No business is too small to contribute to making a difference in the state of our environment by lowering its resource consumption. A series of little changes add up to big change, both at the micro and macro level. If enough small businesses take steps to curb their water and energy usage, not only will it have a practical impact on the world around us, but it will also help pressure larger corporations to do the same.
Although there are justifiable concerns about the expense or inconvenience of such actions, in fact, a few DIY updates and minimal investments in the short-term can actually help you save money as time goes on.
There are two major areas businesses should be concerned about: energy usage and water consumption. Here are some tips to help you reduce your environmental footprint by making a few small adjustments.
1) Replace incandescent lights with LEDs
Notice that I said 'LED' instead of 'CFL'? Although CFLs are still an improvement over incandescents, LED lights last far longer than traditional lightbulbs and also use significantly less energy. This means that although there might be some expense associated with making the original change, in the long run your small business may actually save money. In addition, the cost of LEDs is dropping as the technology develops and grows more popular.
2) Increase Awareness of Energy Usage
In a business setting, because employees do not directly pay the power bill themselves, they are often not as aware and conscientious of their energy usage as they might be in their own home. Develop programs that raise employees' consciousness of behaviors that contribute to high energy usage and that reward them for lowering costs by turning off lights and equipment when they are not in use, particularly overnight and on weekends. Additionally, keep thermostats on low settings, use natural light, and keep doors and windows closed to prevent heat or air conditioning loss when the above are in use.
3) Avoid Waste
You can avoid wasting energy by performing routine maintenance. For example, clean all filters in the heating or air conditioning systems regularly, as well as in any exhaust fans. Check periodically on any automatic settings in lighting systems or the thermostat to ensure that they are at the most energy-efficient levels. Remove any unneeded light bulbs or replace them with more energy-efficient models where possible.
4) Look into Energy-Efficiency Programs for Small Businesses
Some state or local municipalities may have energy-efficiency programs (like this one) that offer discounts and assistance to businesses trying to make the switch to energy-efficient appliances or other energy saving improvements. These could include programmable thermostats, furnace replacements, boiler optimization controls and others. In addition, such programs can include a free energy assessment to offer you advice about which specific steps will be most effective for your business.
1) Install Low-Flow Plumbing Fixtures
One very simple and inexpensive change is to change the aerators on your faucets. By putting in new low-flow aerators that reducing the flow of water from the faucets in your bathroom sinks and any other areas in the office that use water, you can reduce your bill every month and also stop waste. Buying new aerators is relatively inexpensive - just make sure to get the right fit from your local hardware store.
2) Look for the EPA's WaterSense Label for New Fixtures
Another slightly more elaborate investment that might work best for new businesses or businesses with aging fixtures is to look for the EPA's WaterSense Label when selecting a faucet, urinal or toilet. These labels show that the fixtures are "water-efficient," meaning that they use a significantly lower flow of water than comparable models. This could save businesses the cost of thousands of gallons of water a year. More information about the WaterSense labeling program and the advantages of using products bearing the label can be found at the EPA's website.
3) Fix Leaks
Another way of potentially saving money is to look for leaks in your faucets, pipes, or hot water heaters. Water leaks can cost you money every month and also mean wasting water that isn't really needed. Many leaks can be fixed yourself with some simple supplies. Just be sure to invest in a professional if the leak looks more complicated to repair.
Have you taken any steps toward lowering your resource consumption that you think other small businesses should know about?
Angelo DiGangi has been a Home Depot sales associate in the Chicago suburbs since 1994. Angelo is also a regular contributor to the Home Depot website on electrical and plumbing topics, on everything from LED lighting to kitchen sinks.
Image credit: Stephan Ridgway, courtesy flickr