Friday, February 17, 2012

Guest Post: Green Your Small Business

Today's post comes from Gainesville native Emily Rodriguez, M.S. - Plant Ecologist and Environmental Activist.

From Flickr User
When thinking about how to incorporate green practices into your small business, consider the phrase, “People, Planet, Profit.” You probably already have a good idea of how your business serves people and generates a profit, but what about the planet? Sometimes it’s possible to save money while helping people and the planet, but other times, you make a personal sacrifice or spend money specifically to be more environmentally friendly. Exactly how to partition your resources among the three Ps is up to you, but here’s some information to help you make those decisions:

Before the environmental movement of the 1970s, point source pollution was one of the biggest environmental problems we faced. That is, businesses used to literally discharge toxic materials from their premises into the environment. These days, non-point source pollution is a leading cause of environmental degradation. Hardly anyone is intentionally dumping pollutants generated by their business, but low levels of pollution are still being emitted by enough people, that it’s causing problems on a large scale. Examples of non-point source pollution include storm-water run-off, fertilizer run-off and vehicle exhaust fumes. This type of pollution has contributed to global warming, a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, and algae blooms in our springs, to name a few effects.

So, the number one change you can make to become a greener small business, is to reduce your non-point source pollution. Around the physical location of your business (and home), plant attractive native plants and discontinue or minimize fertilizer and irrigation. Wherever possible, minimize your indoor concrete footprint – and outside, use permeable surfaces such as mulch, pavers, or pervious pavement. Minimize the amount of gasoline you consume by cutting down on driving and flying or switching to alternative fuel vehicles. If you cannot cut-down on your own exhaust pollution, you can purchase carbon-offsets, which pay for projects such as tree plantings.

Of course, we all know “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.” Consider participating in local recycling programs. Consumable items that you need for your business can be made out of recycled or renewable materials. Partnering with other ventures may help you become part of a recycled waste stream – think creatively and ask around. Be flexible in setting employee work hours, since using electricity during off-peak times is more efficient. Remember that technology can be a powerful tool in minimizing our impact on the environment. There are investments large and small that you can make in water and energy saving technologies for your business. It is possible to maintain a healthy natural environment and to thrive as a small business, as long as you take care of the three Ps: “People, Planet, Profit.”

Have you taken steps to green your small business?

Consider the following resources:
Green Guide for New Businesses by the U.S. Small Business Administration

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