From being a good corporate citizen to actively giving back to the communities where you operate, sustainability is an important corporate goal.
For mid-size businesses, there are numerous ways to decrease your environmental footprint — and doing that often starts by looking at how technology and better policies can help. Take the time to understand how emerging technologies can improve efficiency and sustainability through automation. Whether it’s using smart sensors that turn off lights when no one is using a particular office, or developing better strategies for managing power to always-on server rooms, you can do better.
Reducing your environmental impact is a great way to live out your organization’s larger values and have a positive impact that goes beyond profits. Here are practical, hands-on tips organizations can embrace to improve their sustainability and shrink their footprint.
Embrace Environmentally Friendly Light and Temperature Policies
Lighting and temperature are essential components of making offices, stores and warehouses safe, comfortable and productive workplaces. Yet these areas can significantly drive up the costs of energy consumption and take a major toll on the environment. There are some simple steps you can take to invest in reducing your usage in these areas.
Replacing light bulbs with more energy-efficient models can dramatically impact your usage; changing just five can save $75 annually, and Energy.gov says significant savings can be realized at scale. TechRepublic reported that a store saved $3,000 annually — and reduced its energy consumption by 30,000 kilowatts — by setting its air conditioner to turn on at 75 instead of 74 degrees.
Take a closer look at where small changes and investments can make a significant impact. Opting for energy-efficient light bulbs, only lighting areas when people are actively working, and being more moderate with heat and AC can save energy and save money. Unsure of where to start? Consider having an energy assessment done to get personalized recommendations for how to update your locations.
Use Technology to Automate Energy Consumption
It’s difficult to enforce responsible energy consumption policies, especially at scale across multiple locations. People may rush out of a conference room and forget to turn the lights off, or leave the heat pumped up over the weekend when no one is in the office. With competing demands for people’s attention, it’s a challenge to consistently achieve this focus.
New technologies make it easier to automate more moderate energy consumption. For example, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors can monitor when a room is in use and automatically turn out the lights after people have left. Similar systems exist that can sense when employees are at their desks and adjust the temperature accordingly. Choose a solution that’s a good fit for your office size and configuration.
Reduce Vampire Load with Smart Strips and Other Individual Green Technologies
Individual employees can also help reduce your environmental impact with the right technology. One example is smart power strips. While power strips are typically used to provide more outlets for today’s ever-growing army of technology devices, smart power strips go a step further. Smart strips cut off power — so-called vampire energy — that many devices continue to draw even when they’re switched off. Other strategies to help individual employees be more energy efficient include:
- Encouraging them to use rechargeable batteries for devices instead of disposables.
- Exploring solar chargers or solar charging stations for mobile devices, especially when offices are located near windows.
- Getting to know the power management features for devices such as their laptops. Certain settings can be more energy efficient.
Invest in Green Server Policies
Technology increasingly powers every aspect of business, from hosting digital customer experiences to powering internal apps. Companies can make investments in their server rooms — or external hosting choices — that make a significant difference. When choosing a cloud provider or data center, evaluate their environmental policies as one element of your decision-making process of who to work with.
Find ways to optimize your server room. Many companies over air condition their server rooms and can make modest adjustments that don’t impact hardware but save considerable energy. Set energy standards for future hardware purchases. Embracing technologies such as virtualization, which allows you to combine several virtual servers into one physical device, can reduce the power needed to run your servers without sacrificing performance. It’s also helpful to look at the racks and cabinets you choose; ample space for air flow can help minimize cooling needs. Strategically evaluate your server space and find different ways to maximize energy efficiency without sacrificing performance.
Create Green Procurement Policies
One way to reduce your company’s environmental impact — and footprint — is to take a closer look at your procurement policies. Whether you route major purchases through a procurement office or simply provide guidelines for managers buying products or services, take your footprint into account. Simple ways to do this include:
- Ensuring that vendors and partners speak on their own green policies and how they reduce waste and other forms of impact as part of proposals.
- Setting minimum guidelines for new hardware purchases to meet energy efficiency standards, such as Energy Star.
- Conducting periodic assessments for partners to ensure they’re meeting your company’s standards and ongoing commitment to sustainability.
Establish Responsible Disposal Processes
Another aspect of reducing your company’s environmental impact is taking a closer look at how you dispose of everything from unused office supplies to old technology and furniture. Waste360 estimates that office furniture waste sends 8.5 million tons of waste to landfills each year. There are several ways to minimize waste. Set reasonable time periods for holding on to devices and hardware; a perfectly functioning computer or projector may not really need to be replaced on an annual basis. When a new item is purchased, consider repurposing the old one within the company. Another option is to donate equipment — after it’s been properly cleaned — to a non-profit, school or other good cause. If you’re disposing of an item, look for a responsible recycling program that can minimize what ends up in a landfill.
Embrace Digital Workflows by Going Paperless
Digital workflows can help minimize the printing and paper waste that happen in offices. The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper each year, according to Mashable. Today, tools such as collaborative suites, real-time document editing software, and cloud storage are eliminating the need for printing. Encourage employees to minimize their printing and explore what business processes could be streamlined into a digital workflow. Often, this helps save money as well as increases your sustainability.
Look at Daily Office Processes
Organizations can often take a big step forward in their sustainability efforts by taking a closer look at daily office processes — and how technology and tech tools can increase efficiency and eliminate waste. For example, if your office provides food and beverages for employees, eliminating disposable water bottles or plastic utensils can have a significant impact. Instead of printing documents for physical review, share them on iPads or through digital collaboration systems. Using IoT-powered systems to schedule maintenance on equipment or change ink in printers and copiers minimizes waste, keeps energy consumption under control and ensures that you’re getting maximum benefit for your investments. Consider different areas where you can make minimal improvements. Roll them out over a period of time, perhaps through challenges. You could focus on shifting away from printing one month or adopting automated thermostats another. It’s a great way to steadily build positive new habits over time, while keeping new technology investments under control.
Committing to greener operations can have a major impact — on your business and on the environment. Whether it involves improving your policies or making smarter technology decisions, it’s well worth the investment. Reducing your environmental impact is good for your brand, good for employees and good for the long-term health of the planet.