There are lots of ways to make your business more environmentally friendly. Some of these you can implement immediately, easily and cheaply – energy-saving light-bulbs, reducing unnecessary printing, turning appliances off when not in use, and so on.
Others are more complicated and may take a while to take effect and bring rewards, since they involve major investment or policies aimed at changing your employees’ environmentally unfriendly habits. Once you’ve implemented the quick wins, though, it’s worth thinking about these since over the long term they can bring substantial savings.
Policies and practice
These changes of business approach will need establishing gradually or over the course of months or years, since some of your employees may be resistant to doing things a different way. All the same, if you can win them over then you will find they bring both financial and environmental benefits.
1) Reconditioned computers. Computer hardware is both expensive and has a high Carbon cost – the so-called ‘embodied energy’ involved in its manufacture, as well as running costs. You can reduce this significantly by keeping your computers going for longer through proper maintenance, making sure they are reconditioned when you do need new ones, and by purchasing reconditioned machines where appropriate. Top-of-the-range computers are extremely powerful, and have functionality that most businesses simply won’t need. If you mainly need your computers for email and word processing, a reconditioned older machine should more than meet your requirements. Additionally, bear in mind that desktop computers consume around five times the power of laptops.
2) Cloudhosting or other off-site data storage. You may prefer to keep your own servers in the building, but moving to external storage is often a far cheaper option. Additionally, you can access economies of scale that make it more environmentally friendly. In any case, this is something you should consider as a back-up for your existing systems: holding all your data on the premises has serious risks in the event of fire or other accidents.
3) Lift-sharing and green transport. Your employees have to get to work somehow. How they do that depends on a number of variables – the distance between work and home, the time they start work, public transport provision, and personal preferences, to name a few. Incentivising staff to walk or cycle to work, or to share cars, will reduce their Carbon footprint. Allowing employees to work flexitime or compressed hours – or from home some days – can also encourage them to change the way they travel. Depending on your jurisdiction there may even be tax breaks available for you to buy them bikes.
Investment and infrastructure
If you are prepared to make major financial investments, there are other ways to save money and energy over the long haul. These require careful planning but can have a substantial cumulative impact.
1) Solar panels or other micro-generation systems – geothermal, wind, biomass or even hydroelectric. Installing your own renewable power generators isn’t cheap. The good news is that once it’s done, they will generate free, green electricity for the foreseeable future. You may even make a profit if you sell excess power back to the grid.
2) Insulation. This is a simple fix but one that will be more disruptive for a business than for a residential property. Lagging the roof space is no big deal, but if you end up having to tear into walls to insulate the cavity, your office space is going to be out of action for a while – which could cost you more in lost productivity than the insulation itself costs to install. The good news is that there are tax breaks and subsidies available, and once you’re well insulated your heating/cooling costs should fall dramatically.
3) Power management systems. These come in all shapes and forms. At its simplest, this might involve instigating power-down policies for your computers and monitors, ensuring that they are set to go into ‘hibernate’ mode after a given period of inactivity. More complex (and costly) versions involve sensors that detect when people are present, and turn lights and other systems off in unoccupied areas.