A common misconception that many small business owners have is that investing in green technology is out of their financial reach. This may have been the case fifteen years ago but not today. There are several funding options and the energy savings will pay for the project in a relatively short time
If you aren’t a dyed-in-the-wool environmentalist and aren’t quite sure what going green could do for your business then maybe a look at your bottom line is just the motivation you need. As a small business owner you probably have an outdated heating and cooling system in your office, that according to Energy Savers, could be costing you upwards of $1250 per 1000 sq. ft. yearly. This doesn’t include maintenance costs, just strictly the cost of the electricity to run it. A new energy star approved model could save you up to 30% on your monthly energy bill, that’s $375 per 1000 sq. ft. Now imagine the savings that are waiting for you in other areas.
In a small office situation there are several money saving green alternatives to your normal everyday routine. You can do your own energy audit or hire a professional “Green Building" expert to do one for you. The advantage to having an expert come in is that areas you would normally overlook and technologies you weren’t aware of can be assessed and addressed in respect to your situation. Although the initial cost of an audit and the investment in green technologies may seem like it is out of your reach in the long term the energy savings will pay for the upgrade. Some areas to look at are investing in a solar power system, adding a smart lighting system, looking at specialty items like the Dyson Airblade for hand drying and of course evaluating your heating and cooling system. The United States Small Business Administration has an energy star calculator that can help you estimate cost vs. savings based on the energy star rating of the new appliance vs. your current energy expenditures.
Some immediate changes that can be made on the cheap include sealing up drafty areas of your office with caulking and installing a programmable thermostat to control the interior environment and changing out any incandescent bulbs with either compact fluorescents or LEDs.
Home Based Business
In a home based business some of the same greening techniques that are used for small offices can apply but it is more likely that home solutions are going to be more pertinent. The home office, by definition, is part of the home so a project like this will be tougher to get business based financing for. Still, the energy savings that you will see by employing computer system power strips, simple passive solar heating and cooling and using a paperless office system can amount to substantial savings. The best way to go green in a home based business is to implement as many of the tips given by Amy Carson in her “How to Go Green in Your Home" article.
Determining Greening Priorities
Which green technologies are right for your business? There are a few questions you can ask to determine where you should invest in green technology to see the greatest return.
- Is your business static or mobile (do you offer on-site service)?
- How old are your office tools (computers, printers, etc.)?
- Do you have an energy efficient heating/cooling system?
- Where do you spend most of your operating budget (is there a component that seems to cost too much)?
- Have you changed out your lighting?
- What is your budget for the upgrade?
Once these questions have been answered you can narrow down your focus. For example, a small landscaping business may benefit from investing in electric vehicles or vehicles with hybrid technology but not spend as much time on actual in office concerns. The changing of fuel sources would have the largest savings but also have a larger initial investment. If the operating budget couldn’t support such a change and a loan or grant could not be secured then the office changes would be the next logical step on the list.
Securing Funding and Long Term Savings
The federal government has hundreds of programs geared toward making businesses more energy efficient. The Small Business Administration (SBA) works directly with lenders in your area to offer competitive low-interest loans, venture capital, and scientific and economic development grants. With a low interest loan there would be no need to compromise your bottom line while immediately reaping the savings of the more efficient system. The savings you realize on a monthly basis may even be enough to fully pay your loan payment. In the long term the energy savings will pay for the equipment and continue reducing costs for years after. There are very few funding opportunities for home based businesses but the ones that do exist are specifically for this kind of technology upgrade. The SBA has several resources for identifying these grant and loan opportunities.
Energy Star, http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=find_a_product.showProductGroup&pgw_code=CA.
Greening Your Home-Based Business; Saving $, Saving the Environment, and Building your Brand, http://community.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matters/greening-your-home-based-business-saving-saving-environment-and-building-
Tips for Energy Efficiency, http://www.sba.gov/content/tips-energy-efficiency
SBA Lighting, http://www.sba.gov/content/lighting
Energy Star Light Bulbs (CFLs), http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=find_a_product.showProductGroup&pgw_code=LB
Why Choose ENERGY STAR Qualified LED Lighting?, http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=ssl.pr_why_es_com
Image of CFL bulb courtesy of Velo Steve @ FlickR by CC BY-SA 2.0, http://www.flickr.com/photos/juniorvelo/3872703481/sizes/m/in/photostream/