Small businesses are the backbone of the economy, and our back is hurting. The down economy has strained a great number of small businesses, which while viewed as essential for the economy are not too big to fail. Byron Kennard and Jennifer Kaplan at the Center for Small Business and the Environment have a report called “Small Wonders” coming out next week talking about this point. What’s a small business to do to get by? You know what I always say – When the going gets tough, the tough go green.
The keys these days for small businesses (and everyone else) are business fundamentals: saving money, wasting less, increasing productivity, and developing new opportunities. Whatever small businesses do must translate into making money or it just won’t fly, for the most part. Nobody hates the earth (not many people anyway), but making a sacrifice for the planet’s sake is a hard message to swallow right now for businesses that already feel stretched. They want to know what it means for them and their bottom line, whether it’s a triple line or not.
If I show people a compact fluorescent light bulb (or other energy efficient lighting) and tell them it’s more expensive, but they should buy it anyway to save the polar bears, they are not generally going to be excited about the idea. If I tell them though that one bulb will save them $30 over its life and that the more bulbs they switch, the more they’ll save, then a lot more people are listening.
Luckily there are plenty of ways that small businesses can save money and make money that also happen to be green, including steps like:
1. Changing your light bulbs
2. Fixing water leaks
3. Turning up the thermostat in summer (or down in winter)
4. Turning off the lights at night
5. Turning off computers at night
6. Traveling less
8. Use carsharing (or ridesharing)
9. Weatherstripping a building
10. Fixing air ducts
The list goes on and on. Some green steps increase productivity as well, as has been shown for green buildings by the US Green Building Council. While there are many opportunities that require little or no money up front, some more significant projects such as insulating buildings or installing cool roofing can take a little money to get started. Luckily there are also a variety of rebates, loans, and grants from utilities and governments to support energy efficiency, water conservation, and renewable energy, reducing or eliminating the cost barrier (see a great summary of this at GreenBiz – here).
There are also many resources to help out, either on paper or in person. Gil Friend’s new book “The Truth About Green Business” looks like a great one. “Green to Gold” of course is a great one, by Esty and Winston. And as it just so happens, I have my own entry that came out in May “Greening Your Business on a Budget”.
So really there are no excuses. Do you want to save money and be more profitable? Then stop wasting so much. And if you just happen to help the planet along the way, I promise not to tell if you don’t.
Glenn Croston is the author of “75 Green Businesses”, the author of the e-book “Greening Your Business On a Budget”, and the founder of Starting Up Green (www.StartingUpGreen.com), helping entrepreneurs from all backgrounds to start and grow successful green businesses. He can be reached at glenn(dot)croston(at)75greenbusinesses(dot)com.