By Brandi Scoggins
Making the extra efforts at home to save energy and live a more environmentally sound life is one thing, but what can be done at the workplace?
There are many small, cost-free steps individuals can take to apply a green lifestyle to the office. Here are 10 tips to consider when taking your new favorite color to work:
1. Use both sides of the paper. When printing or photocopying documents with multiple pages, be sure to use front and back of each page to reduce paper usage.
2. Turn off the monitor. Before you leave the office for the day, turn off the monitor on your computer. If your company allows it and there’s no risk of losing work, shut down your entire computer and unplug the surge protector when you’re gone for the weekend or on vacation.
3. Go paperless whenever possible. Opt for e-mailing memos and keeping electronic copies of reference manuals and guidelines. You’ll save on printing and they’ll be much easier to update.
4. Watch how you eat. Bring your own washable dishware and coffee mug to keep at the office instead of using the disposable flatware and plates that may be available.
5. Use public transportation. Take the bus to work when you can or research local Web sites and classified ads that offer carpooling to your area of employment.
6. Bring in some plants. Choose some indoor plants that are safe to keep in your office. They help absorb indoor pollution and in many cases simply brighten up your workspace.
7. Use natural light whenever possible. If you sit near a window that allows enough daylight inside, rely on sunlight for work, especially during the middle of the day. Also, make sure to turn the light off each time you leave the office for any length of time just like you would at home.
8. Recycle. If your company provides bins and outlets for recycling, use them. Recycle paper and any appliances you can.
9. Dress appropriately. Locate a green dry cleaner that doesn’t use perchloroethylene, a known carcinogen, or simply avoid wearing clothes that are dry clean only.
10. Get others to join in with you. To spread the most green, share what you’re doing with your coworkers and get them to practice the same habits.
STARTING A GREEN BUSINESS
The explosion of organic and eco-friendly products on retail store shelves is more than just a passing fad. It’s big business. This means big opportunities for environmentally minded entrepreneurs.
According to the The Organic Trade Association’s Manufacturer Survey, the organic industry grew by 21% to reach $17.7 billion in consumer sales in 2006. Over the last decade organic sales have increased by an average of 20%, and this rate is expected to remain steady over the next 20 years.
Successful green businesses not only benefit the environment, but also use green business practices as means to market their products. If you are thinking of starting a green business, consider the following tips:
FIND YOUR NICHE. As the natural, organic lifestyle continues to catch on with consumers, there are many growth possibilities. Products such as food, cosmetics and cleaning supplies are growing areas within the organic trade, however, to be successful, you should look for opportunities that match your interests.
GET CERTIFIED. To differentiate your product or service as environmentally sound, consider obtaining certification from an independent, third party. Being certified means that you can include their “ecolabel” on your product’s label and other marketing materials. Ecolabeling is important for attracting green customers.
PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH. The most successful green businesses don’t just sell the green lifestyle. They live it. Selling green means being green, and this helps build a brand and image as socially responsible.
Join Industry Partnerships. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sponsors a wide variety of industry partnership and product stewardship programs that aim to reduce the impact of industrial activities on the environment. Joining one of these programs helps you connect with others in your industry, grow your brand, and protect the environment and natural resources.
For more useful information, visit www.business.gov, the official business link to the U.S. Government managed by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
TEN TIPS FOR SPOTTING GREEN PRODUCTS
These days, it seems almost everyone wants to go green, a popular term to denote products with superior environmental performance or benefits. Here are 10 ways to spot the real deal:
1 Look for products made from natural, biodegradable, renewable and/or recycled materials and ingredients.
2 Select products that offer, in plain English, a complete list of their ingredients.
3 Look for products whose packaging and materials can be easily recycled in your community.
4 Seek out products that conserve energy during their manufacturing and/or final use.
5 Seek out products that save water during their manufacturing and/or final use.
6 Seek out products that prevent waste in some way.
7 Look for information that backs the product’s label claims. Detailed data can often be found on companies’ Web sites.
8 Watch out for vague terms like “environmentally friendly,” which have no legal definition and can mean anything.
9 Look for products that clearly explain their claims.
10 Choose products with a minimum of packaging.