The green movement is here, and it’s here to stay. Consumers are more eco-frinendly than ever. And businesses are following suit. In fact, 66% of consumers are willing to spend more with sustainable brands. So it’s time you ran a more sustainable small business.

When you own a small business, you sustain communities in a way big box businesses can’t. You create local jobs, pump money into the local economy, and foster a sense of community.

But consider how your small business can sustain the environment as a whole. Sound like a big undertaking? Maybe you think going green requires a large upfront investment. Or, maybe the thought of change just seems scary.

Not quite. It’s all about small (but meaningful) change when it comes to being eco-friendly. And it doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg.

It doesn’t matter if you have a brick-and-mortar location, are mobile, or work from home. You can make a positive environmental impact. Learn how to create a more sustainable small business. Here are 3 easy steps to get started.

1. Be energy-efficient.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever looked at your business’s utility bill…and cringed. You’re not alone.

Energy costs are 1 of the top 3 expenses for 35% of small business owners.

Let’s think. Do you know the major factors affecting your business’s energy costs? Take a simple energy audit of your business on your own. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Have you had your heating and cooling systems serviced within the last year?
  2. Do you use energy-efficient electrical appliances?
  3. Are you using energy-efficient lighting?
  4. Do you turn off electrical appliances and lights when they’re not in use?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, look for ways to make your small business more energy-efficient. Let’s take a look at some areas you could improve.

Heating and Cooling

If you don’t service heating and cooling systems regularly, you could be incurring unnecessary utility costs. Here’s how to reduce them:

  • Hire a reputable service provider to inspect your heating and cooling equipment.
  • Repair faulty equipment promptly, or replace it with more energy-efficient options.
  • Establish a routine maintenance schedule to make sure your equipment works properly.

Older appliances require more energy to operate. And this means you’ll spend more money on utility bills. If you want to lower energy output from your appliances, try these tips:

  • Replace older appliances with Energy Star appliances.
  • Avoid “vampire power” usage by unplugging appliances when not in use.
  • Buy refurbished appliances when buying new isn’t feasible.

Energy-saving lighting lasts longer than traditional lighting and emits lower levels of CO2. Here are some eco-friendly lighting ideas:

  • Switch from incandescent light bulbs to LED bulbs and tube lights.
  • Buy smart bulbs that you can switch on and off with mobile devices.
  • If possible, use dimmable bulbs that let you control how much light you’re using.

Pro Tip: Take a big bite out of your energy costs by going solar. Renewable energy like solar is great for the environment. And thanks to federal and state solar tax credits, the initial costs aren’t as much as they once were.

2. Look for ways to cut waste.

Small businesses, whether they have physical locations or not, produce hefty amounts of waste. Recycling does help prevent trash from getting into landfills. Unfortunately, new trash creation is something recycling can’t prevent.

Reducing waste is an effective sustainable small business practice that doesn’t require much money to implement. Some of the changes you can make may actually seem like no big deal. But the positive impact you’ll have on the environment is long-lasting.

Both home-based businesses as well as brick-and-mortar businesses can reduce waste consumption effectively. For the groups of supplies below, see which tips make sense for your business. From there, you can start cutting down on harmful excess waste.

Office Supplies
  • Purchase refillable printer toner cartridges. Some manufacturers make cartridges you can use multiple times. When they’ve run their course, see if your local office supply store will recycle them for you.
  • Purchase office supply products with less packaging or no packaging at all, if possible.
  • Use less paper (more on this in a bit).
Breakroom Supplies
  • Trade plastic water bottles for a water dispenser instead. You’ll completely do away with the excess waste created by plastic water bottles.
  • Stop using single-use items like plastic cutlery and disposable cups and plates. Instead, opt for non-disposable dishes and cutlery.
  • Use a full pot coffee maker instead of a single K-cup coffee maker.
Other Supplies
  • If you have empty shipping boxes, use them for storage. You can also offer them to employees or customers who could use them.
  • Eliminate e-waste by recycling old electronics. Check with the local Public Works Department in your city for instructions on how to do this.
  • Donate unneeded office electronics, appliances and furniture instead of trashing them. This also goes for building hardware and materials, if you’re a contracting business. Remember, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!

Pro Tip: No sustainable small business should be without recycling bins. If your business has multiple workstations, place bins at each one to encourage staff to use them. Clearly label your recycling bins so others won’t mistake them for trash cans.

3. Go paperless.

Did you know half of all business waste is paper? That’s a staggering amount! Between extra unneeded copies and outdated documents, businesses dispose of a lot of paper.

But your small business doesn’t have to be dependent upon paper. Even if you work in an office where paper is harder to get away from, you can still reduce the amount you use.

If your business buys paper frequently, it can be a sizable expense. So reducing or eliminating paper actually saves you money.

Here are some ideas to help your business go paperless:
  • Get a customer relationship management (CRM) software. A CRM allows you to streamline your client contact list and update customer information quickly. No more Rolodexes or paper client records!
  • Use digital marketing methods instead of paper flyers or traditional mailers. For example, try using social media as a way to get out your business messages without using paper.
  • Cut back on paper and postage costs by emailing or texting customers about sales, products or services.
  • Get an electronic payment processing system so paying you is easy and painless. Plus, you’ll avoid lost paper estimates, invoices and receipts.
  • If your business can’t avoid using paper, make double-sided copies instead of using just one sheet per copy. This simple practice cuts your business’s paper usage in half.

Pro Tip: Going paperless is one sustainable small business initiative you can share with employees, if you have any. It’s a good idea get their buy-in, so you’re all on the same page. Show employees why reducing paper use is important and what they can do to help.