Green Living Business

4 Strategies for Starting a Company Recycling Program

A huge portion of the country’s waste paper comes from offices, so starting a company recycling program is a great way to reduce waste and encourage environmentally conscious practices. This could even be a selling point to potential employees who want to work for an environmentally-aware company.

A huge portion of the country’s waste paper comes from offices, so starting a company recycling program is a great way to reduce waste and encourage environmentally conscious practices. This could even be a selling point to potential employees who want to work for an environmentally-aware company.

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Here’s a look at strategies to get you started.

  • Start small. If your municipality offers single-stream recycling, then you may not need to worry about separating cardboard from plastic or glass. But if your recycling must be separated, then your employees may get overwhelmed by separate receptacles for paper, soda cans, plastic containers, compost and more. Start with paper—which likely makes up the bulks of your company’s recyclables anyway—and once employees get into the habit of recycling paper, add additional receptacles based on your company’s recycling needs. If your company uses a lot of printer ink, you might recycle ink cartridges. Or if your employees drink a lot of soda, consider bins for recycling cans (or put a soda-maker in the break room, so they can make their own soda without piling up disposable cans).
  • Make it easy. Some staff members are unlikely to recycle if it requires a hike down the hall or to another floor (though on the other hand, more zealous recyclers might even take recyclables home if their office doesn’t support recycling!). Remove this potential obstacle by placing recycling bins in easily accessible areas. Some companies even place a paper recycling bin at every employee’s desk so it’s just as easy to recycle paper as it is to toss it.
  • Get employees (and others) involved. Employees who are passionate about the environment can champion the program to their colleagues or even serve on a recycling committee to discuss recycling plans. Employees who aren’t as gung-ho about recycling might need more encouragement. Consider incentives such as a friendly competitive where the department with the least amount of trash over a given time period gets a prize. Or reward everyone with a pizza party with the proceeds from soda can recycling. But don’t assume the materials you gather for recycling will magically migrate to the recycling plant. In an Inc. magazine article, Seth Goldman, founder of Honest Tea, mentions how janitorial staff combined recycling and trash into one bag until he notified them of the company’s office-wide recycling program. Some buildings already have recycling programs your office could use.
  • Show appreciation. Thank employees and reinforce positive behavior on a regular basis. You can do so through your company newsletter or create a monthly or annual award for employees who go above and beyond in recycling efforts. If you can quantify the amount of material you’ve diverted from the trash (so many pounds of paper, for instance), that’s a great stat to share with employees or in press materials.

For more information on starting an office recycling program, check out the EPA’s resources for green workplaces and the Mother Nature Network.

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Business, Green Living Business

What Does It Take to Get LEED Certified?

For any business that cares about sustainability, the environment, or making the world a greener place, having its facilities LEED certified is a great way to do their part.

If you’re in the midst of a new construction or renovation and are considering LEED certification, here’s a primer on how to successfully complete the process, and why it’s worth considering.

Why Take the LEED?

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, and is essentially a green building certification program for building projects. In order to earn a LEED certification, the project earns points based on the environmental impacts and human benefits of using particular building practices. There are different levels of certification depending on the number of points earned, and as a business owner, you must choose the type of LEED program that best fits your construction project. Your choices are:

  • Building design and construction (BD + C)
  • Interior design and construction (ID + C)
  • Building operations and maintenance
  • Neighborhood development
  • Homes

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To get certified, you must earn 40-49 points; silver certification requires 50-59 points; gold needs 60-79 points; and platinum is for those that earn 80+ points.

 

If you need some bottom-line motivation as to why it’s worth going through the process and expense of becoming LEED certified, three key points to keep in mind include:

  1. LEED-certified buildings cost less to operate, reducing energy and water bills by as much as 40 percent, as per the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).
  2. LEED buildings have higher air quality and more comfortable work spaces for employees, creating a healthier and more comfortable environment that can increase productivity.
  3. Over 60 percent of corporate leaders believe that sustainability leads to market differentiation and improved financial performance, according to USGBC.

The Path to LEED

The first steps of the LEED process can be completed online, beginning with registration. You’ll have to submit a registration form and your flat registration fee of $1,200, which will open your LEED Online account. The certification fee will be based on the size of the project and the rating system under which you register, with pricing beginning at $2,750. Naturally, the higher the level of LEED certification you’re trying to achieve, the more expensive it will be.

