By Mark Cole, National Business Intelligence Manager, Xerox Canada

Going green isn’t just for businesses with large budgets. A small business can also take small, but effective steps, that have a big impact on the environment. Being consistent about reducing energy, water and paper can all make a difference — for the environment and your bottom line.

Developing an eco-friendly workplace is becoming a priority for many small businesses, according to the Office Depot Small Business Index. Sixty-one per cent of small businesses are actively trying to become greener, while 70 per cent anticipate becoming more environmentally conscious over the next two years.

Working with the right vendor can also make it easier for you to get involved in sustainability efforts if you don’t have the resources to do it on your own.

Eighty-two per cent of respondents say they’re doing this by recycling more; other green initiatives include reducing waste, buying energy-efficient products and reducing water use. Some of the products they’d like to see converted to greener choices include ink and toner cartridges, paper products and lighting.

That’s not to say there aren’t challenges ahead: Thirty-nine per cent of respondents are concerned about the cost of going green, as well as lack of time to follow through on those efforts.

But going green doesn’t have to be expensive, time-consuming or complicated. According to the Ecopreneurist, paper makes up about 35 per cent of our waste stream, even though it’s easy to reuse and recycle.  Simple changes include using FSC certified paper, presetting your devices to print on both sides of the page, or releasing a job when at the device.

Another way to print less is by using electronic documents where possible — particularly by cutting out inefficient paper-based processes. By shifting to DocuShare, Kawartha Pine Ridge School Board was able to significantly reduce its paper usage and storage space for documents. In fact, they were also able to automate payroll and bill paying and cut processing time by 50-60 per cent. A relevant example of how an organization can reduce the impact that paper has on employee productivity and the environment.

But going green also means curbing unnecessary energy consumption. Between 2011 and 2020, carbon emissions for worldwide ICT equipment and services are expected to double from two to four per cent of total emissions, according to research firm Verdantix.

For small companies, device idle time is a big culprit, consuming energy and racking up bills. Simply by turning off equipment, such as laptops, monitors, or peripherals, when not in use, a workplace can reduce its energy usage by up to 25 per cent, according to the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade’s Greening Operations guides.

Something that’s not always top-of-mind is to work with like-minded vendors. Seek out partners that are certified green, and choose to buy from suppliers who take back packaging for reuse. They can also make it easier for you to get involved in sustainability efforts if you don’t have the resources to do it on your own.

At Xerox , the Green World Alliance allows you to consolidate your returns, contributing to our overall effort to keep billions of pounds of waste out of landfills. In fact, with the launch of Eco Box in Canada, a simplified return and recycling program, you are now able to return five to 30 used supply items all at once — including consumables from many 3rd party vendors.

Streamlining your business processes is another way to become more sustainable, while boosting productivity. According to research firm Photizo Group, businesses can save 30 per cent of their total hard-copy costs and reduce hard-copy carbon emissions by 60 per cent through the use of Managed Print Services.

Research firm Gartner says organizations spend one to three per cent of their annual revenues on printing. An MPS provider can significantly reduce how many devices are being used — and how those devices are being used — helping to reduce consumables, energy use and overall costs.

If you’re a small business, going green is a smart decision that can save time, energy and money — it’s a win-win for your business and the environment.