Going greener can be good for your employees, fantastic for your finances and great for your public profile – not to mention essential to for meeting the Government’s evolving environmental regulations. So here are ten ways to turn your SME a shade greener:
Reduce waste. Look carefully at what you throw away. Could it be upcycled, recycled or reused? If you manufacture or pack products, are there any material or energy wasting parts of the process that you could improve on – and is your packaging of products as minimal and recycle-friendly as it can be?
Switch off. Switch off computers, monitors, photocopiers, printers, urns, coffee machines and lights whenever they’re not in use, especially at lunchtime and ALWAYS overnight – and don’t forget that vending machine in the lobby. Utilitywise discovered that one client was spending a staggering £635.10 per year powering three vending machines overnight, while The Carbon Trust estimates that office-based SMEs waste nearly £350 every year by leaving hardware on standby, even when they’re switched off during weekends and public holidays.
Motion sensors and timer switches can be used to ensure lights and appliances aren’t left on, and light-sensitive dimmers will reduce the power used by lights when sunlight is sensed. Lights are often left on in loos, but take care that energy-saving solutions don’t leave people stranded in the dark because they’re taking longer than usual!
Purchase recycled and reclaimed products. From paper towels to printer cartridges and furniture to flooring, there are recycled, upcycled or renovated options available. Before you make a purchase, consider a greener alternative to brand new.
Reduce water usage. Not all toilets are the same, especially when it comes to water consumption. If you can’t afford to replace older toilets that use gallons of water every time an employee so much as flushes a snotty tissue, then consider Toilet Hippos or similar products which sit in the cistern and reduce the water used for each flush. They’re cheap to buy and highly effective.
Use environmentally friendly cleaners. Better for the environment and better for employees, environmentally friendly cleaning products are less likely to contain irritant chemicals than can affect those with respiratory conditions or skin sensitivities, and these days they’re competitively priced.
Lock down your heating settings. We all tend to have slightly different preferred temperatures, so to avoid heat waste and thermostat wars between staff, lock the heating controls at a comfortable ambient temperature and leave employees to adjust their clothing requirements if necessary!
Ensure the heating is set to switch on a while before the first person comes in (to avoid finding them shivering in the corner, wrapped around a mug of hot chocolate), and set it to switch off a while before the last person leaves, as it will take time to cool down.
Keep it all in. Eradicate draughts and consider having walls and any roof space insulated, so that the precious heat you pay for isn’t escaping. The flip-side is to ensure that employees aren’t opening the windows when the air-conditioning units are on!
Purchase and install energy-efficient devices and consumables. A-rated appliances and power-saving office equipment; energy-saving light bulbs; LED spotlights; T5 tubes to replace old fluorescent strip-lights;, eco kettles; there are green versions of nearly everything now. If you have energy efficient, low or zero-carbon technology energy systems installed in your business premises, you should be able to claim these as capital allowances, and grants are available when you buy green vehicles.
Think sustainability. Buy with longevity in mind. Seek out online and cloud solutions for your IT needs, reducing your outlay and reliance on expensive, space-hogging equipment and plastic-covered CD ROMs. Repair rather than replace when it’s economically viable to do so and choose products made from sustainably-sourced materials.
Be your own powerhouse. If you install electricity-generating technology that uses a renewable or low-carbon source, such as solar PV or wind turbines, you could benefit from the UK Government’s Feed-in Tariffs scheme (FITs) and interest free loans from The Carbon Trust.
Remember, you don’t need to put all these measures in place at once. Make an action plan for going greener and tackle these areas one at a time. Some of the smallest changes can make the biggest difference.
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