Conservation without sacrificing productivity in the business world is a challenge for some. Trying to be green without completely omitting basic necessities is hard, but not completely out of the picture. There are numerous alternatives - in some cases, better upgrades - for converting standard materials and supplies into something greener and more intuitive.
Here's a basic run-down of some ways businesses can change their daily routines for the better.
Improve Recycling Access & Awareness: Large recycling dumpster out back withstanding, how many businesses out there really have a plethora of outlets specific to recycling? Are there individual bins lying around each department? Even still, are there any announcements about the benefits of recycling?
Speaking to the last question, most every reasonable person understands the benefits of recycling. But it doesn't hurt to have a few waivers posted somewhere in the office - maybe the coffee room? - delving further into the green initiative. And as for making the office more recycling-friendly, ask employees what they'd like before you go around putting out a superflous amount of recycling bins. Maybe they each want their own, or rather they'd just like one in every other department and the necessary points, like the fax/copy room.
Conserving On The Energy Front: Electric bills are one thing, but the amount of energy consumed in the office and/or other small businesses is much higher than your average home. In some cases, a business may have one area of the office fully lit 24/7. Most likely it's for security reasons, but there's the off-chance a room or cubicle here and there will have their lights on. Calculate the amount of energy spent on forgetfulness and other reasons and the bills pile up higher and the green initiative fades along with it.
There are multiple solutions, some simple and others rather complex. The easiest one is sending out a company memo on making sure to power down computers and turn off lights as they exit. Or maybe consider investing in some sort of timer to regulate the time at which lights power on and off. And ensure that employees that stay late have a manual override code to keep them from fumbling around the office in complete darkness :).
The other method may be a bit more expensive at first, but'll pay off in the long run both from a financial sense and an eco-friendly stance. Consider replacing lighting to something more eco-conscious, with more conservative power ratings and total energy reliance. And you could go one step further if the budget allows it by seeking out a solar panel grid to run a good portion of the business operations.
Cut Back On Supplies: Now you don't have to completely rid the office of paper, but you can reduce it's use in certain aspects of the business. Take standard packets or manuals given out to every employee in the company. Set aside the necessary legal/tax documents-because those are necessary. What I'm focused more on is omitting the secondary paper usage. Things like training packets, either for when employees first come aboard or much later for training the staff on new software. Flip the switch by introducing training videos that are more in-tune with employees and obviously can be repurposed for future employees and most importantly, cut down a percentage of paper usage. There are numerous alternatives out there such as eLearning. There are companies that specialize in crafting simple, but effective, custom elearning options like this for their staff to learn the ins-and-outs of the company and the products or software utilized within.
Or you could possibly consider using recycled paper supplies to begin with? Maybe have a few quality reams of paper for printing important documents and presentation pieces, but as for the rest, why not invest in recycled paper? Or you could go one step further and consider using different grades of supplies that are more eco-friendly than the normal ones. As Earth911 suggests, soy-based ink has a handful of benefits such as making paper that it's printed on easier to recycle because of more efficient de-inking processes, it produces very vibrant and bold colors because of the bean's clarity, etc.
In the end, whether your office is being proactive with one of the three ideas, or all of them and then some, the purpose is to conserve the earth's resources in a way that helps the environment and quite possibly the business' financial end as well. Whether it's swapping out a business book summary for a thick packet of paper detailing the same thing, or circumventing the electrical output of the office to more efficient standards, putting a greener stamp on the business has its advantages.