Going green helps businesses make green

Daniel Hannaher
Daniel Hannaher

Green dry cleaners. Green car washes. Green puppy food. Green wall paints. Green is everywhere. It’s taught in the first grade. It’s at the center of many corporate manufacturing and marketing policies. And whether you believe in climate change or still have doubts, consumers demand green.

Adopting environmentally friendly and energy efficient business practices provides numerous benefits to new and existing small business owners looking to control costs, attract customers and become socially responsible. Non-toxic, recycled, organic, energy efficient, reused, eco-friendly, farm-to-table. These terms, and others, help define the fast-growing green market. 

So what can you do as a small business owner? Remember that regardless of what options you choose, each one of them should be connected to your marketing strategy and company messaging. If you adopt energy efficiency practices, let your customers know. If you are committed to local agriculture, let your customers know. If your product contains recycled byproducts, let them know. Four out of five consumers say they still buy environmentally friendly products and services — which sometimes cost more — even in the midst of a slowly recovering economy.

Save energy now. The prudent use of energy is one of the easiest and most cost-effective steps you can take to cut costs and increase profitability right now, today. Given the potentially high returns and minimal risk, implementing energy efficiency practices is at the core of most business environmental management strategies.

Take these steps to get started: Conduct an energy audit to quickly identify areas where you can save energy and reduce costs. Purchase office equipment and appliances with an Energy Star rating reflecting improved operating efficiency. Provide energy saving tips to your employees. Look for green power and renewable energy sources.

Become green-minded. You can own a restaurant, dry cleaners or cardboard manufacturer — the type of business does not matter. You can go green with little or very large investments. A local restaurant advertises farm-to-table food choices, the dry cleaners offers a bio-degradable detergent option, the manufacturer invests in a zero-pollution waste recycling facility, the hand cart guy sells fresh-squeezed organic lemonade. You can decide that your entire operation goes green or take a more incremental approach.

Build green. If you’re opening a business in a new or remodeled building, make sure you build green by installing energy efficient heating and air conditioning systems, appliances, equipment and lighting. Consider Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. As an internationally recognized mark of excellence, LEED certification provides small businesses a framework for implementing measurable green building design, construction and maintenance solutions.

Think alternative energy. Some major alternative energy growth areas include solar, wind, hydrogen, bio-fuel, fuel cells and energy conservation technologies. Researching, building, installing and applying these technologies create business opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Green power products include electricity generated exclusively from renewable resources or, more frequently, electricity produced from a combination of fossil and renewable resources. If interested in installing renewable energy equipment in your facility, incentives could be available in your state to “buy down” the cost.

Of course, not every small business can install renewable energy technology. Fortunately, you can buy green power for your facility directly from many utilities at a slightly higher cost than regular electricity. If your utility doesn’t offer green power options you can still participate by purchasing renewable energy certificates. And remember: let your customers know.

Consider government. The federal government’s enormous buying power stimulates market demand for green products and services. President Barack Obama recently committed the Department of Defense to invest in alternative energy investments and practices — including solar farms at military bases. This mirrors the Environmental Protection Agency Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) Program that helps agencies across the federal government comply with green purchasing requirements.