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Small Business, Big (Green) Tips

Nature photographer Clyde Butcher knows that greening a business can save green, as in cash. Electricity bills at his Big Cypress Gallery in sun-washed southern Florida have dropped 60 percent-from $360 to $150 a month. He did it by changing light bulbs, specifically replacing his hot-burning 50-watt halogen bulbs with special 7-watt L.E.D. bulbs that screw into his existing track-lighting sockets. As Butcher and others have found, there are plenty of ways small-business owners can go doubly green:

Call your electricity company to request a free energy audit. Often, someone will tour your business to advise you how to reduce energy costs. You'll also hear how to get rebates for energy-efficient upgrades. Almost every state, county and large municipality has at least one program to help smaller companies reduce energy, waste or water use-and thus cut costs, says Greenbiz.com Executive Editor Joel Makower. His primer on how small companies can get energy help is found here: http://www.greenbiz.com/column/2008/06/22/energy-help-a-primer-smaller-and-bigger-companies/. Find a state-by-state directory of incentives here: www.dsireusa.org.

 

Some utilities provide do-it-yourself energy-audit tools to let you figure out your company's energy excesses and potential savings on your own. Examples: www.pge.com/mybusiness/energysavingsrebates/analyzer/; www.smud.org/business/saving-energy/online-energy-audit.html. After William Mohler perused three years of utility records for his car dealership, Sendell Motors in Greensburg, Pa., he and his staff resolved to slash energy use by 10 percent-even after adding 3,100 square feet to the dealership. Thanks to several changes, big and small (such as putting the exterior lot lights on controlled timers), the dealership's energy costs dropped by $8,000 yearly. (Read more about Sendell Motors at http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=sb_success.sb_successstories_sendell07).

 

The federal government's "ENERGY STAR for Small Business" program provides technical support and oodles of tips such as this one: If you're buying new equipment for a commercial kitchen, you can save $450 to $820 yearly on utility costs with an ENERGY STAR-rated steam cooker instead of an energy-hog version. Download a guide called "Putting Energy Into Profits" here: www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=small_business.sb_index.

 

Local green-business networking organizations can serve as resources and soundboards for going easy on the Earth. Example: Rochester Green Business Network in New York shares success stories-such as how Harbec Plastics found an environmentally friendly way to keep employees cool in its injection molding plant while also saving or avoiding $165,000 in annual energy costs. (Read story here: http://ceinfo.org/rgbn/summary.php?CaseStudyID=1.) Find green networking organizations in such varied places as Wisconsin (http://www.wiscpsa.org/), Florida (http://flgreenbusiness.com/), San Francisco's East Bay (http://sustainablebiz.org/mission.htm), Washington, D.C. (http://www.sbnow.org/template/index.cfm), Cleveland (http://e4s.org/content/index.asp) and Philadelphia (http://www.sbnphiladelphia.org/).

 

In the end, Butcher finds that greening his small business in Ochopee, Fla., makes cents, as well as sense. After all, "with energy prices where they are, really EVERYBODY has to pay attention to efficiency," notes Daniel Esty, co-author of "Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage" (read first chapter here: http://www.estyep.com/book.php).

Butcher is spreading the word to anyone who will listen about the energy savings his L.E.D. lights bring. "I figure my gallery-I'll save $50,000 to $75,000 with a $5,000 investment," Butcher says. "That's not a bad business decision."

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