Three Affordable Ways to Make Your Biz Greener

Making your small business greener is not as difficult -- and perhaps not as expensive -- as you think.
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Earth Day 2008 (April 22) sure was a lot different than the first Earth Day in 1970. Back then, it was a counter-culture celebration run by a bunch of hippies here in the Great Northwest.

But now?

Now it has become a mainstream event embraced by a bunch of corporations around the globe:

  • At Macy's (M) - Get Report, a $5 donation to the National Park Foundation netted you a 20% Earth Day discount.
  • Dell (DELL) - Get Report offered to plant trees for customers to offset carbon emissions.
  • Verizon (VZ) - Get Report offered tips on saving the planet.

And while all of these efforts are fine, they are no doubt equal parts good intentions and good PR. So this begs the question: How can a small business do its part, if it was so inclined, and is it even affordable to do so?

Entrepreneurs, idealistic doers that we are, are as disposed as anyone to do their part -- but only if doing so 1) won't cost too much, and 2) won't take too much time.

The good news is that making your small business greener need not be that difficult nor that expensive, and yet it can make a big difference.

Here are three ways:

1. Reduce your paper consumption

: There was a time when computers were supposed to create a paperless office. Well, that sure didn't happen, did it? Paper use in offices is higher than ever.

But actually reducing the amount of paper your small business uses can have significant environmental and financial impact: Not only does it save forests and reduce landfill use, but it also saves energy and money.

There are several easy ways to make your office more paper friendly:

  • Use paper with at least 25% recycled content;
  • print and copy on both sides;
  • institute desk-side recycling;
  • create memo and scratch pads out of used paper;
  • reuse old file folders by turning them inside-out;
  • recycle incoming shipping boxes into outgoing mail packages.

2. Change light bulbs

: Those squiggly new light bulbs can make a real difference. Called compact fluorescent light bulbs, they use far less energy than conventional light bulbs and last more than 10 times longer.

3. Use green products

: From environmentally friendly janitorial supplies and eco-office furniture to earth-friendly toner and recycled office products, there is fast becoming a plethora of green products to choose from when outfitting your business.

Yes, some of these may cost more and that may just be the price you pay for doing business this way.

Another thing to consider is buying electronics and other equipment that come with the "Energy Star" label. This EPA designation means that the product uses less energy than similar, standard products.

With a little effort and cost, you can make every day Earth Day.

Steven D. Strauss is a lawyer, author and USA TODAY columnist. His latest book is the

Small Business Bible

. He has spoken around the world about entrepreneurship, including at the United Nations, and has been seen on CNN, CNBC, MSNBC,

The O?Reilly Factor

, and many other television and radio shows. He maintains a Website at www.MrAllBiz.com.