Switching from incandescent to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) is easy, affordable, and can cut costs right off the bat. CFLs use 75 percent less energy, saving up to $200 for every five bulbs replaced, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Plus, lighting expenses make up as much as 50 percent of the average commercial building's energy bill. So simply turning off lights and switching to lower-wattage bulbs can make a huge difference.
Ask employees to set their computers to go to sleep automatically after 30 minutes of inactivity and to turn them off at night along with printers and copiers. According to the EPA, this can save anywhere from $50 to more than $150 annually per device (depending on the type of machine and its energy consumption). And don’t let screen savers fool you: Most screen savers keep monitors running at full power. So screens should be black.
Smart Strip power cords sense when a device is turned off and cut their phantom power, or the power that electronics use even when turned off. They claim to pay for themselves within six weeks of use and serve as surge protectors. Smart Strips also have hot outlets, which are always on—a better option for laser printers, which are sometimes damaged by regular power strips.
Studies link natural landscapes to increased productivity and creativity. With a little investment, you can alter or create an outdoor area for lunch meetings, brainstorming sessions, or simply to serve as a positive green patch for employees. Find a local eco-friendly landscaper, or have an employee create a plan for your landscaper to follow.
Trees provide two important cost-saving benefits: Wind breaks and natural cooling. If you live in a colder climate, trees can reduce wind speeds by 50 percent. In warmer climates, they can significantly cut cooling costs by reducing the temperature three to six degrees. According to San Diego’s Office of Sustainability, three well-placed trees can save up to 30 percent of a building’s cooling costs. Trees also provide more physiological benefits than any other plant; they consume carbon dioxide, control erosion, and filter contaminants from our water supply.
Since heating and cooling are responsible for the majority of the costs found on utility bills, small businesses can save a bundle by improving efficiency. The largest savings come from simply turning heat or air-conditioning down at night or installing a programmable thermostat to regulate temperature. Air-conditioning units are a prime energy waster, since the average air duct system leaks 15 to 20 percent. Ask service technicians to repair and test leaks, and check regularly for faulty filters, coils, compressor fans, and drains.
Whether it’s double-sided printing or recycled packaging, look for ways to reduce unnecessary consumption, reuse inputs, and recycle materials. When companies consider sustainability in every aspect of their business, it becomes part of the company story, fostering positive results by attracting talent, generating positive attitudes from the public, reducing costs, and increasing sales.