Great article Steffanie. Thanks for your insight. I think you should come help me build out the framework for measuring how green thinkspace is. I'm already building out quantifiable metrics based on historical operating statements but I'm sure you have other ideas that I haven't even thought about.
Greening Your Business from the Inside Out
Want your business green but don't know where to begin? Knowing where to start and what to do to be a truly green business can be overwhelming and frustrating. Read on to learn how to green your business.
Knowing where to start and what to do to be a truly green business can be overwhelming and frustrating. The first step is to find your passion, how do you see your business now and how would you like to see it in the future. Set up a green policy statement and work from there.
In order to green your whole business, look at your entire operation including the building that you are currently inhabiting, the employees and your interaction with the community. Your employees are the key to the success of your green program; do not forget to use them throughout the process. Many business owners get online and find the top ten ways to green their business and start there. Anything is better than nothing, but there is a more effective way to approach this process that will serve you into the future. Some small businesses may be able to attend a training class and work through the process on their own. Other businesses may find it helpful to hire a consultant to run a workshop and give them the tools they need to set up their program.
An organized, systematic approach is necessary to achieve the best results. Start by looking at your business operation as a whole. You want to understand the effects that your business is having on the environment and the community. Look at each process and determine what goes in and what comes out. Below is a diagram of a simple process/operation.
Specifically looking at the example above with the copier, it may be difficult to calculate the energy going into the copier, although there are devices that you can plug the copier into that will tell you this information. It is easier to calculate the amount of toner and paper you are using for the copier. You can change what is going in and determine whether it changes how much or what comes out. Understand what changes are possible, given the equipment you have before you look at how much things will cost. For example, some old copiers and printers cannot handle high levels of recycled content in the paper. If you are already recycling your toner cartridges you can look at the vendor you are using. Is your toner coming from a local vendor or being shipped across the country? Is the manufacturer of the toner a US company or is it being made overseas? Does your vendor have green processes in place?
Your list will include things like adding more post consumer recycled content paper to the inventory, purchasing a more energy efficient copier, recycling toner cartridges. Do not forget to add process changes to your list for example; the copier will print double sided unless it is not feasible. All paper that only has print on one side will be reused. Designate tray 2 for unofficial copies that does not require new paper.
This diagram gives you a pictorial representation of what items go in and out to help you pinpoint how you can affect the process. As you work through the process build a table that lists what you are already doing and what you can do to be a more sustainable business.
Your building can be assessed separately from your operation by using a checklist and walking through the building. Once you have looked at your building you can identify areas for improvement. Work with your operations people, work with your maintenance people and work with the employees to understand what improvements to make. Cost will most certainly be a factor but make sure that all items are listed, regardless of their perceived importance or feasibility at the time.
Part of a sustainable or green business is also the effect that your business has on the community. Are you located near public transportation, do you have bike racks and changing rooms that encourage employees not to drive?
You have generated quite a bit of data on your business and building but before you implement any changes establish a baseline. Understand where you are currently, so that you can track your accomplishments. Remember to use your employees, educate them and involve them as you implement. Use their feedback to improve your processes. It is easy to come back year after year and review how effective the implemented changes were and what new goals to add from the list for the upcoming year because you have taken the time to assess your entire business.
Learn more about the author, Steffanie Ong.
Comment on this article
Posted by Peter Chee, Redmond, Washington |
Feb 07, 2009
Posted by Kurt Wallace Martin, San Francisco, California |
Feb 07, 2009
A great start, Steffanie! I can't wait to see what you write next on this topic - there's so much to know.
Posted by Conrad Vernon, Issaquah, Washington |
Feb 07, 2009
Great article Stephanie. You've provided a thoughtful and well written article about sustainability. Plan-Do-Check-Act. Every business will benefit from establishing what you've discussed in the form of enjoying a tangible return on investment. Seize the green!
Peter, it will be worth your time and money to hire Stephanie. -Conrad
Posted by marco martinez, austin, Texas |
Feb 15, 2009
Good stuff Stephanie. I myself am a consultant on sustainability solutions as well as own a new media production company, www.echoearthmedia.com
I have found that it is essential to help companies build an internal team that champion the cause, its surprising to me how some execs get nervous at the idea of changing process, even if its going to reduce costs and waste. Lets keep trying. :-)
Posted by Steffanie Ong, Issaquah, Washington |
Feb 24, 2009
Thanks for the great comment, Marco.
- environmentally friendly