Top 5 Ways to Work Greener…Without Spending More Green

Green this, LEED that, sustainable whatever…how much is real and how much is green washing?  Most business owners want to do their part to save the planet, but many are confused by all the green hype and the fear that “going green” will cost more.  As I was putting these tips together, I reached out to “green gurus” for their business wisdom.  Cathy Bedard, CEO of The Great Green Business and the first eco-broker in the Hamptons real estate market counsels, “Just take little steps and take people along with you.  If you are committed to “being greener” this year, just become mindful of what you do, how you do it, what you buy and even what you say.”  The three key principles of greener living and greener working are “Reduce…re-use…recycle.”  If you keep them in mind as you make business decisions, you’ll be working a little greener before you even know it!
1. Get green-savvy.  Add a green e-zine to your regular reading list or calculate your carbon footprint, using one of the free online calculators, like this one from the National Wildlife Federation.   Attend a local green conference or trade show (but think about car-pooling or take public transportation to get there!)  You can even combine your “green education” with networking, by joining a Green Drinks chapter.  The New York City chapter has more than 500 members.
2. Create a green team.  Engage your employees and partners in coming up with some simple “pledges” of what you can do – as individuals or as a group – to change work habits.  Empowerment and involvement leads to more meaningful and sustainable results.  Even something as simple as “Put plastic bottles and newspapers in the recycle bin” can start to make a difference.  If you team is well along the path to green, you might choose something even more ambitious like, “Live without paper coffee cups all year.” 
3. De-energize and de-fuel.  Take advantage of natural light and replace bulbs with energy-efficient ones.  Investigate special programs offered by utilities companies and tax benefits for energy-saving steps.  Make smart travel decisions and combine business errands.
4. Waste not…want not!  Paper, plastic, displays and trinkets are all sources of unnecessary trash.  Think before you print and add a tagline to your e-mail signature to encourage others to do the same.  The cost of using recycled paper has come way down, but check the label.  The higher the PCW percent, the more recycled paper was used in its manufacture.  For commercial printing, look to printers that have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.  Still feeling guilty about your paper addiction?  Plant trees in your company’s name.   When you buy office products, look for those with less plastic in the packaging.   And bring your own bag to the store!   Consider your trade show program too…the event industry is one of the largest sources of industrial waste, according to Gary Survis, CEO of Go Green Displays.  “Consider your booth design…your swag…your hand-outs. How much is having a customer impact and how much is winding up as landfill?” Survis suggests you ask yourself.
5. Communicate your efforts, but don’t green wash.  If you are embarking on a green initiative just seem trendy and sensitive, you run the risk of being “busted” by customers who really know their facts.   But if you’ve truly taken steps that make a difference, share them to educate and inspire.  Enter contests, display recycled paper logos proudly and drink a toast to yourself (with your BPA-free water bottle, of course!)