Striving to be green and kicking off a startup business goes hand in hand. This mindset of reducing consumption whether it is energy or cash, aligns perfectly with the idea of sustainability. Customers are getting savvy about what companies are doing to reduce their impact and the simple truth is that any product or company will have a negative environmental impact compared to having never existed in the first place.
But it’s not all doom and gloom.
As a startup business owner, you want to be well prepared for that inevitable question from the customer, “Tell me a little bit about what you’re doing for the environment?” Here are three easy and important ideas for a cash strapped entrepreneur to make a difference and generate some savings in the process.
1. Develop an E-Plan to Reduce and Reinvest
Chances are you have a Business Plan but do you have an Environemental Plan (E-Plan)? This is a simple roadmap for implementing low and no cost energy efficiency options on a yearly basis. Start with the small things like replacing incandescent lighting with compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs, powering down unused equipment, and looking for ways to save on heating and cooling costs. Ballpark what you think you might save in a year and reinvest that money into other efficiency options. Check out Energy Star’s website for a full list of options.
3. Get an Energy Audit
It is simple, effective and profitable. An energy audit will tell you how much energy your place of business uses each year, and provide tips on how to reduce your consumption. In general, a professional audit can run $50-$200 depending on the square footage of the building in question. Some utility companies and local governments provide substantial rebates for audits or even offer them for free so be sure and check with your local services.
The main benefit of an energy audit is you are able to identify cost saving opportunities which would otherwise be missed. Classic examples include poorly sealed walls and windows, under insulated walls, inefficient heating and cooling systems. The list goes on and on, but the bottom line is energy audits are the best means to identify where and how to go about reducing your energy usage. This simple exercise will reveal the majority of potential savings. Try and allocate those savings directly back into reducing your impact according to your E-Plan.
3. Begin to understand your Business footprint.
The products you buy, your business travel, the energy to keep the lights on and ultimately your relationships with customers and suppliers…it all leaves a carbon footprint.
Since most small businesses are unlikely to have much capital to invest right away in energy efficiency measures it is important to plan in advance (that yearly E-Plan again) to make small amounts of resources available. For example, installing CFL light bulbs right now can save enough money to pay for window upgrades further down the road without any increase in your operating budget.
At Sweet Onion Creations, we started by monitoring all our electrical use for building 3D architecture models. We bought a $20 meter that we plug into our wall outlet that let’s us know exactly how much energy was used during production. Next, we figure in shipping and purchase a green tag from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation to offset our impact. We do this for every project and document the findings for our clients and ourselves. The simple meter mentioned above was bought using energy savings through better insulation of our shop. These are small efforts that add up to big results with our clients.
If you would really like to start making a concerted effort to combat climate change you will need to start measuring your current impact beyond an energy audit and put in place measures to record future impacts and reductions. Get that basic E-Plan drawn up and start calculating your company’s carbon footprint. A good place to start is the EPA’s website, which not only calculates your carbon footprint, but suggests ways to reduce it as well. For the startup that wants a more in depth look, ghgprotocol.org gives an extremely detailed analysis.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we need to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050. (This sounds like a lot, but is only about 2% a year, an easily achievable number if you plan right.) After conducting an energy audit and measuring your carbon impact,t work out a long-term E-Plan for implementing energy efficiency measures and tie this closely to your business plan. As your startup takes its first steps to growing, be sure to include a few small steps for the planet. It just makes good business sense to conserve on all levels.