footprint down to size by following these seven strategies:

  1. Use energy more efficiently. Producing electricity and natural gas and delivering it to your door generates greenhouse gas emissions. Installing energy-efficient building systems and equipment can save energy and reduce your environmental footprint. See the Commercial or Industrial energy efficiency tools for recommendations that are tailored to your business segment.
  2. Install renewables. Clean, renewable energy systems, such as solar and wind, can reduce your impact on the environment significantly while lowering your energy bill. A variety of federal, state and local incentives are available to make installing renewable energy more affordable. See the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) for information about incentives available in your area.
  3. Conserve water. Energy is used (and emissions generated) to heat the water used in your facility and process waste water. Reduce water heater temperatures and repair leaks. Install low-flow showerheads and aerated faucets to reduce the amount of water used; this can be especially effective in lodging and multi-family facilities. Facilities with high hot water demand, such as hospitals and restaurants, should consider heat recovery to capture the energy from waste fluids to heat or preheat water.
  4. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Your environmental footprint goes beyond energy use and your business. All of the materials and equipment in your facility must be produced and shipped there, and then disposed of—all of which impacts the environment. Look for ways to use less; it could be something as simple as printing on both sides of paper or developing a better preventive maintenance program to make equipment last longer. Establish a companywide recycling program.
  5. Travel less. Employees driving to and from work produce a substantial amount of air pollution. Encourage (or subsidize) employees to use public transportation or organize car pools, and allow employees to work from home whenever possible. Minimize business travel through web conferencing, email and other low-emission communications. If you maintain a fleet of vehicles, use them only when needed and look for fuel-efficient models.
  6. Consider near sourcing. All businesses require resources to function, whether it is office supplies or raw materials for manufacturing. Transporting these resources to your door uses energy and creates emissions. Near sourcing—using vendors close to your business—is a growing trend that can reduce your environmental impact and may save you money as well.
  7. Ship goods more efficiently. If your business delivers products, consider ways to reduce your shipping emissions. Ground shipments, by rail or truck, are generally more fuel-efficient than shipping by air. Fewer, full ground shipments will use less fuel than frequent light loads. If you do not have enough goods for full shipments, consider teaming up with other local businesses.

See the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Green Business Guide for more tips and ideas about how to make your business more sustainable.