Large or small, in the green business or not, commercial, industrial and retail, all businesses can and should (truly, must) strive to operate in a more eco friendly manner. It’s the future and the future starts today. To help you move to a more environmentally conscious method of operations, we at Ecobou have implemented dozens of policies that make us as eco-friendly as possible and we’re sharing those with you.

Some you may be using already, some you will know about and are working towards; others may be brand new ideas (we hope so!). We are aiming for simplicity, cost-effectiveness (yes, we all still have that elusive bottom line) and sustainability. A word of warning: some things may cost a little more up front, but long-term saving, often quickly generated, will be worthwhile.

We’ve dropped these 21 ways of making your business more eco friendly in 2021 into a few categories for ease of exploration.

The Office or Workspace Environment

The goal is to make ensure the space remains functional, while being a healthy and inviting environment. Eco friendly interior décor items look good and help ensure a safe workspace. Try these:

1. Install adjustable blinds on windows to regulate light and heat or cold penetration. Use area rugs on floors to insulate and reduce noise; be sure to buy rugs that don’t off-gas and are made from natural materials such as jute or hemp. Good hardwood flooring is always in style and pretty eco friendly, especially if it has been in place and well maintained for years; if it’s time for new flooring, explore the range of green options

2. Buy used office furniture or repurpose existing items.

3. When redecorating, try the new recycled paints; they have their limitations in terms of finish (sheen) and colour range because they are made from leftover paint, and they are not zero-VOC; new paints fashioned from organic products are low in VOCs (volatile organic compounds), but offer very weak coverage; try Benjamin Moore’s “Natura” line.

4. In the staff kitchen, insist on employees using their own refillable water bottles and mugs, suggest using fair trade loose tea and tea balls, and try eco friendly singe-shot coffee pods. Ask staff to bring their lunch in eco friendly containers like reusable silicone food bags.

5. Keep thermostats regulated (try programmable ones) and use humidity controls such as humidifiers and air exchangers, to keep the environment at the right level of moisture; try using small air conditioning units rather than cooling the entire building.

6. Ensure that recycle bins are everywhere, so there is no excuse for people to, not use them, and have a compost bin situated in or near the lunch room.

7. If you have a volunteering program, make it green, such as clean-ups of plastic from shorelines or litter from parklands; consider a garden where employees can grow their own food as well as donate fresh produce to a food bank.

Paper Products and Office Supplies

There are obvious aspects to this, such as buying post-consumer waste recycled paper products, and recycling every bit of paper used. Recycled paper products use about half the energy to produce and result in half the waste.

But what about businesses that are very small or even home-based? You can still buy recycled paper and shred or otherwise compost used paper, but buying in bulk is what will save big and result in less packaging: a 12-pack of 9×12 manila envelopes we saw in a store were expensive and packaged in plastic; a box of 1,000 was much cheaper and came in a box made of recycled cardboard. Don’t need a thousand envelopes? Simple: team up with other small entrepreneurs and buy in bulk together!

Here are other ways to manage the paper path:

8. Be sure to use recycled paper products for items such as paper towels and toilet paper, or go really green and buy bamboo instead. If you must print (companies like laws firms have little choice) use both sides of the paper and refillable ink cartridges, and then recycle any spent cartridges that cannot be refilled. Use recycled envelopes and other materials (natural string can be used instead of tape)

9. Rather than writing notes and ideas in a paper book, get a Rocketbook! It’s like an erasable white board you can hold in your hand.

Business Practices, Marketing and Advertising

It’s the core of what you do, but there are ways to do it greener, such as:

10. Update your mailing lists and stop sending promotions to companies no longer in business or that have opted out (and get off lists that are sending to you); don’t send paper mail, only electronic; put a “green signature” on all e-mails suggesting the recipient not print the e-mail unless necessary.

11. Engage green companies for your web hosting and be sure to mention on your company website that you are taking green initiatives.

12. If you haven’t already, switch to paperless billing and ask your suppliers to invoice you electronically. Pay your bills via e-transfer or PayPal.

13. Buy rechargeable batteries and refurbished technology.

Energy Consumption

The cost of running an office or factory in terms of energy consumption is a large part of the business expense. Here are some ideas as to how to reduce that cost and be more eco friendly:

14. Switch from incandescent or compact fluorescent light bulbs to LED; the outlay to buy them is significantly higher, but they use far less energy and create no heat, so they don’t mess with the building’s set temperature; turn lights off at night or use a timer. Reduce the number of lights in the building, and/or use task (desk) lamps rather than lighting the entire room; utilize the natural light from windows.

15. Replace old energy-consuming appliances with energy-saving new ones, and ensure the old ones are recycled and/or salvaged.

16. Use power bars, engage sleep mode whenever possible, and turn off electronics at the end of the business day; it is false that a computer uses more energy to turn on than if you leave it on continually. Buy quality eco friendly desk top and laptop computers, mice and keyboards from iameco.

17. Utilize the cloud for storing information.

18. Investigate the benefits of solar energy, especially if you own the building you’re in.

Employees and Their World

If nothing else, Covid-19 has taught us that working from home for most office workers is doable, efficient, and beneficial in many ways. Parts of the home used for work can be written off as a tax expense. Laundry can be done while you’re working! You don’t have to commute, eat better at lunchtime, and don’t need a business wardrobe. Your dog is happier, your costs of going to work are reduced, and you may be able to manage home-schooling for the kids, too.

Here are ways in which businesses can make their employees work lives greener and more satisfying:

19. Allow staff, where possible, to telecommute every day or even a couple of days per week; reduce or eliminate in-person meetings, so travel is accordingly dispensed with. For staff who must perform their duties in the work space, provide a time-out room or offer yoga breaks. Ask employees not to drive to work, but ride their bicycles or take public transit; perhaps you could organize a carpool! Offer flexible work hours.

Maintenance and Cleaning

This is a no-brainer: use eco friendly, biodegradable cleaning products and if you engage a cleaning service, insist they, too, use green products.

Ensure washrooms are stocked with eco friendly supplies, such as soap, hand towels and toilet paper.

Capitalizing on Government Green Programs

Governments in most countries have signed on to accords to limit greenhouse gas emissions and generally make the planet a greener place; they often provide free services to homes and businesses, from consulting on how to live and work in a lower environmental impact manner, to hands-on staging services such as re-lamping and insulation programs. They even offer credits for getting rid of old, energy-sucking appliances.

Check out these options in your area:

20. Apply for a free energy audit to identify where your heat and power are being wasted. Contact your local utility provider to see if they offer any “green power” alternatives.

21. Research designations and awards that might apply to your business and strive to attain or win them.

Ask yourself if you really need a “place of business”; can your company run as effectively remotely? Technology suggests it can!

Our final suggestion may be the most vital: connect with like-minded businesses and share ideas, patronize one another, and put forth a joint effort to make your enterprises eco friendly.