Business Recycle

Published on August 15th, 2008 | by Megan Prusynski

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Reduce, Reuse & Recycle Your Way to Lower Overhead

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Your Way to Lower OverheadIt seems like the price of everything is going up lately, and so is the cost of doing business. One of the best pieces of business advice I’ve heard so far is to keep your overhead costs as low as possible. This can be tricky for a green business, since we often spend a little bit more on sustainable and organic materials and office supplies. But with a little green thinking it’s possible to lower your costs while making eco-conscious decisions. Here’s where our old friends reduce, reuse, and recycle come in.

The key to lowering your overhead while greening your business is simplicity. Keep your operations as simple as possible, and cut out the fluff you don’t need. For some this may mean working from home rather than renting office space. For others it may mean scaling your business down and working smarter with what you already have. Every choice you make has the potential to save (or cost) you money, as well as help (or harm) the environment.

Reduce

Reducing the amount of stuff you use in your office, the amount of waste you generate, and the amount of time you let get away from you can all help lower your overhead. Lower consumption is the first step to sustainability (which is why reduce comes before reuse and recycle). There are many ways you can reduce what your business uses:

  • Really assess what you need to operate your business. Make a list if you have to, with sections for necessities, things that are helpful, and things that you really don’t need.
  • Hold an office yard sale or swap meet with employees and associates to help find new homes for old office equipment and anything you don’t need.
  • Offer up used items that don’t find new homes at your yard sale on sites like FreeCycle, Craigslist, or Gigoit.
  • Reduce the size of your office if you can, using the space you have for multiple tasks. If it’s feasible for your business, work from home. No commute means less pollution, less time wasted, and lower overhead.
  • Reduce the waste your company produces by composting kitchen waste and other organic materials (worms love trash, even newspaper).
  • Use less paper by sending and keeping digital documents, contracts, invoices, and records whenever possible. Pay your bills online or sign up for paperless billing. And really think before hitting that print button.
  • Reduce your energy use (and therefore your bill) by turning everything off at the end of the day and using energy efficient equipment. Power strips are your friend.

Reuse

Just because you’re starting a new business doesn’t mean that all your office supplies have to be new. The same sites I mentioned above for giving away what you don’t need is also a great way to find what you do need for cheap or free. Some more ideas for creative reuse…

  • When you need new office furniture or equipment, try asking family and friends first. Hand-me-downs save you money, and you can always refurbish an old piece of furniture into something new and unique.
  • Speaking of refurbishing, consider building something yourself or re-purposing something you already have to fit your needs. I hear that old doors make great desks!
  • Instead of buying disposable dishes for company functions and the employee kitchen, try shopping at the thrift store for cheap dishes and silverware you can reuse again and again.
  • Reuse paper from one-sided prints and even junk mail as scrap paper. You never know when you’ll need note paper to jot down your next brilliant business idea.
  • Use white boards rather than paper for meetings, and take minutes on a laptop for easy e-mailing to everyone.

Recycle

Recycling should be a no-brainer, but many businesses don’t do it, or just don’t do it well. A green business should be focused on turning waste into something useful, or at the very least, something other than dump filler. Recycling means more than just bottles and cans though. Get creative!

  • Support recycling not only by collecting recyclables, but also buying products made from recycled materials. Look for 100% post-consumer content recycled paper, envelopes, file folders, and other products.
  • Make recycling easy by placing bins in high traffic areas and everywhere a trash can exists.
  • Print your company literature on recycled paper and make full use of green printing techniques.
  • In some places recycling can make you money. Here in California, mixed recycling is picked up with trash, but if you take certain items into the recycling center you can bring home some change.
  • Keep up with your local recycling center so you know what you can recycle and how to sort it. You can coordinate trips to the recycling center with nearby homes or businesses if pick-up is not available.
  • Find creative recycling outlets for items you use or throw away often. You can even recycle to benefit your favorite charity.
  • Take your recycling down to earth: compost organic matter and use the compost in a rooftop or patio garden at the office or at home. Nothing boosts morale like organic plants and homegrown veggies!

There’s a lot of ideas that can lower your overhead while helping the planet in the simple phrase we know so well: reduce, reuse, recycle. Soon you’ll have a timely new business motto: pinch your pennies, not the planet!

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About the Author

I grew up camping and hiking in the woods of Idaho, leading to a connection with and deep respect for nature. I recently moved to the Mendocino coast in Northern California, where I was happy to find not only beautiful redwoods and beaches, but a high level of green consciousness. I am a graphic and web designer who focuses on making the world a better place through sustainable design and communication. I specialize in green design solutions for small businesses, non-profits, and activist organizations. When I'm not designing, I'm hiking, camping, traveling, taking pictures, blogging, and spending time with my boyfriend and our "fur-kids." You can find out more about me on my sites and blogs: my personal site, volksvegan.org, or unplug magazine.



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