by C. Norman Beckert

Being green and practicing sustainability are two of the business practices repeatedly discussed in business circles these days. Simple steps such as recycling soda cans, adjusting the thermostat: both summer and winter, turning off the lights when not needed are a good place to start and can be implemented without much, if any, effort or expense.

Small business owners have as many opportunities as large organizations to make their operations more environmentally friendly. According to the U.S. (EPA) Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program (, cutting energy waste can typically save small businesses as much money and prevent as much pollution, per square foot, as large organizations - including those in a leased space.

Let’s look at energy: performed properly, business-specific energy efficiency upgrades can provide a positive cash flow starting at the time of installation. Some “sure energy savers” include replacing incandescent light bulbs with Energy Star qualified compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which cost about 75 percent less to operate, and last about 8 times longer. LED lamps offering even more energy efficiency and longer life than CFL’s are now also becoming  available in the marketplace. Regularly changing heating and air conditioning filters and investing in regular “tune-ups” will also keep HVAC systems operating efficiently.

A no-cost energy audit is available for the asking. Idaho Small Business  Development Center at Boise State University will arrange to have a student team conduct an energy audit of your facility. Call the SBDC at 208.426.1640 and ask for the Environmental Assistance Coordinator. Idaho Power has an   Energy Efficiency Department that offers technical assistance and in some cases financial incentives to it’s commercial and industrial customers. The number to call for assistance is 208.388.2323 or 1.800.488.6151 (Outside the Treasure  Valley).

Making greater use of email and electronic file transfers are sure to cut down on the amount of paper your business uses. If your business relies on incoming or outgoing faxes, a computer fax modem will enable you to exchange these documents without the need for making printed copies. Much of the paper you have used is quickly discarded. Rather than being placed in the trash container it can be sorted and collected separately.

Purchasing products and equipment made from recycled or sustainable materials is also a good way for small businesses to do right by Mother Earth. According to, recycled-content products typically perform as well or better than virgin products and often are competitively priced. When it’s time to upgrade computers or appliances, purchasing Energy Star-qualified products will ensure that you’re getting the most from every kilowatt of power. When purchasing a new desktop computer specify an 80+ power supply. The payback is typically less than 6 months.

State-of-the-art facilities now contain sensors that turn of the lights when a room is not occupied. Other sensors will dim the lights when daytime lighting is  available and computer-based systems will adjust thermostat settings to optimize energy consumption based on time of day, external weather conditions, room placement, occupancy and other factors impacting energy consumption.

Thinking “Green” and implementing these suggestions will benefit both the  environment and your bottom line.