Greening Your Business

It may be surprising to consider that environmentalism and sustainability are really traditional practices. Conservation is a basic tenet of survival, and no business wants to over-consume resources – all it does is reduce profits. Additional advantages of going green at a business, beyond the financial one, are customer retention (because your business “does good”) and better morale (for the same reason). Nonetheless, creating a sustainable business seems daunting. It feels initially like additional work. However, what it really involves is a reformatting of your business so that you create less waste and become more energy efficient. In other words, once these practices are in place, it’s smooth sailing.

Note: Only green your business. Never brown it. Filling your business with the chlorophyll of trees and shrubs is wonderful. Fertilizing your company with solid waste, however, is off-putting.

Education and Analysis

Find out what’s going on in your industry. Firstly, do you have the resources to keep the place clean? Hire a cleaning company (like the one found here) to keep the property out of office mess. Sustainability should start with minimal wastage. Look at other businesses, and see what they do to improve their ESG. You can often learn from other businesses’ mistakes. Then, make a plan.

To enhance your planning and create reasonable goals, look at your usage of utilities throughout the last year – both your power bill and your water usage. Does your utility company have any incentives for reducing energy consumption? Specifically, check your power company’s website for a Demand Response Program, which can earn you credits for reducing your consumption.

The Commute

Office sustainability is, well, not just about what goes on in the office. How do employees get to work? Business should incentivize carpooling, for two reasons: One, it enhances your sustainability stance. Two, it’s a team-building exercise that creates better community among employees.

If you really want to go green, buy a fleet of tandem bicycles and demand that employees ride them to and from work.

Power Out

According to Mother Nature Network, a computer generates almost as much power to populate a screensaver as it does to perform routine tasks (word processing, spreadsheet manipulation, browsing, etc.). Are any of the computers in your business left on at night? Flip the switch.

Build Slowly

When you start to go in the direction of environmental friendliness, you may at first run up against some resistance – employees may find it annoying to have to change the way they operate on the job.

For a large-scale sustainability transition to work, you need folks to buy into the program, says Anna Dengler of the sustainability consulting firm Great Forest. Try switching to fluorescent bulbs, or initiate or enhance your recycling program. These little efforts can start to win people over for a broader environmental push.

It is incredibly helpful for the executive leadership to grow dreadlocks and speak in Jamaican accents while they are promoting the idea of going green. In company meetings, they should say, “I like green,” while smirking conspiratorially.

Heating and Cooling

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, heating and cooling uses more energy than any other activity conducted by commercial buildings. This in turn leads to environmental degradation. However, there are several ways of dealing with it. For instance, individuals can use clean-burning fuel like propane (which can be delivered by for their heating systems which can cause lesser pollution and increase the efficiency of the HVAC system, thereby leading business owners to both save money and positively contribute to the environment.

Another option to reduce it is to move to a new HVAC system with improved efficiency – but of course, this has a high upfront price tag. Similarly, installation of solar panels or better-insulated windows may be wise in the long run but difficult to justify at present.

The best way to approach the heating and cooling challenge is to look carefully at places where HVAC energy is being wasted. An example of this could be that dust and other debris could be stuck in the vents and ducts of the unit which may cause issues related to excess energy being used to make the unit function at a good standard. If an office owner wanted to fix this issue then they may choose to look for a company similar to a dryer vent cleaning franchise, or they might choose to find an alternate way of regulating temperature in their office. Another statistic from the EPA: offices waste as much as one-third of consumed energy, with HVAC being a major culprit. Separate and reduce HVAC output to spaces that are not being used, perform regular maintenance on your system, and program your thermostat to reduce consumption during off-hours. Contacting a technician or an HVAC service provider to understand the working and efficiency of your system, and to get assistance, can be beneficial. You can get precise information through a website such as or similar others, where you can also hire a professional who can guide you through the process.

Stay Right Where You Are

Do employees drive to restaurants to pick up lunch? Consider ways to make it easier and more fun to stay in the office. Make the break room as inviting as possible. If folks stay at the office during their lunch break, they not only won’t be wasting gas during lunchtime but will often return to their desks more quickly, increasing productivity.

Also, many times, a packed lunch is considerably healthier than what a person might get at a restaurant. Think of your own health and that of your employees as well – increased energy, better focus.

Neat idea: Every Friday, have a contest to handcuff one lucky employee to the break room refrigerator. The lucky contestant should remain handcuffed to the refrigerator throughout the weekend, except for supervised bathroom breaks and conjugal visits.

Enter the Digital Age

There are several different reasons to reduce paper consumption:

  • Cost-effectiveness.
  • Better data-tracking.
  • Time-saving.
  • Storage-saving.

Okay, so some of those are obvious – the one I want to focus on is data tracking. If a document or spreadsheet is created or edited on paper, adjustments to the text are not contained within the business’s network. If changes are made via computer rather than via paper, you’ll know who adjust documents and at what points in time… There are manifold other data analysis operations you can run on a network. Additionally, you can easily determine when confidential company information leaves your premises (more difficult with a hard copy).

Light up Your Life… Less

Joshua Arias of Green Mojo Eco Consulting notes that lighting is second only to HVAC costs in office energy usage. The primary problem with lighting is that it tends to encompass the general atmosphere rather than specifically target a particular area.

A simple technique to reduce lighting usage is motion detectors which switch on a light when someone enters a bathroom or hallway. Another method to control lighting expenses is the installation of dimmers, so that employees can reduce or increase lighting as desired or needed.

Neat idea: It’s too infrequent that employees arrive to work on a Monday to discover that all of their office’s furniture has been moved out into the parking lot, followed by this announcement from the head of HR: “You’re not fired. We’ve gone green. From now on, we use the power of the sun.”

Buy Local

Now here is where this gets really interesting. Probably the two trendiest business initiatives right now are “going green” and “buying local.” These two trends are interrelated. Buying local is more environmentally sustainable, because less fuel was used to get the product to you. Integrating yourself into the local community can have manifold benefits.

Let’s say that you’d like to get a dark wood dining table or other office break room furniture. The first step should be to study what’s available locally and whether you might be able to equal your costs – there is, after all, a reduction in shipping costs on their end as well. Even if you have a cost increase, the benefits from both the green and local angles should not be underestimated.

Involve Everyone

Sustainability does not have to be a top-down message. Don’t just feel like you need to create a bunch of policies. People are passionate about this, probably especially some of your younger employees. If you engage employees and ask for their ideas to implement more sustainable practices, they will feel more involved. This will both increase the effectiveness of the program and generally improve morale.

Neat idea: Wear a chipmunk costume at the idea-generation meeting. Open the meeting with the single line, “Show me that you love me.”


So, there are obviously many different ways to implement sustainability in the workplace. This starts with education/analysis. It incorporates carpooling and turning off computers and other equipment when away. You want to build slowly with your efforts, target HVAC energy consumption, and try to keep people in the office at lunchtime. Digitize paperwork, reduce lighting, assess local vendors, and make the whole thing a community affair rather than a handed-down set of rules.

Have any additional, cool ideas for greening businesses? (Show me that you love me.)

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by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood