Sunday, March 16, 2003

Going green pays off in big way


Small businesses

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.



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