The realization of the immediate and long-term consequences that our actions have on the health of the planet has led to a growing popularity in the “going green” movement. This trend is not only beneficial to the future of our ecosystem, but it also provides a variety of benefits to business owners.
Utilizing green methods of doing business can decrease the amount of unnecessary waste; create a healthy work environment for employees; and help to establish the part your business plays as a driving force for social change. One of the biggest benefits to businesses hopping on board the green train is that it can lead to an improved bottom line. Several countries now offer incentives for businesses to use more environmentally friendly working practices and to offset the costs of changing working practices. There are also a growing number of national and state energy initiatives in the United States which encourage businesses to move to more sustainable energy sources.
For example, Florida businesses are eligible for a sales tax exemption for using solar energy systems, equipment and machinery as well as other renewable energy technologies. Through the Solar Energy System Incentives Program, a state plan for reducing the cost of installing photovoltaic systems and solar pool and water heaters, residents and businesses are given rebates for updating their systems. The Renewable Energy and Energy-Efficient Technologies Grants Program provides grants for Florida companies that use solar and renewable energy sources to run their business. On the federal level, businesses that use company cars, such as hybrids, are allowed to take an alternative motor vehicle credit on federal taxes. Companies can also receive a federal tax credit of up to 30 percent for the use of solar and wind energy. In addition, there is a provision which allows a deduction to a taxpayer who owns, or is a lessee of, a commercial building and installs energy efficient property as part of the commercial building’s interior lighting systems, heating, cooling, ventilation, and hot water systems, or building envelope. On a smaller level, businesses can cut down on daily operating costs by being more aware of things such as turning off lights and computers as well as using a fan instead of air conditioning whenever possible and using less paper. Using energy saving light bulbs and refilling ink cartridges rather than buying new ones can cut down on waste while reducing costs.
Additionally, you can hold online video meetings as opposed to travelling extensive distances to get everyone at the same location. Providing employees with a healthy environment to work in can lead to far fewer sick days taken by workers. According to the Green Business Bureau, a considerable amount of companies have reported that the healthier workplace has reduced sick days by up to 20%. This consistent attendance leads to a much higher level of productivity in the workplace. In addition, utilizing green cleaning supplies in the office can help employees who suffer from respiratory and other health-related conditions. Another major benefit of a company going green is that it can significantly improve your public image. With growing environmental awareness by the public, it is well known that customers appreciate and support companies that go green in today’s marketplace. Being seen as a company that truly cares about the planet can become a catalyst in appealing to customers who share your values. At the same time, green practices will attract employees who want to work for a business that cares about the environment. The most important reason to go green is that the world has finite natural resources and the global population, which is already around 7 billion, is expected to rise to almost 9 billion by the year 2050. The employment of sustainable living and working practices has never been more necessary.
While it is true that we are going through difficult economic times and adopting greener practices might be low on the list of a business owner’s priorities, reducing our carbon footprint is not only crucial to the future of our planet but it also makes financial sense. With the heightened awareness of the damage we have done to our environment, there are now myriad resources and tools to measure the impact of your operations. Benchmarking is a tremendous analytical tool that establishes a baseline for the energy usage profile of a building. With this tool, you can compare the energy efficiency of your building to others in the region. Through the use of ECM’s (energy conservation measures) you can see exactly what you need to do to improve the sustainability of your building. There is also the Department of Energy’s ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager, which allows for building owners to compare their building to similar buildings across the nation with the goal being to find out how to get your rating as high as possible. It is one of the easiest and most effective energy saving tools that helps in finding simple things that are often overlooked. You can register your building and plug it in online in order to track and assess energy consumption.
According to studies done in recent years, businesses have already begun to make an impact with the use of more sustainable practices. The New York Institute of Technology’s Long Island Carbon Footprint Project, which was funded by a grant from the Rauch Foundation, established and compared energy use and resultant greenhouse gas emissions on Long Island for 2010 with the baseline year of 2005. The results of the study, released in February of 2013, showed that there was a significant decrease of 9.75% in greenhouse gas emissions between 2005 and 2010. While it is quite encouraging knowing that we are headed in the right direction as far as sustainability goes, there is still much more work to be done. Education is the key to open the door to conservation. Energy efficient strategies do not only benefit the environment and future generations, but they also provide businesses with an avenue to saving significantly on their operations in the long term. The combination of saving money and saving the environment, while earning the respect of your consumer base, makes the push to go green quite an attractive avenue.