The Sustainable Side of O&P: Part Two

In part two of this series we uncover how to go green without breaking the bank.

In the January 1 issue of O&P Business News we talked about the sustainable side of O&P. We presented the lengths that larger companies — or those in the building stages — could take to lessen their footprint on the environment. While some of those suggestions do not work for all due to budget constraints, there are options available for every company to help the environment and perhaps even put a little more green into the company wallet.

Office basics

The first step that any office can take toward a greener existence is to follow one of the basic rules that has been in place across the country for years – recycle. In addition to making sure that all of the paper in the building is reused on the outside, you can take measures to reuse paper on the inside as well.

Linda McCulloch, president and founder of Design That Works Communications Inc. and champion partner for the Partnership for a Sustainable Georgia, suggests reusing documents that are not double-sided and are headed for the recycling bin anyway.

“All the paper that goes through our laser printer is recycled if at all possible,” she told O&P Business News. “It can be run back through the fax machine on the blank side. It can be run back through the printer on the blank side. Then we shred everything that needs to be shredded and that goes back into the recycling as well.”

Another way to cut back on the amount of paper generated and later recycled within your business is to move some of the more common practices online.

Cheryl Kelly, office manager at Grace Prosthetic Fabrication in New Port Richey, Fla. explained that this is one of the ways Grace is changing their operations under the Help Grace Go Green outreach program.

“We have the capability of e-mailing invoices to our customers,” Kelly said. The customer gets the invoice quicker. It has the shipping information on there so they know when they’re going to get it [the product]. It saves time on both parts I think.”

Recycling programs

McCulloch also encourages business to initiate a recycling program that goes beyond the traditional paper and plastic. Among the items that she recycles are toner cartridges and other computer equipment. The right research, she advised, will lead to a plethora of free recycling events and online organizations that welcome the donations of different equipment.

“That might mean that somebody has to schlep something someplace so hopefully you won’t have to do it every week,” McCulloch said. “Find out if there’s a recycling program in your community. You can recycle an awful lot of stuff that people just don’t think about.”

Energy efficiency

The phrases “going green” and “energy efficiency” often go hand-in-hand and with good reason. Peter Crawford, director of the Environmental & Regulatory Assistance Program for the Vermont Small Business Development Center advises small businesses to move this item to the top of the greening to-do list.

“Lighting is a big energy user,” he said. “If you have a lot of it and it is the older style, it may pay back very well to put in high efficiency lighting.”

He recommends replacing any lights that are on for more than 6 hours each day with fluorescent lights.

“The longer they’re on, the better the payback is,” he explained. “If you have lights on for 12 or 24 hours like some lighting is, that’s where you should be looking for energy efficiency upgrades.”

Electricity is another shocking energy waster. Standby power, also known as vampire loads or phantom loads, refers to electricity used when a device is plugged in but turned off or in standby mode.

“Everything that is plugged in that is not in use is actually sucking electricity,” McCulloch said. “I’m not talking about turning things off. I’m talking about unplugging them. Of course you can’t do that if it is something that’s on for a reason. . . If it doesn’t have a clock and doesn’t need to work at the touch of a button … you can save a lot of electricity and reduce your carbon footprint by just unplugging stuff.”

According to a New York Times article “Five Beginners’ Steps to a Greener Home,” these vampire loads cost Americans about $3 billion each year.

Working with the Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers a number of partner programs with businesses across the country. According to the Web site, these programs “address a wide variety of environmental issues by working collaboratively with companies, organizations, communities and individuals.”


The EPA offers several benefits to partnering organizations including:

  • The EPA is positioned to communicate a business’ commitment to environmental causes to an audience with international range.
  • Businesses within these programs often collaborate with one another for the greater good as well. The EPA provides the access to this kind of national outreach.
  • EPA partnership programs offer valuable resources and services to members. According to information on the Web site, most programs offer services including technical assistance, professional networking and public recognition. Financial and environmental tools and guidebooks are also commonly available.
  • The EPA helps partners prepare for policy changes on a state and federal level.

