It ain't easy being green, especially these days.

One-third of small business owners say that the downturn has affected their plans to become more environmentally friendly, according to a Wells Fargo/Gallup Survey. Seventeen percent of small business owners say their companies are doing very little or nothing at all to help the environment.

"I wouldn't say they're abandoning green efforts," says Stephanie Rico, assistant vice president of environmental affairs at Wells Fargo. "But I might call it a pause."

She notes that not all eco-friendly initiatives are expensive though. "Some efforts are quite easy, cost nothing, and save a lot," she says, pointing to steps like conserving water and paper, recycling more, and utilizing natural light. "There are a lot of really simple 'low-hanging fruit actions' that businesses can take," she says.

The trouble arises when businesses have already incorporated these measures and are looking to do more. "Investments in more energy efficient equipment will pay off in the long term, but they might not have the capital to make those changes now."

The survey revealed that "younger" businesses (5 years or less in operation) are more likely than more established businesses to say they are doing as much as possible or everything that can be justified by cost (66 percent vs. 48 percent) to benefit the environment.

Rico says this makes sense. "Older businesses already have their infrastructure in place. I would imagine that it might be more difficult for them to change things," she says. "Younger businesses have to make infrastructure investments anyway. So, in that way, they are ahead of the curve."