29 Cost-Saving Sustainability Ideas for Businesses

When Cost Reduction Efforts Lead to Sustainability Gains, Everyone Is a Winner

energy saving for business
Reduce lighting costs. Phil Boorman, Getty Images

Cost reduction has always been a priority for business operators, and in recent times, sustainability has also become the elephant in the room. Thankfully, as many companies as strive to better address the environmental concerns of shareholders, customers, and employees, they are also enjoying cost reduction opportunities as a result of positive sustainability moves.

Whether you operate a small business or work for a large corporation, the relentless pursuit of cost reduction and sustainability improvement is one that will be a priority for the foreseeable future.

There are many sustainable business practices that you can adopt to cut costs in your business. Here are 29 of them.

Energy Cost-Saving Sustainability Ideas

1. Know the Biggest Energy Costs: The U.S. Department of Energy has identified lighting, space heating and cooling as the three most energy consuming operations in an office. Whatever type of facility you operate, start your cost reduction exercise by identifying the biggest energy consumption operation of your business. Then determine the most effective ways to cut that energy use without having any negative impact on the bottom line of your business.

2. Understand Energy Bills: Don’t just blindly pay the energy bill that comes your way at the start of every month. Try to understand the invoice completely, and consult your energy supplier for ways to reduce costs. Ask the vendor if the bill includes any penalty charges. If yes, learn how you can avoid them.

 

3. Implement a Switch-off Campaign: If you have a significant energy bill, implement a switch-off campaign. A switch-off campaign at the workplace is a good way to raise awareness among employees and workers about the role they can play in reducing energy consumption. Start by designating a specific time period such as a week for the campaign to run.

Provide instructions to employees such as switching off lights and energy consuming appliances before leaving the workplace or when otherwise not necessary.

4. Label the Switches: Labeling switches is a good way to ensure the employees don’t switch on unnecessary lights and appliances or turn off ones that should be left on. The idea is to help employees switch on only the appliances they need to use and cut energy costs. 

5. Charge Appliances Overnight: The costs of energy at night are typically cheaper than that of daytime. With this in mind, if your office or factory uses heating units and other appliances that need to be charged, charge those overnight. Consider other options to lessen energy use during peak hours and move that usage to off-peak hours, where possible.

6. Install Only Energy Efficient Light Bulbs: Instead of installing low-cost, high energy consuming bulbs, consider investing in CFL, LED light bulbs and halogens for significant long-term energy savings. CFL and other energy efficient bulbs use about 75 percent less energy.

7. Run an Energy Audit: Many energy suppliers offer free energy audit programs for their customers. Consider making a call to your provider and request one.

You can hire a separate energy audit company as well. Vendors of related products such as lighting or heating systems sometimes also will provide such a service (but keep in mind they will have a bias towards their products in any recommendations.) Take the time to carefully analyze the results. Look for quick wins that will not require significant investment, and make plans to budget for more expensive solutions.

8. Be Aware of Over-Lighting: Make sure your employees know the perfect level of lighting in a room. Eliminate unnecessary lights from rooms if there is any. Just as insufficient light in a room can hamper the productivity of your employees, over-lighting can cause the employees headaches, eye strain, and glare.

9. Make Use of Natural Lights: If your office has an adequate supply of natural light, make use of it where possible by keeping blinds and curtains open.

Installing light dimmers is a good way to compensate for varying levels of natural light in a room.

10. Consider Installing Solar Panels: Solar energy is a renewable, clean and free source of energy that you can use in your office. It requires a substantial amount of investment initially but it helps you cut overall energy cost in the long run. While low maintenance solar panels will not be the best fit for every business, they are well worth investigating. Here are some factors to consider.

11. Install Occupancy Sensor Lighting: Consider installing motion or occupancy sensor lighting in conference rooms, bathrooms, storage cupboards, the warehouse, the plant or other areas that are not used continually.

12. Keep Windows and Doors Closed When Heating or Cooling Appliances Are On: This is simple common sense. But sometimes people can get careless and keep doors or windows open, causing the heating or cooling equipment to consume more energy than is really necessary. In addition, check doors and windows for leaks. A simple repair can save you energy cost and improve the comfort of building occupants.

13. Avoid Cooling or Heating Unused Areas: Sometimes we install our heating or cooling appliances in a way that they heat or cool unused areas such as corridors and storerooms. Heat only the areas which need it.

