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You and Your Money

SMALL BUSINESS FINANCE: Go Green and Save Green

It’s all the rage to talk about green cities, green businesses, and green policies. It makes sense in the big picture to take care of the planet we’re on. But what does “going green” really mean to the average small business owner?

Fortunately it’s not all about expensive equipment and complex retooling. Many green practices are just about using what we have more efficiently. And greater efficiencies translate into reduced costs and an improved bottom line.

Suddenly the small business owner has something to get excited about!

The Easiest Way for Small Business Owners to Go Green

The easiest way to get started on a green program is to look at your energy consumption as a source for potential savings. Most small businesses consume more energy than necessary. Reducing your energy bill gives that double benefit you need, conserving not only natural resources but financial resources as well.

U.S. businesses consume energy in a variety of forms: liquid fuels, natural gas, electricity, coal, renewable fuels (including solar, wind, and ethanol), and nuclear. For most small businesses, electricity tops the list. For others, it’s gasoline. Energy costs of all kinds have been rising faster than most sectors of the economy.

But there’s good news…

There are new and innovative means for using energy more efficiently and new sources of energy are being developed. The Energy Information Administration estimates that total expenditures on energy across all industries peaked in 2009 and are now coming down rapidly as renewable sources become more popular.

The two simplest pieces of advice for conserving energy are to turn off the lights and to turn off your computer (or computers) at night. According to a study commissioned by Sun Microsystems, Inc., only 42 percent of workers turn off the lights and only 34 percent turn off their computers when work is done. If they did, according to Go Green, Live Rich: 50 Simple Ways to Save the Earth and Get Rich Trying by David Bach and Hilary Rosner, $43 billion in energy costs would be saved and CO2 emissions would be reduced by 32 million tons. Again - going green and saving green.

That was easy, right? Now consider:

7 Ways Small Business Owners Can Reduce Their Energy Consumption and Their Energy Bills

. Replace your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents. A 25-watt compact fluorescent bulb produces about as much light as a 100-watt conventional bulb but uses only one-fourth of the electricity. And if you’re thinking they are too expensive, you probably haven’t checked lately. It used to take a year or more for compact fluorescents to pay for themselves. Now many pay for themselves in energy savings in the first month. After that, it’s pure profit.
. Turn off your lights at any time during the day when you aren’t using them for 15 minutes or more.
. Set your computer to go to sleep automatically during breaks.
. If you charge electronic devices, unplug the adapters when you’re not charging the device to avoid continual bleeding of power.
. Set your thermostat lower by a few degrees in the winter and higher by a few degrees in the summer. Even small changes can make a difference. For every 1 degree reduction you make in the winter, you can save 3 percent in total energy use.
. Consider getting a programmable thermostat to reduce energy output overnight.
. Keep blinds open to reduce the need for artificial light in the winter and closed on warm days to reduce the load on your cooling system.

We haven’t even moved beyond the simple steps, and already you’re saving some serious money. Put these ideas into practice, and then sit down with your power bills after a month or two to see whether it’s been worth the modest effort. Odds are you’ll see real savings and start looking for next steps.