How Small Businesses Can Reduce Energy Consumption

There are a wide range of steps that small businesses can take to improve their energy efficiency, reduce consumption and save money. Here are some options in all prices ranges to help you get started today.

Small businesses can see a number of benefits by improving energy efficiency and reducing overall gas and electricity consumption. While the main and often most obvious incentive for reducing energy consumption is saving money, there are also a few other benefits that are less often considered.

The Benefits

Environmental

Some small business owners are conscious of the impact their company has on the environment, and so for them, this is a great benefit. Even for those who are less eco-inclined, having a low-impact business can bring with it other benefits. For example, green consumer communities are likely to favor your business over others – increasing your sales and revenue – and green businesses often get a lot of positive attention from the press, which creates free advertising and exposure opportunities, as well as boosting brand and reputation.

Funding and grants

Businesses who put effort into reducing their energy consumption and strive to be part of a low-carbon economy are sometimes entitled to certain grant and funding opportunities. From government grant schemes to green finance companies, there is a lot of potential.

Tax breaks

As well as the aforementioned funding opportunities, low impact and low consumption businesses are often incentivised by the government with reduced tax rates. This could apply to small businesses that only consume small amounts of electricity or gas, or businesses that have purchasing energy efficiency technology or invested in installing retrofits.

Money

Using less energy means you pay for less energy – effectively increasing your bottom line. Most businesses can reduce their energy bills by up to 15% by reducing consumption, which is money that you could invest elsewhere in the business.

The Changes

Businesses are often well aware of the benefits that come with lowering energy consumption, but many just don’t know how to start. There are a number of ways in which small businesses can adapt their day-to-day business operations to use less energy – ranging from simple changes to drastic modifications.

Simple Changes

These adjustments are very minor, and do not require to you spend any money. Of course, because they are such small modifications, the result in consumption will also be small – but every little bit helps.

Budget for energy: Awareness is key in improving your efficiency, so by including energy bills in your budget, you will be conscious of exactly how much it costs you each month. You will also be able to see when you’re spending too much, and monitor the benefits of reducing your consumption.

Lower the temperature: Did you know that lowering your thermostat by just one degree could reduce your energy bill by over $100? A one degree difference in temperature is not enough for you to really notice, so you will be saving without sacrificing comfort.

Time switches: Make sure that your heating works on a time switch, and set it to only come on in the hours that your business building is in use. This saves the building from being heated unnecessarily when no one is there to feel the benefit. To be extra thrifty, you can even set your heating to go off an hour or so before closing time to save even more energy.

Draught proofing: For businesses with external doors, such as shops on a main street, a huge amount of energy can be lost and wasted through those doors being permanently open. A simple way to combat this is to make a conscious effort to keep the door closed when no one is using it; you could even put a sign in the window to make customers aware.

Work culture: As mentioned before, awareness is key in energy saving, and it’s integral that you get your staff on board with energy efficiency and inject an energy efficiency culture into your workplace. You can start with simple things like putting signs next to light switches and plug sockets to remind staff to turn them off when not in use. You can also put your staff through energy efficiency training to ensure maximum levels of awareness at all times. You may also want to assign certain energy-saving roles to some of your staff, and make them accountable for consumption.

Medium Effort

If you’re willing to spend a reasonable amount of money to assist your energy efficiency ventures, consider the following tips:

Lights: Lighting typically accounts for 20% of all electricity used in commercial buildings – so there’s a big opportunity to save here. Exchange all of your light bulbs for low energy ones, and install motion sensors to ensure hallways, storeroom, restrooms, etc. are not being lit unnecessarily.

Standby savers: These devices plug into your wall sockets, and all your electrical equipment is powered through them. They minimise the energy that is leeched by vampire power, which is the energy used when equipment is on standby. The average PC and monitor will consume about $30 a year in standby electricity. This may not sound like much, but when you multiply it to cover an office with 50 computers (over $1500), or all the electrical equipment in your building – the money soon adds up.

Eco-equipment: Whether it’s just a coffee machine and toaster in your staff room, or a refrigerator and microwave, you can replace it all with energy efficient alternatives. Eco-appliances are specially designed to consume less energy than traditional alternative. While it may be a bit of an upfront cost, after a year or two you soon start to see savings.

Larger Investments

These are the energy efficiency measures that cost the most money upfront, but also bring the highest savings. It may be worth trying some of the simpler and cheaper cost cutting techniques first, and then investing savings made from those towards some of these more drastic measures.

Double glazing: If your business does not already have double glazed windows, then you could benefit hugely from having them installed. A cheaper alternative to this is secondary glazing, which is where a second pane of glass is fitted to your existing window. It is not as effective as proper double glazing, but can still help.

Draught proofing: For businesses with external doors, installing automatic doors could help to ensure that as little cold air from the outside gets in as possible. Also sealing any holes there may be between the inside of your offie and the outside world – such as broken seal on doors and windows, vents, letter boxes, etc. – can help to keep the heat inside, meaning you will have to spend less to keep the inside of your business environment a comfortable temperature.

Conclusion

There are a wide range of steps that small businesses can take to improve their energy efficiency, reduce consumption and save money. These options come in all prices ranges, so there really is no excuse not to start today. Reduce your energy consumption, boost your bottom line, and give your business the opportunity to benefit from all the other benefits that can come from adopting energy efficiency into your day-to-day operations.

Hannah Corbett is a copywriter with a particular enthusiasm for startup business and the energy industry. You can follow Hannah on Twitter to keep up to date with all the latest in the small business world. Or, for more help lowering your business energy consumption, visit Make It Cheaper.

