Individually and collectively, small businesses are taking the steps to reduce unnecessary waste and ramp up sustainability efforts. From going digital to switching to energy-efficient equipment, these simple steps can have a profound impact on the environment and can also help increase your business’s operational efficiencies and bottom line.
In honor of Earth Day, Excelsior Growth Fund is encouraging business owners to look into small changes they can make today to implement eco-friendly practices into their workplaces.
Small businesses really can make a difference in the environment
If you think that the impact of an individual business is minor, consider that there are more than 30 million small businesses in every corner of our country. The collective impact is enormous – and whether that’s a positive or negative impact starts with the priorities, policies and decisions made at each company.
In addition to the positive effect on the environment, going green directly benefits your business by:
Attracting customers: Research shows that a growing body of consumers support businesses that are invested in sustainability. In fact, many are willing to pay more for products from green businesses. Promoting eco-friendly methods can strengthen your relationships with your existing customers while simultaneously attracting new customers.
Boosting employee morale and productivity: Employees want to work with companies that are proactive when it comes to protecting the environment. Studies show that companies with sustainability programs report better morale, more efficient business processes and higher rates of employee retention.
Saving money: Although there may be costs associated with implementing eco-friendly business practices, simple efficiency measures can be extremely cost-effective for your business. For example, switching to energy-efficient equipment and appliances can save on utility costs, while reusing and recycling existing materials can lower the costs of purchasing new stock and materials.
How can your business make a positive impact on the environment?
When you make the decision to go green, start small with one thing your business can do now, and gradually build up from there. You can also ask staff to choose an eco-friendly change to make in your practices as buy-in is important to success. Here are some simple ideas for making your business more environmentally friendly:
1. Eliminate non-recyclable dishware: Instead of throwaway plasticware, replace non-recyclable and non-renewable materials with renewable, reusable or biodegradable components, such as providing silverware, compostable utensils and reusable water bottles and dishware in the employee break room.
2. Use eco-friendly cleaning products: Harsh, toxic chemical cleaners in the workplace can have a lasting impact on our ecosystem and can also significantly impact employee health. Switching to non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning products is a simple step that can have long term benefits for your employees, their workspace and the environment.
3. Reduce paper waste: Everyday, businesses across the country use and throw out huge quantities of paper. Simple steps like using digital communications and replacing standard copy paper with reams that have high quantities of recycled material can help your business cut down on paper waste.
4. Contact your waste hauler: Ask your waste hauler about where your trash goes, what happens to it and how you can do better. They’re a wealth of information and happy to share ideas.
5. Perform an environmental audit: Have a consultant do an environmental audit of your company. Almost every state has local utility-sponsored programs to help businesses replace old light bulbs, update heating insulation, seal drafty cracks, leaky pipes and more. And these improvements can often be partly or even fully covered by your state.
6. Update equipment: Update your old technology and appliances with energy-efficient models and ensure that the old equipment is recycled or otherwise repurposed.
A Case Study on the Impact of Eco-Friendly Businesses: Earth Angel
EGF client Earth Angel is an environmental consulting company that works in partnership with film and television crews in pursuit of its mission, “to integrate a standardized method of environmental accountability throughout the entertainment industry.”
While working on crew as a production assistant (PA), CEO Emellie O’Brien witnessed firsthand the urgent need for eco-friendly practices on film sets, and she founded Earth Angel in 2013 to help crews lessen their environmental impact. In addition to identifying ways that crews can be more environmentally accountable, Earth Angel embeds an “Eco PA” with each client to help reduce waste, recycle and reuse materials.
“Every onsite Eco PA actually weighs trash, items for recycling and more,” the Earth Angel team says. “We supply reusable water bottles to replace the plastic, single-use bottles that are typically found on sets and we work with different departments, like wardrobe and props, on reuse and donation plans.”
Among their very impressive statistics, to date Earth Angel’s work has prevented nearly 4,000 tons of waste and 1.6 million single-use water bottles from going to landfills.
“Although we focus on the entertainment industry, there are so many ways that every industry and every small business can do better by the Earth,” explains the Earth Angel team. “From retail to restaurants and even businesses that seem inherently less wasteful, like those based in technology or hands-on services, there are decisions we make throughout the day that really add up, both in terms of impact on the environment and also on bottom-line profitability.”
EGF is dedicated to helping small businesses meet their sustainability goals. Our loans have helped business owners switch to more environmentally friendly work spaces, upgrade to energy-reducing equipment and more. If your small business could use additional capital to ramp up its environmental efforts, contact EGF’s Business Advisors today. We’ll work with you to find a financing solution that best meets your business needs.