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How green actions cut businesses' costs

Let’s end up 2009’s National Green Week with some tips on greening your business. Here are green practices that can cut business costs, compliments of two project management consultants, Cheetah Learning’s Michelle LaBrosse, founder, and Erica Edmond, CAPM. They’re urging project managers, who are born leaders, to get their co-workers and executives involved in greening their companies.

Since the recession began, more businesses have been forced to look closely at their waste and found that a long-term commitment to using green practices reduces costs dramatically, LaBrosse and Edmond told me this week.

“Simple practices like empowering employees to work virtually from home can save a tremendous amount on office space and, at the same time, reduces pollution spent on commuting,” said LaBrosse. “It can also make your carbon footprint smaller.”

During this recession, energy costs have rightfully come under fierce scrutiny, particularly in data center settings. “There are now over 1.1 billion computers in operation worldwide, collectively producing about one billion tons of CO2 through their electricity requirements,” Edmond said. The computing age has also been the garbage age, and outdated computer equipment, mobile phones and electronic gadgets now make up five percent of the world’s landfills.

To cut energy costs, keep an eye on the small things. The consultants suggest turning off overhead electric lights if there is natural light in an office. Also, make sure that furniture does not block the radiators as otherwise the heat will be wasted.

To conserve water, fix leaky faucets. People sure fix leaky faucets in their homes, because they get billed for the water used. Businesses should, too. ”Post a number to call near sinks so someone may fix it right away,” LaBrosse said.

Create collection points for waste such as aluminum, glass, plastic and paper. Be sure that once people deposit the waste into the proper trash cans that they are, in fact, disposed as intended. Meanwhile, cut down on how much stuff goes into those cans by eliminating amenities like disposable coffee cups. Also, use printers that can print on both sides,

Many companies have cut down on business travel during the recession. Keep doing that, even after the economy recovers, the consultants said. LaBrosse added:

“Rather than traveling to meetings, have you invested in suitable technology for conference calls? It is worthwhile investigating alternatives such as using iChat or SKYPE for meetings that require face time?”

LaBrosse and Edmond told me about some multinational businesses that received the 2009 Natural Health Magazine “Green Choice” Awards for their green initiatives. They are Verizon, Starbucks, Whole Foods, Aveda, Discovery Channel and, surprisingly, Wal-Mart. Some of their accomplishments underscore the suggestions above.

  • Verizon’s HopeLine initiative saved more than 5.6 million cell phones from ending up in landfills. Also, Verizon Wireless’ ongoing deployment of smart power grids and new fiber-optic network equipment will result in emissions reductions equal to keeping as many as 16,000 cars off the road annually.
  • Starbucks’ post recycled cup-sleeves saved more than 78,000 trees in 2006.
  • Whole Foods buys enough wind-energy credits to compensate for 100 percent of the electricity the company consumes.
  • Aveda employs wind power in their manufacturing facility to reduce electricity consumption and uses 100 percent recycled packing materials.
  • The Discovery Channel uses energy-efficient lighting, architecture and water systems in the company headquarters.
  • Wal-Mart’s large-scale environmental plan should lead to powering every store with 100 percent renewable energy. The company is investing $500 million a year to increase fuel efficiency within their truck fleet, decrease energy consumption in their stores and decrease stores’ solid wastes.

These companies have taken large steps toward being green; but even small steps help. In their project management consulting, LaBrosse and Edmond always look at ways “going green” can cut costs and give project managers more money for core business projects.

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