earth-day.jpgToday is Earth Day. What a great excuse to take a break from your economic woes and focus on your environmental woes. As an entrepreneur, you have countless things to do to keep the ship sailing smoothly -- naturally, the environment often takes a backseat. But there are things you can do right now to help make your business more sustainable.

Sure, going green is in vogue, but small changes can reap big benefits for business owners who take steps to conserve. To find out how, we spoke with environmental freelancer and pro-blogger Jennifer Chait. She currently writes for such green-minded publications as: Tree Hugging Family, Inhabitots, Blisstree Green and Mother Nature Network.
What are five practical things small-business owners can do right now to make their office greener?

  1. Office spaces can easily go green with their cleaning methods. Green Home, an environmental store, offers a huge selection of eco-friendly cleaning supplies, and you can also find greener cleaning products locally at eco-minded grocers. Green cleaning supplies cut down on office allergies and toxins, plus, because they biodegrade, are healthy for the planet.
  2. Make your office space a reusable office space. Recycled and reclaimed office supplies like ink, paper, furniture and even major office equipment pieces are readily available, cut costs and minimize your office's footprint. 
  3. Make the switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs from standard bulbs to cut down on energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
  4. Set up a basic small recycling center. No matter your employee count, folks are more likely to recycle when it's easy. You can recycle cans, glass, paper, newspapers, ink cartridges and other paper goods. There are many cool small recycling bins currently available.
  5. Think outside the immediate office space. Many offices invest in things like recycled computer paper but forget the small details such as the office kitchen. Use reusable coffee mugs, real plates and real silverware -- and quit buying bottled water. Watercooler chats are fun and a refillable cooler is far more eco-friendly than plastic bottles.
Why should entrepreneurs care about the environment and their impact on it?

Any business owner has the ability to make an impact with their green actions. Clients and employees who see green in action will ask questions and be more likely to get involved with green themselves. Going green is also smart financially. Consumers in numerous recent surveys have noted that they're more likely to do business with an eco-conscious company. Plus, going green can save you money in the long run with less expensive energy costs and money saved on items like reclaimed equipment. That said, it's important that businesses don't "green trap" the office. While consumers are more likely to do business with a greener company, they also recognize when a company doesn't back up their green talk with a green walk.

How can business owners motivate their employees to be environmentally-conscious at the work place? 
 
     
Business owners and employees alike are far more motivated by immediate rewards than they are the long term rewards of going green, which is a problem, since green rewards often come in time (i.e. saving money on the electric bill). Also, it's been noted that people tend to go green at home versus the workplace because they don't reap those long term rewards; if you're not paying the bills, why bother turning down the thermostat?
 
The best way to motivate greener employees is to find rewards that make it worth their while, make going green as easy as possible and to lead by example.

What are some out-of-the-box or cutting edge ideas for greening your office?
 

Donate your used computers and your business will get a tax break. You can check with Earth911 to find out which local sites near you will accept your computer.
 
A super smart idea is to install an automated light and equipment network system that shut down independently. An automatic system has higher start-up costs involved, but as noted above, employees may not be invested in green work conditions, but an automatic system is always working for the planet.
 
If you really want to go all out when greening your office you can try bringing some nature indoors, installing greener waterless urinals or get hooked up with solar power.
 
How are you celebrating Earth Day this year?
    

I'm more of an all-year-is-Earth-Day type. While I can see some pros of Earth Day, for example this event might change minds and educate folks, it's a little depressing to me that eco-goodness is called out and highlighted in a major way only once per year. In my opinion, the best Earth Day move anyone can make is to become invested in achieving green goals for the entire year.