Green for the Wallet, Green for the Planet

Green for the Wallet, Green for the Planet

When it comes to reducing environmental impact, small companies can make a big difference and save themselves a lot of money in the long run. Often, this can be accomplished with just a few simple changes to facilities and day-to-day activities. It doesn’t have to be expensive.

Let’s be real. Most small businesses probably don’t have room in their budgets for major green infrastructure upgrades like solar arrays or a fleet of electric vehicles. They can, however, do a lot to improve their efficiency and reduce waste, which is just simply good business.

So, let’s take a look at some pragmatic ways small businesses can green things up a bit – for the planet and their wallets.


Slay Some Vampires

A cell phone charger left plugged into a wall seems pretty harmless, right? But it’s an energy-sucking vampire. No joke – the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) says little vamps like these make up about 10 percent of our energy bills.

Most businesses probably have multiple phone, tablet, or laptop chargers running on any given day, and it all adds up. “Mobile phone chargers that are left plugged in after your phone is disconnected consume .26 watts of energy — and 2.24 watts when your phone is fully charged and still connected,” the DOE said.

It doesn’t stop there. Other little vampires include things like running computers, cable boxes, printers, appliances, modems – essentially, anything with a standby mode and/or a clock on it, wasting energy and adding to your utility bill. A single desktop computer left on over nights and weekends adds about $30 to your annual energy costs alone (National Grid). But fortunately, there’s a simple solution: unplug unused devices.

Add power strips to clusters of devices to make it easier for you to shut them down. When a power strip is off, it’s not draining power. (Note: They do drain power when they’re on with nothing plugged in.) Make a habit of turning things off and unplugging them or you’ll literally pay the price for it.


Out with the Old

Eventually, things break. Every business owner knows this all too well. Though repairs or replacements of major appliances, tools, or technology is a real pain, it’s also an opportunity to boost efficiency.

Most new appliances will generally be more efficient than older ones to begin with and their energy consumption ratings are usually clearly described. Besides that, be sure to consider the actual needs of your business against alternatives that might be a better fit.

Other necessary replacements present other opportunities to save money.

  • When you need new computers, go mobile. Laptop computers use about 80 percent less energy than desktop computers (Chron).
  • Lighting makes up about a quarter of a commercial building’s energy use. Switching to LED bulbs can save companies up to 80 percent on lighting (DOE).
  • If you need a new server, consider switching to the cloud. Servers use a ton of energy – up to $731.94 in energy costs for average use (ZDNet). Most cloud-based platforms are roughly half that amount.
  • If your furnace or air conditioner goes out, replace it with a high-efficiency HVAC unit and you can save about 10 percent on energy compared to standard commercial units (National Grid).
  • If your printer breaks, go paperless. No more spending on paper, ink, energy to print, or energy to standby and do nothing (which is basically what printers do most of the time).


Fahrenheit 411

Getting all of your employees to agree on a comfortable temperature is no easy task. Often, varying preferences are in direct competition with one another. Tom, for example, likes the room set at 70 degrees in the summer. Diane, too cold, opens a window to warm up. Together, the two of them are hoisting your utility bill ever higher.

So, remove the option. Use a programmable thermostat set to an app on your phone, unlockable only to you. The goal is not to make everyone uncomfortable, but to save money. The DOE says that “You can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting.” Turn it up a little in the summer, turn it down a little in winter.

When the building is empty, you can run your system at the bare minimum for heating a cooling. There’s a common misconception that it actually takes more energy to get your building back to the desired temperature afterward, but that’s not the case. It takes more energy to keep a building at a constant temperature than it does to heat/cool it back to the desired temperature after dialing it down.


Rack ‘Em Up

Independently, these tidbits might seem insignificant. But combined, they can add up to real money. For example, if you made a habit of turning off devices (10%), gained control of your heating and cooling (10%), and switched lightbulbs (over 10%), you could conceivably cut your energy bill down by more than a third. And that’s just a start. This goes to show – sometimes the right thing for the planet is also a great thing for your business.