Green Energy Business Ideas: Get Started With 10 Low Cost Ways

Have you been considering “going green” in your business? There are many good reasons to be more environmentally conscious, but the principal incentive for many companies is that it can save money. Other benefits can include enhancing your reputation as a good corporate citizen and increasing your employees’ satisfaction with their workplace. 

You don’t have to switch your fleet to all-electric vehicles, reclaim all your waste water, or install a wind turbine in the parking lot. Simple, inexpensive changes over time can produce measurable results.

1. Get an energy audit 

If you own your own building, ask the local power company to recommend a contractor to perform an energy audit of your workplace. Once you know where the problems are, you can arrange to get them repaired. Plugging leaks in your building’s outer shell and around windows and doors can save on heating and cooling bills. Spending the money to install energy-efficient double pane windows may pay off quickly in energy savings.

2. Stop power vampires 

Your office equipment is “sucking” power 24/7, whether or not it’s in use, because printers, fax machines, and copiers continue to draw power when they’re in standby mode. This “vampire” energy drain can account for up to 10 percent of your energy costs. Solutions to this problem include using energy-efficient power strips to completely shut off equipment when not in use and setting timers to turn off equipment during non-working hours.

3. Re-think your lighting 

A simple way to reduce your energy costs is making sure lights are turned off when they’re not needed. According to the federal government’s ENERGY STAR program, installing occupancy sensors can save 20-75 percent of the energy used for lighting. Replace incandescent lighting with new compact fluorescent bulbs, which are more expensive to buy, but last up to 10 times longer and use about two-thirds less energy. 

4. Keep your cool 

To scale back on heating and cooling costs during non-working hours, install programmable thermostats to automate your HVAC system. For larger areas like warehouses or stockrooms, fans may provide enough airflow to let you set the thermostat a few degrees higher--saving power while maintaining the same comfort level.

5. Upgrade equipment 

Technological innovations in recent years have enabled manufacturers to increase the energy efficiency of products like equipment motors, air conditioners, printers, refrigerators, and the like. Check the ENERGY STAR website for information on equipment efficiency, including calculators to estimate how quickly your investment in new equipment will pay off in energy savings.

6. Save paper 

Remember when we were promised that the “paperless office” was right around the corner? Yeah, we’re still waiting for that, too. In the meantime, you can do your part to help the environment and save some money by using sensible solutions like printing on both sides of the paper, turning outdated letterhead into scratch pads, and switching to recycled copy paper. Shift from paper to electronic record-keeping and communications, both internal and external. Digital storage solutions also save space, allowing you to replace bulky file cabinets.

7. Be water-wise

Check your facility carefully for water leaks and have them repaired. If you’re remodeling the building or updating plumbing equipment, install low-flow showers, faucets, toilets, urinals, etc. If you wash vehicles or hose down equipment on-site, train staff to conserve water and emphasize the importance of doing so.

8. Manage computer use and reduce brightness in monitors 

Computers and their peripherals can be real power hogs. Consider using laptops instead of desktop computers because they consume about half as much energy. Turn computers off when they are not needed, and enable power management or “sleep” modes on your computers that allow them to go into lower-energy modes after a certain amount of time4. In addition, dimming the brightness of your computer screen by 30 percent or more uses about half the energy of the full brightness setting and in most cases it is barely even noticeable. Some monitors can operate at as low as 25 percent of its full brightness level and still be bright enough.

9. Develop a recycling program 

Examine all waste generated by your business and look for ways it can be recycled. Plastic and glass bottles, aluminum cans, ink and toner cartridges, paper and cardboard are the easiest to recycle, and your municipality may even offer free pickup at your site. Create a plan for what you’re going to recycle, promote it to your employees and make sure bins are accessible to make it easy for them to participate.

10. One man’s trash

The ultimate recycling strategy is to hand off your discards to someone else who can make use of them. If you’re upgrading your computers or your phone system, a local school or charity may be happy to take them off your hands. Before tossing out surplus office supplies or furniture, check to see if they can help out a non-profit in your community. These donations may even earn you a tax deduction (check with your tax accountant). 

Toot your own horn

2013 survey found that embracing green practices is likely to boost a small business’s bottom line, not only by reducing energy costs, but also by making the business more attractive to eco-conscious consumers. Once you start putting these green ideas into practice, make sure your customers know about it -- mention it on your website and in marketing materials to get the recognition that will bring in even more green.

Resources: 

Putting Energy into Profits: Small Business Guide This 39-page guide from the federal government’s ENERGY STAR program is designed to help small business owners take advantage of the benefits of energy efficiency. 
The Big Green Opportunity - This survey not only provides information about the growing “green” business sector, but also shows how going green can bring in more customers.
Energy Start Website 
Putting Energy into Profits: Small Business Guide 
Computer Power Usage 
Monthly PC Tips: Lower Your Display Brightness 
How to Save Thousands of Dollars Simply by Adjusting Your Monitor's Brightness