From there, you’ll be able to access various tools, and given step-by-step instructions on the documentation you’ll need for your application. If you’re working on BD+C and ID+C projects, you will have the option to split the LEED review, in which you will submit your application in two parts: one for design credits, and the other for construction credits.

Once you’re ready to begin working on your project, be sure to choose professionals – from engineers to consultants to architects — who are LEED-accredited to ensure that the job gets completed according to LEED specifications, recommends the National Resources Defense Council.

All in all, investing in a greener business will have long-term benefits, can help you operate more efficiently, and will set you apart in the eyes of your customers and clients. LEED certification is a proven path toward sustainability.

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Saving energy by telecommuting – four ways to make it work

30 million people already work from a home office at least once a week. With the average employer spending about $10,000 in energy, real estate, and production costs per employee annually-telecommuting can be a win-win for the employee and employer.

Ever considered allowing some of your workers to telecommute? The practice has multiple benefits – from reducing your company’s environmental impact to increasing productivity.

When it comes to applying for jobs,  many young professionals consider  work flexibility as important as salary and other benefits.  As a recruitment tool,  embracing telecommuting can be very a great benefit for job seekers.

You’d certainly be part of a trend, as virtual workers are on the rise: more than 30 million people already work from a home office at least once a week, according to a study by the Telework Research Network, and experts believe that up to 63 million people will work from home by 2016.

Virtual workers reduce costs:

An August 2012 survey from Telework offers illustrative numbers on the environmental impact that would take place if those who have compatible jobs worked from home half the time:

  • The oil savings would equate to over 37 percent of our Persian Gulf imports.
  • The greenhouse gas reduction would be the equivalent of taking the entire New York State workforce permanently off the road.

Wondering how your workers might fare? Check out the following online telecommuting calculator (from GovLoop, with the help of HP) that uses information from a variety of studies and federal databases to break down the savings into the categories of money, time and pounds of carbon dioxide. For example, say you’re an SUV driver with a 30-mile, one-hour round-trip commute, who only travels to the office twice a week.

According to the calculator:

  • Money saved: $6,170 per year
  • Time saved: 156 hours of productivity
  • Greenhouse gas reduction: 4,196 pounds per year

Businesses can help their bottom line, too: Govloop says the average employer spends about $10,000 in energy, real estate, and production costs per employee annually. Administrative expenses, such as the need for desktop computers, office furniture and land lines, also could be reduced with a telecommuting workforce.

Ready to take the plunge? Here are four tips for initiating a virtual work schedule into your organization:

  1. Decide who can effectively telecommute.

    Before you allow the entire office to telecommute, figure out which functions make sense for a work-from-home schedule. If someone is in a more collaborative role, they may hurt productivity if they are out. But it might make perfect sense for a salesperson, who can work on the road most days.

  2. Decide what the schedule should look like.

    There’s no need to go all or nothing with telecommuting. Consider easing into it by having one day a week that is a telecommute day and see how it goes. Workers probably would be more effective telecommuting in the middle of the week, keeping Monday and Friday available for kicking off and ending the week with meetings or other team projects.

  3. Set clear expectations for the team.

    Make sure that workers are equipped with what they need, such as a landline and high-speed internet, to do their jobs effectively. Also have an agreement about what hours they will be available to the team. Ensure they realize that working from home is “working,” not doing chores or childcare.

  4. Check in on a regular basis.

    You don’t want to feel as though you are micromanaging your telecommuting employees, but there also is a case to be made for ensuring that they know they are being held accountable.

Most workers love a telecommuting option because it improves their work/life quality and for that reason they are apt to be highly committed to getting their job done successfully. Giving them the option when it makes sense can help improve their commitment to the company while improving the environment and your company’s bottom line.

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Making A Difference and Saving Energy With Cloud Computing

U.S. companies using cloud computing could save $12.3 billion in energy savings and 85.7 million metric tons of CO2 savings a year by 2020. Why hasn't your company taken advantage of this yet?

More and more companies are shifting their IT infrastructure to the cloud rather than using servers, a move that can help reap tremendous savings in carbon emissions and energy costs. In fact, a study by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) found that U.S. companies using cloud computing could save $12.3 billion in energy savings and 85.7 million metric tons of CO2 savings a year by 2020. The firms interviewed for the study anticipated reducing costs by as much as 40 to 50 percent.

