In April, many Americans will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for our environment and teach its citizens how they can live a "greener" existence. Amid the escalating costs of doing business, going green is not only good for the environment, it's smart business.

Adopting environmentally friendly business practices can provide benefits to the business owner looking to control costs, attract customers and become socially responsible. It can help boost efficiency, productivity, innovation and your business's bottom line. The good news is that taking the steps toward environmental sustainability is easier than you might think.

To help you get started, consider partnering with an organization committed to helping businesses "go green." Climate Leaders , a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency industry-government partnership, works with companies to develop comprehensive climate change strategies. The partner companies commit to reducing their impact on the environment by completing a corporatewide inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions, measuring their baseline, setting reduction goals, and then annually reporting progress to the EPA. There is no cost to join Climate Leaders, and partner companies may receive up to 60 hours of free technical assistance.

In addition to partnering with one or more organizations committed to helping the environment, you can also contact your local utility company to assess your business's energy usage and inquire about incentives for reducing energy. Southern California Edison, for example, offers energy efficiency programs and incentives geared to help businesses reduce energy consumption. By completing a free online energy survey to assess your business energy use, you can receive suggestions on ways your business can save energy and reduce energy costs.

Here are a few additional steps you can take toward making your business greener:

  • Reduce energy costs. Consider turning off your business's lights and equipment when not in use, using motion sensors or automatic timers for lighting, and adjusting your thermostat settings. Your business may also reduce energy costs by using high-efficiency light bulbs, purchasing energy-efficient products with the ENERGY STAR label, and installing a high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
  • Use green products. Seek to eliminate the use of toxic and nonenvironmentally friendly products and replace them with environmentally sustainable products. These may include items such as biodegradable drinking cups or food containers, furniture created from recycled materials, and even earth-friendly hand soap and cleaning products.
  • Increase virtual communication. Consider reducing paper usage by supporting the increased use of virtual communications such as e-mail for the delivery of reports and documents. Promote the use of mobile computing sources, web meetings and other virtual collaborations to save on travel costs and the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the environment. Consider utilizing electronic archiving and e-filing systems to help reduce excessive paper trails.
  • Recycle. Consider instituting a recycling program for general refuse and electronic waste such as old or broken electrical devices. Also, consider purchasing recycled products and supplies for your business.

Introducing eco-friendly practices to your business can save money while creating happier customers and a healthier planet.

The foregoing article is intended to provide general information about making your business greener and is not considered financial or tax advice from Union Bank. Please consult your financial or tax advisor.