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Friday, April 3, 2009

How Can A Small Business "Go Green"?

As a small business, you are not as large a consumer of energy and products as big corporations .... but there are always opportunities for improvement.

We recognize that being Green is really a matter of choices that result in being greener or less green. There is no absolute in this regard. Small choices can add up over time.

No Cost Actions:

* Eliminate paper based subscriptions that don’t add value
* Switch paper based subscriptions to electronic subscriptions where possible
* Sign-up for electronic billing from all vendors who offer it
* Use electronic payments
* Moved further east reducing mileage and saving time
* Conference calls to replace some meetings
* Online discussion groups to replace some meetings and reduce paper
* Schedule multiple meetings in same location to reduce mileage and save time
* Adjust shades and blinds to reduce heat from the sun
* Open windows for ventilation reducing A/C costs
* Re-use paper, bottles and cans where possible before recycling
* Reduce/eliminate bottled water
* Water the plants with ice cubes from consumed drinks instead of dropping cubes in the sink
* Turn off lights and electronics when not use in use
* Scheduling Leads Group 1-2-1s right after the meeting at the Chamber to eliminate another trip
* Car pooling
* Errand bundling
* Using the library as an alternative to buying books, CDs, DVDs, magazines
* Sharing subscriptions to printed publications
* Scheduling meetings during low-travel times to minimize time on the road
* Combining personal and business trips for more effective travel
* Webinars vs. on-site training
* Eliminating faxing
* Walk into the bank, coffee shop, restaurant, etc. rather than using the drive-up window or ATM
* Maintain proper tire pressure in all vehicles
* Bicycle where practical

Here's some ideas specific to all your "billing" functions .....

* Go Paperless with your payroll .....

1. Ensure that all of your employees are either direct deposit or have a pay check debit card. This reduces the costs associated with printing checks, employees going to a check cashing place (using fuel and company time), and time and travel to deliver checks if employees are in the field.

2. Time and Attendance Tracking - If your employees have access to a computer have them utilize an online time and attendance tracking system. This reduces the use of paper time sheets and can provide accurate job costing. In addition to the employee potentially having to travel to turn in their time sheet. The job costing piece can also support you in saving time and money to ensure overtime is charged accordingly, reducing overtime, etc.

3. Employee Files - Utilize an online or computer system that allows you to track employee information electronicly so you are not printing documents to be filed. This can also improve the consistency in tracking to ensure all documents, training, etc are recorded and completed as necessary. Some areas that the tracking can help with is things like specific licenses, state/federal/local training requirements, etc.

4. Billing - If you do not print and mail invoices but rather submit them via email .... then you are saving on printing, postage, envelopes, along with time to fold and stuff, etc.

Here's a few more general tips/insights for going green to leave you with .......

1. Be as paperless as possible. Send clients drafts via email rather than mail or fax unless the client has no email access, for example. Print to .pdf rather than to your printer. Get bills via email. Send your billing via email. Also use a web-based fax service (eFax) so that faxes you receive go directly to your email boxes as .pdfs and not to a printer.

2. Recycle, for example shred and/or recycle any paper you do have to print .... as well as collect cans and other recyclables and take them home (or start a recycle bin at work for cans etc. and donate to a local charity/fund raising activity .... great for public relations). If the community in which your business is located has a fantastic home recycling program but no business recycling, lug your recycling home every few weeks and put it with your personal recycling. Also mail your ink cartridges back to the manufacturer or recycle at your local Office Depot or Staples (if you have one). Plus buy paper products made from recycled paper.

3. Use CFLs in your lamps, and don't leave ANY lights on when you're not at the office. Also turn off all equipment when you're out of the office.

4. Turn your utility settings lower or higher (depending on the season) when you are out of the office to conserve energy (and keep your bills lower).

5. For those employees (and yourself) who live close to your office ..... commute together unless you must have separate cars for business travel.

6. It's a small thing, but also use stamps.com to calculate and print postage, which cuts down on trips to the post office. You can also recycle the paper leftover from printing the postage.

The above ideas, tips, and insights should be more than enough to get your small business on the way to going Green.

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