The study also analyzed the business impact of transferring human resources to the cloud and found that it could achieve payback in less than a year. Beyond reducing their carbon footprint, cloud computing saves companies in other ways like avoiding up-front investments in infrastructure, improving time-to-market and improving automation. Cloud computing offers additional business benefits such as greater flexibility and scalability and easier upgrades.

As a Rackspace white paper points out, the key to achieving the benefits of cloud computing is proper vendor selection. Here’s a look at several factors to consider when choosing a cloud computing vendor:

  • Pricing model: The white paper recommends looking for a cloud computing vendor that bills cloud computing infrastructure on an hourly basis, because spikes tend to last only a few hours. Companies would not reap as much savings with a cloud computing vendor that charges by the day rather than the hour. Some cloud computing vendors also charge users a setup fee for provision (and even de-provision, in some cases) to offset their costs, so try to avoid vendors with high setup costs.
  • Security and compliance: Whether you’re used on-premise servers or a cloud-based solution, you need to do your due-diligence about the vendor’s security protocol. If your business is subject to standards such as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), you’d want to choose a vendor who complies with those standards.
  • Performance: Cloud computing offers a high level of reliability but it’s not infallible. Look for a provider who can offer you a strong Service Level Agreement (SLA) covering factors like host failure and network availability.
  • Support: Your in-house IT department may not have the bandwidth to offer around-the-clock support, so find out what level of support you can expect from your vendor. With the global economy, outages at any time of day are inconvenient and cost you money.

Cloud computing has the potential to save your business energy and money, but it’s important to select your cloud computing provider carefully to ensure the right fit for your needs.

 

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5 Easy Ways Your Small Business Can Save Money

As any entrepreneur knows, Benjamin Franklin was right when he said that “a penny saved is a penny earned.” And with the right energy-efficiency strategies, your small business can save hundreds—or even thousands—on utilities this winter. That’s no small change.

As any entrepreneur knows, Benjamin Franklin was right when he said that “a penny saved is a penny earned.” And with the right energy-efficiency strategies, your small business can save hundreds—or even thousands—on utilities this winter. That’s no small change.

Here are five quick fixes:

  1. Change your light bulbs. If you haven’t already, look into one of the exceedingly energy-efficient alternatives to old-school “bulbs.” Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) use about one-fourth the energy and lasts ten times longer than a comparable traditional incandescent bulb; and light emitting diodes (LEDs)(check out one of our videos about LED lights) use only 20 to 25 percent of the energy and last up to 25 times longer than the traditional incandescent bulbs they replace.
  2. Install motion sensors. Your mother always told you to turn off the lights when you leave a room, but somehow it’s easy to forget. Rather than constantly reminding employees, make it easy on them and install motion sensors in indoor and outdoor areas. Outdoors motion sensors provide an extra layer of security around the perimeter of your building without requiring you to leave lights on all night. And indoors, they are ideal for places that are infrequently used, such as rest rooms or store rooms.
  3. Turn down the heat. Office temperatures typically make you feel like you live in “Opposite World”—freezing in the summer when you’re dressing light and boiling in the winter when you break out your turtlenecks. You want your office to be a respite from the elements, but there’s no need to go overboard. Set your thermostat right around 68 degrees for a comfortable, not tropical, temperature and leave it there—or better yet, invest in a programmable one. Don’t let all those new holiday sweaters go to waste!
  4. Invest in a dishwasher. That unsightly jumble of lunch dishes and coffee cups could be costing you money! In addition to being a conduit for germs during the cold and flu season, hand washing dishes actually wastes both water – up to 5,000 gallons compared to an ENERGY STAR dishwasher – and uses twice as much energy, both the kind you pay for and the kind you expend. Your utility bill – and your employees – will thank you.
  5. Defang the vampire. Also known as “phantom load,” “vampire energy” is the electricity that PCs, chargers and office machines use when they are plugged in even when they are off. The easiest way to avoid having electricity (and money!) leak all night is to plug machines into a power strip that you turn off every evening.

All small business owners know that wasting energy on the wrong goals is a recipe for disaster—wasting energy on your utility bill is too, but these quick fixes can help! Simply making these small, inexpensive changes will make it so your small business can save money this year.

 

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