Pick a program

The EPA offers partnerships across a range of environmental subspecialties. Among them are agriculture, air quality, energy efficiency and global climate change, pollution prevention and waste management. Within these specialties, and the additional areas available, there are a number of programs ready for new partners that suit your interests.

For more information:

  • United States Environmental Protection Agency. EPA partnership programs. Available at: Accessed Aug. 25, 2009.

Purchase smart

“One of the things we’ve really been focusing on is purchasing,” Crawford said. “Your purchasing decisions and everybody else’s have environmental repercussions and there are things that you can do. If you adopt environmentally preferable purchasing practices you can ask the right questions.”

Crawford refers to questions like: Does this come with less packaging; Does this come with post-consumer recycled content? With lower toxicity? All of this is a means to use fewer resources.

“In the case of paper products, [he encourages using] less trees by purchasing paper that has more than 30% of post-consumer recycled paper. For the first time ever, post-consumer copy paper is at the same price or less expensive than virgin paper.”

The cost

So really, in this economy or a healthy economy for that matter, how much a business can implement really comes down to how it will affect the business’ bottom line?

“It depends on what kind of initiatives you’re talking about,” McCulloch explained about the overall cost of greening a business. “Most [upgrades or changes] pay off within a year to 2 years.”

Efficiency is the message that Kelly tried to send home.

“You may already have something in place that works, it just doesn’t work efficiently,” she said. “If you replace something with something that is more efficient even if it’s more expensive to do, then in the long run it’s going to pay off. It’ll reduce your electric bills plus help the environment.”

Crawford explained that it should not cost a lot but it is worth a little extra if positioning yourself in the green market is important to your company.

Did You Know?

Check out these facts from the Environmental Protection Agency regarding how we use our energy, our efforts to save the planet and where we are headed.

  • About one-sixth of all the electricity generated in the United States is used to air condition buildings.
  • Our current recycling efforts save the equivalent of 11.3 billion gallons of gas or the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 39.6 million passenger cars.
  • Consumer electronics and small appliances will be responsible for almost 30% of all household electricity use by 2015.
  • The water you could save every year by purchasing an ENERGY STAR washing machine, compared to a model that is not ENERGY STAR certified, is enough to wash 300 loads of laundry.
  • The total amount of electricity used by idle electronics equals the annual output of 12 power plants.
  • The average global temperature has increased by almost 1° within the last century. Experts expect that the average global temperature will increase an additional 2° to 6° within the next century.
  • Sea level may rise between several inches to as much as 3 feet within the next century.
  • If every U.S. household replaced their five most used light bulbs with ENERGY STAR qualified bulbs, collectively they would prevent the greenhouse gas emissions equal to the annual emissions from more than 8 million cars.

For more information:

  • United States Environmental Protection Agency. Available at: Accessed August 25, 2009.

The payoff

While the upfront cost might be a concern for some, the payoff might make it well worth it.

“Green is hot and even with the economic downturn, it doesn’t seem to affect any interest in greening up their businesses and their bottom lines, because it is both,” Crawford said. “It’s not just the savings you could get from energy efficiency and environmentally-preferred purchasing but also it’s a market niche. Positioning your business with environmental stewardship.”

Additionally, while we explain that many of these items will save you money in the long run, there are some things that will save money up front.

As Kelly explained, online invoice options not only help the environment but that capability also saves money and man power.

“It’s easier to generate a PDF of an invoice than it is to print it off, fold, stick in an envelope and stick a stamp on it, plus there’s less cost,” she said. “For each one I e-mail I do not have to use one sheet of paper, one envelope and one stamp … Just looking at the cost of stamps, that savings is pretty good.”

— by Jennifer Hoydicz

For more information:

  • Pavlou SZ. The sustainable side of O&P. O&P Business News. 2009; 18; 1:18-22.
  • Scelfo J. Five beginners’ steps to a greener home. The New York Times. March 12, 2009.
  • Database of State Incentives for Renewable and Efficiency. Available at: Accessed June 30, 2009.

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