Four Ways Small Businesses Can Reduce Energy Use

Earth Day, which falls on April 22 this year, is the perfect time to think about what you can do to help protect the planet. If you’re a small business owner, there are many ways to reduce energy consumption and encourage environmentally-friendly behaviour among your employees. This year, why not adopt one of these cost-saving, energy-conscious ideas at your small business?

Reduce paper use

Cutting down on paper use has implications that reach far beyond the walls of your small business. Reduce the number of pages consumed at your office and you’ll save money on paper, ink and toner, as well as postage and waste removal. Consider outsourcing larger jobs to a print expert (like The UPS Store) to reduce spoilage. Choose paper stock that is made of a recycled product, and only use matte stocks without coating, which are biodegradable. Also, you should encourage your employees to recycle whenever possible (be sure to first shred any sensitive documents).

Watch out for wasted water

How many toilets and sinks are there at your small business? Do you offer a place for employees to shower after commuting to work by bicycle? Is there a staff kitchen with a dishwasher, a laundry area for uniforms, or possibly a water heater? If any of those fixtures and appliances aren’t operating at peak efficiency, you’re wasting energy and watching money go down the drain. Consider investing in low-flow toilets, check for leaks on faucets, or switch to automatic faucets that can’t accidentally be left running. Upgrade your dishwasher, washing machine, and water heater to the most efficient models available so you can help cut down on both water and power usage. Finally, if you’ve got trees and plants outside your small business, set up a rain barrel (connecting it to the downspout of your eavestroughs is best) so you can use recycled water instead of a hose.

Harness the power of cloud computing

While you’re embracing technology to help save paper, why not go one step further and cut energy costs by moving the bulk of your computing processes to off-site servers in the cloud? Even though cloud facilities themselves use huge amounts of energy, research suggests the effect of mass consolidation actually makes cloud computing vastly more efficient than individual servers and systems operating at thousands of different businesses, where the machines are often idle for long stretches. In comparison, cloud data centres constantly hum with activity, running all kinds of products and applications simultaneously, and efficiently distributing large amounts of computing power between multiple users. To small business owners, an added bonus of moving computing systems to the cloud means you’ll consume less power at your own office, cutting electricity usage while also eliminating both the excess heat created by operating on-site computers, and the need to run air-conditioning units to prevent those machines from overheating.

Allow people to dress for the weather

Speaking of aggressive air conditioning, many of us have spent time in an office where the AC is cranked to the max and people pack sweaters along in the height of summer to deal with the positively polar conditions. Rather than creating an Arctic chill at your business, consider turning the thermostat up by a few degrees and relaxing the dress code during summer months so your staff can dress in more seasonally-appropriate attire. Needless to say, this doesn’t have to mean employees are allowed to show up looking like they’re ready for a weekend of lounging on the dock. Make sure everyone understands what’s acceptable and what isn’t, but be willing to bend the rules a bit by extending the ‘Casual Friday’ vibe for a few months of short sleeves, shorts and sandals. If you’re worried about maintaining a professional appearance in front of clients and customers, consider outfitting your people in customized, logo-branded t-shirts or golf shirts – they’ll still look sharp and can keep their cool without you spending a bundle on energy.

If you really want to emphasize the importance of saving energy and protecting the planet, don’t forget to involve your employees. Earth Day is the perfect time to ask for their input on energy efficiency ideas. But don’t let the sentiment disappear after just one day. Appoint an Energy Warden to watch for wastage, create teams among your staff and set up power-saving competitions, and award monthly bonuses to employees who save the most energy or come up with new and creative ways to promote increased efficiency.


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