By Rhonda Abrams
Gannett News Service
March is the month for St. Patrick's Day, and you know what that means - it's time to be green. But in addition to wearing green clothes or drinking green beer, why not make your business green? By that, I mean adopting environmentally sensitive business practices.
Energy conservation is more important than ever. You don't have to be a tree-hugging environmentalist to want improved fuel efficiency. And what about waste? Waste is something you paid for and didn't consumeSo think of being green as getting rid of waste - and saving money too.
Fortunately, lots of help exists for small companies wishing to conserve energy and reduce waste. Many utility companies and government agencies offer rebates, grants, or low-interest loans to help you buy new energy-efficient equipment, retrofit older buildings, install energy-saving measures in new buildings, and otherwise cut down on water, electricity, and natural gas use.
You can get rebates for things as seemingly small as new energy-efficient light bulbs.
To locate such financial incentives, go to your utility company's Web site and do a search on "rebate" and "loan."
Here are a few easy things you can do immediately to save money and the environment:
Reduce the commute. When choosing a location for your business, look for sites near your home, public transportation and where employees can be recruited nearby. Encourage carpooling or, if practical, allow employees to work four 10-hour days instead of five eight-hour days.
Do more business online. Do you really need to take the trip to the bank to transfer funds? Can you send a document via e-mail rather than by delivery service? Buy hybrid cars. If you need to buy a new vehicle for your business, try a hybrid electric-gas car such as the Toyota Prius or the Honda Civic Hybrid. These get about 50 miles to the gallon.
Buy recycled paper products. Look for "post-consumer waste" products, including stationery, packaging materials, paper towels and other kitchen and bathroom supplies.
Use recycled materials for production. Ask suppliers if they have environmentally friendly materials.
Replace high-energy-use fixtures and equipment. There are many loan programs to help businesses shift to energy-efficient alternatives. You may be eligible to get funds to bring your equipment up-to-date.
Recycle or find innovative uses for excess inventory or waste. As a publisher, my company ends up with hundreds of books returned from bookstores when new editions are released. We donate these to non-profit groups rather than just sending them to a recycling center.
Check online information sources. Start with the Federal Government's Energy Star Web site for small business, www.energystar.gov/smallbiz. You'll find links to state resources to help you purchase or transition to energy-efficient equipment or fixtures. Also check www.greenbiz.com, which has links to more than 700 Web sites.
Rhonda Abrams is the author of "The Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies." To receive her free business tips newsletter, register at www.RhondaOnline.com.
AK Steel faces its future
Minivans gaining on SUVs
Going green pays off in big way
At-home trend is winner at store
Flight attendants lose free travel won in discrimination suit
What's the Buzz?