As “going green” continues to dominate the political and consumer agenda across the U.S., it’s actually easier than you might think for small business to make a difference and “do its bit” for a greener America.
Small businesses make up half of the nation’s private workforce and likewise consume half its energy sources. That said, because small businesses possess the flexibility, agility and local footprint that many larger companies do not, as a collective group of business owners they have the potential to be more impactful.
But knowing where and how to make an impact is core to any green business strategy.
The good news is that there are many online resources that can help small businesses go beyond the hype to understand the strategic and tactical steps they need to take to comply with environmental regulations and develop a true sustainability plan that works for them.
Start with a Strategy: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
While researching this article, I stumbled on a great resource on YouTube that provides some simple tips for building a green small business strategy.
Entitled “How to Green Your Small Business” and produced by April Capil, these two brief videos provide simple tips for laying the ground work of sustainability.
Part 1 stresses a simple concept – the “Three R’s” of Reduce, Recycle, and Reuse. This simple approach can be summarized as the following:
- Reduce – focus first on monitoring and reducing waste, then usage. Turn to your utilities for advice as well as sources like energystar.gov.
- Reuse – focus first on disposables then on consumables. Ask yourself: “if my business could not throw anything away, or buy anything new, how would it function?”
- Recycle – focus first on products then programs. It’s not just about recycling it’s about incorporating recycled products into your buying. Talk to your local waste management provider about recycling options and a “waste assessment”.
Capil also points to local resources in her state of California that can help small businesses act on the “Three R’s”. You can find similar information from your state’s government Web site. Find links to your state and local government on the Web here.
Part Two in Capil’s series focuses on using sustainability to add value to your business and attract new customers.
Implement Your Strategy: Compliance and Sustainability Resources
Moving from a broad understanding of what “going green” can mean for a small business operation, there are many online resources that drill down to how specific business types can implement a green strategy.
From guidance for freight transportation companies to nail salons and more, it’s easier than ever to find the information you need to act on environmental law and best practices.
Here is a summary of government and non-government resources to help small business make the most of its flexibility, agility and local impact to comply with and support green initiatives:
- Small Business – Going Green Guides from the Government – Business.gov has a whole host of resources that help small businesses understand their environmental obligations and features suggested green business practices.
This particular guide – “Ten Steps to adopt environmentally-friendly business practices” – provides some important information on implementing an environmental strategy for your business, including steps to becoming energy efficient, compliant with environmental regulations, and a recognized “green business.”
- Loans for Greening Your Business – Follow the links here to find money to pay for energy efficient upgrades to your business facilities, environment-related projects and improvements, and financial incentives that can save you money such as tax credits, tax deductions, sales tax exemptions, property tax exemptions and rebates.
- Complying with Environmental Laws and Regulations – Monitored by the EPA together with state environmental agencies, this guide, again from Business.gov centralizes a collection of resources available from the federal government that help business understand their responsibilities under the nation’s environmental laws. This one stop source covers everything from environmental permits, to waste and toxic management, to FAQs, and more.
- Environmental Protection Agency’s Retail Industry Portal – Launched in early May 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in collaboration with the Retail Industry Leaders Association, launched a Web portal to “help prevent and resolve environmental issues at retail establishments”.
Covering everything from compliance and sustainability information for services you provide to your customers to facilities management activities and more, this portal features both compliance and sustainability resources that help retailers meet and go beyond regulatory obligations.
- GreenBiz.com – GreenBiz.com? is an online information resource about aligning environmental responsibility with business success. Its Small Business pages offer advice, news and tools. You can also follow them on Twitter @greenbiz.
Lots to digest. Like any strategy, going green is long term. But, you can do a little every day – at the very least put a bin in the corner of your office or home office and use it for the surprising amount of paper you perish and try to “remember tomorrow, recycle today”.