4 Green Tax Credits Available for Environmentally Friendly Businesses

Now more than ever, small businesses and tax payers in general are looking for greener options when it comes to tax deductions. From fuel-efficient vehicles to growing trees, here’s a look at green tax credits that environmentally friendly businesses can deduct this year.

Every tax season, there’s a big focus placed on the latest deduction trends – what new big purchase from the year can help reel in the biggest deduction for a small business.

Now more than ever, small businesses and taxpayers in general are looking for greener options when it comes to tax deductions.Outside of the principle of being able to do some good while saving money, many entrepreneurs also run their businesses out of their homes and there are plenty of credits available that they might overlook otherwise. From fuel-efficient vehicles to growing trees, here’s a look at what green businesses can deduct this year on their tax returns.

Using your fuel-efficient vehicle for work

You can score some major deductions on using your car for work purposes. As stated by the IRS, the 2014 standard mileage rates for cars, vans, and pickup trucks is 56 cents per mile for business miles driven, 23.5 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, and 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.

A shortlist of the deductions available include driving anywhere from work to another work site, going to a meeting, or meeting a client. You can get that driving money back for parking fees/tolls, registering your vehicle, rental expenses, gas, insurance and maintenance. For more information about the credits available for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, check out the U.S. Department of Energy’s fuel efficient vehicle tax incentives information center.

This year, make those charitable deductions green

Publication 526 for charitable contributions lays out the organizations qualified to receive deductible contributions as well as examples of what is and isn’t a deductible contribution.  One great option for companies of all kinds is to make a donation for old electronic devices. Maybe your business is updating its computers; by dropping them off, or even having them picked up, at a qualified charity organization such as Goodwill, you are preventing the mixing of hazardous materials with our landfills.

Deduct the very roof you work under!

Your own office may qualify for an Energy Efficiency Tax Deduction. Available for commercial property owners and leaseholders, this deduction can save you as much as $1.80 per square foot of your work building, if your building holds a 50% reduction in energy and power costs (i.e. if your office shows signs of energy efficiency in areas including interior lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation and hot water systems).

These energy-saving tools may be pricey to install at first, but they can save you and your business plenty of money in the long run – and a tax deduction can help you gain some of that installation money back.

Got a green thumb? That’s deductible!

Some states have obscure deductibles that, for the savvy business owner, need to be rooted out for extra savings. South Carolina residents receive $50 if they donate a deceased deer to the poor, and if you grow state-approved trees in Hawaii, you’re looking at as much as $3,000 in deductions! Scout out some of the lesser-known deductions available within your state – you never know what you’ll find that can apply to your business. 

What green tax credits does your business qualify for? Let us know in the comments!

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.

How to Give Your Small Business a Green Beginning

It can be hard for a small business to go green once it’s already established. Here’s how to make your business environmentally conscious from the start, courtesy of Deborah Sweeney of MyCorporation.

This post is brought to you by Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com.

Green offices are a relatively new phenomena, fueled by an understandable concern about our habits and the impact they have on the planet. Unfortunately, that means that many office recycling programs were sort of haphazardly thrown together. Sure, an office may have plopped a recycling bin on the main floor, but that does not immediately turn an office green. The best, possible scenario is to work on making businesses green from the minute they are founded, and while spearheading a recycling program may not be at the top of a startup’s to-do list, a little bit of effort can really go a long way.

Start small

Getting your business up and running is going to be your main concern, and that is fine. Just start designing your workflow with green practices in mind. The biggest source of waste for offices is paper, so that is a good place to begin. In 2010, Americans collectively threw out $2.8 billion worth of paper, recovering only 63.5% of paper produced. That represents a huge drain, and businesses are responsible for a good portion of it – the average office worker will use 10,000 sheets of paper in one year. A new business shouldn’t be using anywhere near that amount, but adopting recycling early on in the business’s life will ensure that, when the business does begin to take off and grow, the recycling program won’t fall to the wayside. And don’t stop at paper. When you have that down, start working on kitchen waste, inkjet cartridges, computer equipment – the more you plan now, the easier it will be to stick to that plan and keep your business green.

Don’t be the office fanatic

When you first start out, your employee roster will probably be you, you, and you, so it’ll be easy to adhere to whatever green policies you set out. But when you begin to hire, remember that you want to involve them with, and not force them to adhere to, the programs already in place. Keep them aware of what you are trying to do, make it easy for them to follow your example by placing recycle bins anywhere garbage is created, and then let them work. You don’t want to be the type of boss that leaves little, passive-aggressive notes on every Coke can someone accidentally puts into the trash. Your green-ification program will be much more sustainable if everyone feels like they are willingly a part of it, instead of being forced to sort twenty different types of recyclable garbage.

Head to the cloud

According to The Paperless Project, a four-drawer filing cabinet that takes up 9 square feet of space can cost a business $1,500 every year! Newer companies won’t be as big as the ones that are actually paying that much to have an antiquated filing system, but if your business grows with that type of system in place, you could find yourself losing a lot of money, along with wasting a lot of paper. Adopting a cloud-based storage system early on in your business’s life, then, is a great investment in both your green initiatives and in the future of your business. You’ll be able to use as little paper as possible and your business will evolve around that cloud-based storage system.

A green beginning means a green future – technology may evolve and recycling may become more efficient, but if you build your business with a green initiatives in mind, your business will continue to make a difference. And all you have to do is start small. Buy a recycling bin, put it next to the trashcan in your office, and make an effort to sort out your garbage when you throw it away. From that simple step you can branch your green initiative into employee outreach, paperless office development, and a more comprehensive recycling program. But that green tomorrow begins with a blue can in your office today.

deborah sweeneyDeborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter at @deborahsweeney and @mycorporation.