14. Use Hibernation Mode on Your Laptop or Desktop: when you take a break or go for a meeting or something, make use of hibernation feature of computers to ensure the computer consume less energy. Printers, air conditioners, microwaves and other appliances too have energy saving features. Educate your employees about those features and encourage them to use those.

15. Unplug Appliances After Turning Off: Many appliances such as computers, TVs that use electricity continue to consume energy even after they are tuned/ switched off. So, consider unplugging the appliances before leaving the office. Similarly, unplug battery chargers when batteries are fully charged. At the end of the month, this can make a big difference.

16. Replace Desktops With Laptops in Your Next Computer Upgrade: Laptops consume considerably less energy than desktops. If a large number of desktop computers is used in your office, consider replacing them with laptops in your next computer upgrade.

Waste Management and Elimination Ideas

17. Use Both Sides of Paper: Use both sides of papers when printing, photocopying and faxing. This way, you can reduce paper cost and paper use in your office. This is a good way to lessen paper waste generation as well.

18. Make Use of Reusable Packaging Instead of Expendable Packaging: Packaging items account for one of the largest portions of waste we generate. So, avoid using one-time-use paper or plastic cups and use your office glasses or mugs. For office moves, take advantage of reusable moving crates. And in production and distribution, reusable transport packaging systems can offer whopping cost and sustainability benefits to supply chain stakeholders. It goes without saying that the less waste you generate, the less you pay for disposing of it.

19. Make Use of E-mail: When sharing information among employees, consider using emails instead of printed documents. Another simple change that can reduce waste is the proofreading or reviewing of documents on the computer screen instead of printing them out.

20. Print Only What Is Necessary: Many documents have little or no future purpose and should not be printed. As such, print only what is absolutely necessary. Decrease printing by making use of different online document sharing applications such as Dropbox or Google Docs. While a completely paperless office might not be practical for many businesses, almost certainly, various components of it may be digitized.

21. Remove Personal Bins: Invest in quality bins and waste containers that last a long time. Reduce the number of bins in the office by placing few centrally located bins and removing personal bins under each employee’s desk.

Water Consumption Minimization Ideas for Businesses

22. Purchase Water-efficient Equipment: Some types of equipment used by businesses consume a considerable amount of water but more water-efficient models may be available. So, the next time you upgrade any water-consuming equipment, consider water-efficient models that have a smaller water footprint.

23. Go Low-Flow: In whatever purpose you use water; make sure the showers, taps, and faucets are outfitted with low-flow technology.

24. Install Motion Sensor Taps: Employees and workers can unintentionally keep taps open even when they don’t use water. If that is the case, your business may be wasting water. Installing motion sensor taps can solve the problem and reduce overall water consumption.

25. Put Water Hippos in the Toilet Cisterns: using water hippos in the toilet cisterns is a good idea to reduce flush volume and reduce water consumption.

Miscellaneous

26. Allow Employees to Work Remotely: Allowing employees to work from home and away from the office can save costs in many ways. All you need to ensure is get the job done on time. The idea is to allow your employees work longer hours but fewer days at the office.

27. Choose Videoconference Over Traveling to or Arranging Meetings: Arranging meetings in your office incur costs. Similarly, if you and your team travel to another place, it takes time and money. So, whenever possible, consider arranging video-conference instead of arranging or traveling to meetings.

28. Buy Used Furniture: When decorating your office, consider buying quality used furniture. It enables you to save big and not affect your overall operation of your business. Commercial auctions can provide near-new office furniture at a substantial discount. Also consider buying other recycled, or used items as well.

29. Recycle and Reuse: identify recycling and reusing options in your company. Commit to a recycling program, develop a plan, assemble a team and launch the program. Many items such as paper, file folders, cardboard, ink and toner cartridges, computers and computer accessories can effectively be recycled.

Nothing can be achieved overnight. So, commitment is the first step in converting your business into a green and sustainable one. Some cost-saving sustainability ideas mentioned above may require an initial investment but will yield a positive result in long term. Try implementing the above-mentioned ideas one by one and not all at once. Make your commitment today for reducing energy, water, and waste management costs. Cutting costs can deliver sustainability wins for your company while also helping create competitive advantage in the marketplace.