It’s easy being green: Five ways to go green In 2008

By Raissa Evans

Companies around the world are now on the “going green” bandwagon for a number of reasons. Some do it for the sole purpose of marketing “green,” others do it for tax incentives. However, very few do it because it is the right thing to do for their clients, employees, and the environment.

While not all green initiatives will save your business money, cost you nothing or get you more customers, having a green business can align good business sense with community objectives, branding, and reputation. As much or as little as your business can afford to do will make a difference.

We hope this list of five easy ways your company can Go Green motivates you to do the right thing – for the right reasons.

1. Recycle
Did you know that producing recycled white paper creates 74 percent less air pollutants, 35 percent less water pollutants and 75 percent less process energy than producing paper from virgin fiber?

It may seem obvious, but many companies do not recycle office paper and newspapers. Small- and medium sized businesses account for nearly two thirds of all commercial waste, yet most are not recycling. At our offices in Houston, we recycle all trash and shredded paper.

The effects of recycling paper reach further than just saving trees. One ton of paper from recycled pulp saves 17 trees, 3 cubic yards of landfill space, 7,000 gallons of water, 4,200 kilowatt hours (enough to heat your home for six months), 390 gallons of oil and prevents 60 pounds of air pollutants.

You can take simple steps to begin a recycling program at your office, and sometimes the obvious, easy solutions are overlooked. Copy on both sides of each piece of paper. Reuse paper copied on one side for internal memos and drafts. Provide fewer bins for trash and more for each kind of recycling. Create a list of what is recyclable and where to put specific items.

Recycling programs can include more than just paper. For example, PKF Texas’ IT Department recycles computer batteries. Many nonprofit organizations will gladly accept electronic equipment , including older computers, printers, copiers and fax machines, or you can contact a local recycling center that will remove useful parts and then break down the rest of the materials. The centers also can safely remove hazardous materials.

Office supplies often become a target of waste. Rather than continuing to order unneeded office supplies, PKF Texas collects and centralizes leftover supplies from emptied offices, desks and cubicles for reuse.

2. Food and Snacks
Where are we going for lunch? Food is one of the hottest topics in most offices and sometimes the community fridge overflows to the point that you are forced to keep yogurt in your desk drawer. One simple way of having a positive effect on the environment is by shaping up kitchen habits and greening up the daily lunch conversation.

According to National Geographic, Americans buy more than 8 billion gallons of bottled water a year and toss 22 billion empty plastic bottles into the trash.

At PKF Texas, our employees have a filtered water station to use as an alternative to bottled water, and are given PKF-branded coffee mugs to use as a substitute for Styrofoam cups. Branded lunch bags further cut down on transporting snacks in plastic or paper sacks.

During busy seasons, employees are given access to a kitchen stocked with healthy snacks, and lunch is brought in for uninterrupted productivity, stress reduction, and saving time and travel. Recruits care about workplace policies beyond the traditional benefits listed for your company.

3. Electricity and Computers
The Sierra Club reports that computers in the business sector unnecessarily waste $1 billion worth of electricity each year.

Companies can minimize this cost in their workplace by preaching positive habits, such as turning off computers and power strips when you leave for the day or an extended portion of the day. Without turning off the power strip, energy is still being burned.

Eliminating the ever-looming paper trail associated with the accounting profession can improve efficiency and workflow processes in the workplace, while also making a positive contribution on the environment. A 2007 survey of accounting firms by CCH reports 45 percent of firms now use electronic document management systems and 32 percent have some form of paperless engagement. Our Audit Department has been paperless for several years and the tax department has issued paperless returns for the last two years, steps that garnered an overwhelmingly positive response from our clients. This approach is environmentally friendly, and more time- and cost efficient.

The firm also supports paperless productivity by using dual monitors and multi-purpose machines that can duplex and scan. Employee payroll statements are paperless and direct deposit is highly encouraged.

Although we distribute the Leading Edge magazine in print, we also issue marketing materials through our Web site and all of our newsletters are electronic.

4. Transportation
You care about the environment, but can you really behave in an environmentally responsible way when you travel? With hotels, rental car companies and airlines all jumping on board to help the environment, it's easier than ever for business travelers to go green.

The desire to help the environment is widespread. According to the Green Hotel Association, a Texas-based trade organization promoting ecological consciousness in the hospitality industry, 43 million U.S. travelers say they are concerned about the environment.

Many hotels chains have options for business travelers conducting meetings, such as putting recycling bins in meeting rooms, using energy-efficient light bulbs, eating on real china and using cutlery (instead of disposables), and using white boards instead of flip charts (to reduce paper consumption). Shuttling in place of rental cars can also be more cost efficient.

In our firm, instead of sending our staff out on the road for training, PKF Texas employees are able to participate in formal, in-house CPE programs (PKF University), and many attend video and Web conferences and training seminars.

You may not consider commuting to be a part of your office’s environmental impact, but your work portability can make a large difference. Flexible workplace policies can be a great recruiting tool as well as an efficiency improvement for today’s diverse workforce. If some or all of your employees’ work can be done at home, give them the option to telecommute. Or, allow employees to work longer hours, but fewer days, in order to let them stay at home once a week or more.

Many of your employees may want to carpool, but don’t know where coworkers live or simply don’t have the courage to ask around. You can help by administering a program to get them connected.

5. Be Green and Clean
Many times, when crossing into the land of the green, businesses are blinded by the vast number of options and forget the basics.

At PKF Texas we have not forgotten our roots – so to speak – and continue to have a plant service care for live plants around the office. Not only are plants nice for office and cube décor, they also absorb indoor pollution.

Another basic remedy we stand by is having the air conditioning unit in our building set to turn off every night and on weekends. During the winter when it gets a little chilly, instead of cranking up the heat, we issue PKF Texas embroidered fleece jackets to keep employees warm, stylish and comfortable.

Just as important as it is to be green – is to be clean. Businesses should make it a habit to use nontoxic cleaning products, and to buy furniture, carpet and paint that are free of volatile organic compounds that won’t put off gas and toxic chemicals.

Outside the office, many employees have taken on their own green causes. One senior manager in the firm is beginning a fair trade coffee company in part as a fundraising organization for a group that ministers in South Africa.

Another out-of-the box green idea at PKF Texas was implemented when we added a second floor to our offices. We had the stairwells keyed for access to the upper floor as an alternative option to the elevator. This equally supports green and healthy-living initiatives within our office, while having an impact on firm culture.

Just think about “green” for a moment. While it might take a village to enact change, it only takes one person to begin the process. Consider putting together an internal committee to advise on activities that would make sense for your business. By implementing just a few initiatives you can improve your environmental footprint, and you may be surprised about how well it aligns with your overall strategy and positively impacts your business.

Raissa Evans is the senior manager of Practice Growth for PKF Texas – and the firm’s “go green” champion. Contact her at 713-860-1464 or revans@pkftexas.com. She would love to hear your own ideas for going green.


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