1. Printing Less Stuff = Using Less Paper
Paper makes up about 35% of our waste stream – even though it’s one of the easiest materials to re-use and recycle! You can help reduce this waste by using as little paper as possible, and being smart about the paper you do use. First of all, you don’t need to print every e-mail. Just organize your inbox to make e-mails easier to find and reference. You can encourage others not to print your e-mails as well. Make back-up copies of important files and e-mails and keep them on an external drive, instead of storing boxes of paper files. When you do need to print important documents, make sure you use a sustainable paper, and set your printer or copier to print on both sides of the page.
2. Go Digital with Your Documents
A great way to reduce paper use and get contracts and documents signed more quickly is to use electronic signatures. Adobe Acrobat Professional allows you to sign PDF files digitally, as well as create PDF documents with signature fields for clients to sign. Or you could use software such as Docu Sign or e-signature to securely sign documents and get signatures from clients and vendors. I send proposals, contracts, and invoices entirely through e-mail as PDF attachments. Clients can then e-sign the documents and send them back, and we both have a signed copy without having to print anything. I also use PayPal to send invoices, which gives me the ability to accept credit cards and receive instant payment.
3. Work With Like-Minded Companies
Chances are, there are businesses in your area that are also going green or certified green. Network with them and use their services when you need them. Part of being a green business is making sure that you do your best to ensure that your supply chain is green, too. Seek out green vendorsfor your business needs, whether it be printing business cards, hosting your web site, or cleaning your office building.
4. One Word: Freecycle!
Need some shelves for your office and don’t have a budget for new furnishings? You never know what you might find on free-cycle. One person’s junk is definitely another’s treasure. If you have a large company, you could even organize an office-wide barter party, where everyone brings items they don’t use any more to swap for things they might need from others. When you upgrade your office equipment after years of use, pass it on if it’s still useful. List it on free-cycle or donate it to a charity that may need it.
5. Educate Yourself
There is always more you can do to make your business more sustainable. And the only way to make progress is to know where you’re headed. Keep up with environmental news and green business trends to identify areas you can improve on. Make your own checklist of green business practices to implement and set deadlines for crossing them off your list. Share green news and tips with your co-workers, employees, and clients. Making yourself an “expert” on sustainability will not only build your green brand, but it will earn respect from potential clients, customers, and your peers. Of course I’m biased, but I can’t think of a better resource than Ecopreneurist for green business tips, so check back often to learn how to keep your business on the path to sustainability.