You’re probably aware that our planet is experiencing huge changes. Small businesses often seem even smaller when facing the enormous impact humans have on the environment, but we have opportunities to make our businesses greener. The extra bonus is that greening practices often save us time and money in addition to saving our planet. This article is one of several that focuses on greener business practices particularly suited to small businesses.
Many offices already feel connected to the digital age. However, there are always more ways to build your digital infrastructure and increase your efficiency. Below are some of the biggest ways to cut down on the paper trail and save money (and trees!):
- Send, edit, sign, and save PDFs and word processing documents, rather than printing them out
- Using accounting and inventory software, which is often more accurate and easier to update on-the-go, rather than paper sheets and clunky office calculators
- Hold meetings digitally through phone conferences or webinars, sending agendas via e-mail or document sharing software
- Allow employees to work from home for some or all of the workweek, which means less commute time and fewer resources used in the office space
- Upgrade devices and internet service providers to the fastest and most efficient models– some of which might not be the biggest brands! Keep an eye out for good deals, software upgrades, and group discounts on new technologies, plus user reviews
All of these– or only some– might work for your business. The true measure of success is not whether you “green” every possible way of doing business; success is in how you reframe and refocus your work to make significant process changes.
Evaluating Greener Digital Practices
The test for green practices work for your business is whether they make you leaner (more efficient) in your day-to-day work. If you’re already using digital copies of word processing documents, it may not make much of a change to push for more digitization. Look for ways your business loses money or time, and then see how you can move to more efficient, digital methods.
For example, let’s say that Business A is a successful chain of pet grooming businesses. They spend a great deal of time and money advertising, purchasing grooming and cleaning supplies, and paying utility bills. They cannot allow employees to work from home, but they want to engage actively with greener and leaner business practices. What kinds of changes make sense for Business A?
Greening Business A
First, managers and owners should identify where they can save money by purchasing reusable or recycled supplies, such as sanitized fur brushes or more efficient showerheads. Updating equipment often requires a large investment upfront, but saves in the long term on utility bills.
Second, advertising money should be focused on digital and local customer bases. Take advantage of free forms of advertising, such as creating a Facebook page for your business. This is a great way to connect with potential customers and save on print advertising costs. Business A might also advertise by visiting local dog parks and distributing codes for coupons, or sponsoring a local shelter’s adoption day. These are typically low-cost and don’t require printed materials.
Third, Business A should move toward digital checkout for customers– often including digital receipts– and digital invoices for supplies. (Imagine only having to purchase a few reams of paper a year!) Purchasing accounting software and training employees on touchscreen point-of-sale systems save the planet and boost efficiency.
Greener on the Other Side
Making the transition to environmentally friendly business practices often requires changes that can cause anxiety and uncertainty. Plan ahead, but continue the motion forward! Investing in your business and the environment will move us toward a greener and leaner tomorrow.