Posted at 6:00 AM
Green dry cleaners, Green energy. Green puppy food. Green car washes. Green wall paints. Green grease removal.
Green: it’s everywhere. It’s taught in the first grade. It’s at the center of many corporate manufacturing and marketing policies. And whether you believe in climate change or still have doubts, consumers are now demanding GREEN.
Adopting environmentally friendly and energy efficient business practices provides numerous benefits to new and existing small business owners looking to control costs, attract customers and become socially responsible. Non-toxic, recycled, organic, energy efficient, reused, eco-friendly, farm-to-table: these terms, and others, all help define the fast-growing green market.
So what can you do as a small business? Remember, that regardless of what options you choose, each one of them should and must be connected to your marketing strategy and company messaging. If you adopt energy efficiency practices, let your customers know; if you are committed to local agriculture, let them know, and if your product contains recycled by-products, let them know. Four out of five consumers say they are still buying environmentally friendly products and services today – which sometimes cost more – even in the midst of a recovering economy.
Save energy now. The prudent use of energy is one of the easiest and most cost-effective steps you can take to cut costs and increase profitability right now, today. Given the potentially high returns and minimal risk, implementing energy efficiency practices is at the core of most business environmental management strategies. Take these steps to get started:
Conduct an energy audit to quickly identify areas where you can save energy costs.
Purchase ENERGY STAR® appliances and office equipment.
Provide energy saving tips to your employees
Look for green power and renewable energy sources
Be green-minded. You can own a restaurant, a drycleaners, a movie house, a construction company, a card-board manufacturer—the type of business does not matter. You can go green with little or very large investments. A local restaurant may advertise farm-to-table food choices, the dry cleaners offers a local bio-degradable detergent option, the manufacturer of pipes invests in a zero-pollution state-of- the art waste recycling facility, the hand cart guy sells fresh squeezed organic lemonade.
You can decide that your entire operation goes green, or take a more incremental and affordable approach.
Build green. If you are opening a business in a new or remodeled building, make sure you build green by installing energy efficient heating and air conditioning systems, appliances, equipment and lighting. And consider LEED certification. According to the US Green Building Council, LEED is redefining the way we think about the places where we live, work and learn. As an internationally recognized mark of excellence, it provides small businesses a framework for implementing measurable green building design, construction, and maintenance solutions.
Think alternative energy. Some major alternative energy growth areas include solar, wind, hydrogen, bio-fuel, fuel cells and energy conservation technologies. Researching, building, installing and applying these technologies create business opportunities for entrepreneurs.
Green power products can include electricity generated exclusively from renewable resources or, more frequently, electricity produced from a combination of fossil and renewable resources. If interested in installing renewable energy equipment in your facility, incentives may be available in your state to "buy down" the cost.
Of course, not every small business can install renewable energy technology at their facility. Fortunately you can buy green power for your facility directly from many utilities at a slightly higher cost than regular electricity. If your utility does not offer green power options you can still participate by purchasing renewable energy certificates.
And remember: let your customers know!
Consider government. The federal government's enormous buying power stimulates market demand for green products and services. President Obama recently committed the Department of Defense to invest in alternative energy investments and practices—including solar farms at military bases. This mirrors EPA's Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) Program that helps agencies across the federal government comply with green purchasing requirements.