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Easy Ways to Make Your Business More Sustainable By engaging your employees in sustainable practices with small, greener tweaks to typical processes and tasks, you'll be able to easily make a larger, positive impact on the world.

By FlexTal Edited by Jason Fell

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This article was written by Alex Sixt, a member of the Entrepreneur NEXT powered by Assemble content team. Entrepreneur NEXT powered by Assemble is freelance matching platform leading the future of work. If you're struggling to find, vet, and hire the right freelancers for your business, Entrepreneur NEXT will help you hire the freelancers you need, exactly when you need them. From business to marketing, sales, design, finance, and technology, we have the top 3 percent of freelance experts ready to work for you.

There's no doubt about it: pollution and waste has become a large problem for the planet for the past few decades, and will only continue to become more of an issue if nothing is done to stop or slow it down. But it's not all doom and gloom: by now, it's likely you've heard about sustainability: a movement that has been making headlines, but mostly only in people's personal lives. As the environmental situation becomes more dire, going green doesn't have to be something you only engage in personally; your business can also make a difference by adopting sustainable practices.

Unfortunately, sustainability often has the stigma of being expensive. While it may be true that some sustainable practices, such as solar panels, can cost a sizable amount of money, most everyday sustainable practices are quite affordable. By engaging your employees in sustainable practices with small greener tweaks to typical processes and tasks, you'll be able to easily make a larger, positive impact on the world (go team!). While it may sound nerdy, going green as a team can actually be a lot of fun and a great way to bring your team closer together by working toward a common goal.

If you're worried about the transition toward sustainability, it's often best to start small (i.e. you don't have to start working in the dark tomorrow, or ever). Start off by hosting a small team meeting to discuss and brainstorm new ways the business can produce less waste or cut down on energy. This way, your team will be able to have a say in sustainable practices and adjust easier to these practices so they become second nature over time.

Need some ideas to start? Here are a few ways your business can move toward a more sustainable model.

Remote work environment.

One of the best ways to help your business be more sustainable is to switch to a remote work environment. Doing so will instantly reduce your light and energy use (not to mention your utility bills), and the commute that your team would typically take to go to work. By having your employees transition to a remote work setup, you'll instantly cut down on energy use previously needed when having your team come into work everyday.

If you're not ready to say goodbye to your office space entirely, or the nature of your work requires that employees are on-site most of the time, switching to a partly remote setup can still make a huge difference. Create a rotating schedule for employees that divvies up their time between the office and working at home; this way, you'll conserve energy by limiting the amount of people on-site while still allowing employees to be on location as needed.

If it's absolutely required that you and your team report to the office every day, there's still hope: you can reduce your energy use even when using your office daily. Encourage your team to turn off lights when they're not using a room, or turn down the cooling and heating units (if possible). Unplugging electronics when not using them can always greatly help with reducing energy consumption, and help increase the longevity of electronics by only turning them on when in use.

Related: Older Entrepreneurs Should Embrace Working From Home

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Greener officer supplies.

By now, it's common knowledge that paper and plastic pollute the environment. However, in an office setting, these two materials in particular can prove to be difficult to avoid. Even in today's world, paperwork is a necessary function of business, but that doesn't mean you have to use it in every process. Enter the digital world: although it can sometimes cause us more than a few headaches, resources such as the cloud, Google Drive, and similar platforms have given businesses the ability to cut down on paper dramatically while still safekeeping important documents. Tools such as Docusign give businesses an alternative to paper signatures; recipients can easily read and digitally sign documents on a secure platform, reducing the need for paper in extra-classified or private situations.

While some paper and plastic materials are always bound to be around the office in some capacity, there's ways you can encourage those around you to decrease the use of these items. If you have an office kitchen, stock it with reusable cutlery and dinnerware that can be easily washed (watch the amount of water used to clean), rather than offering single-use items. If you're feeling generous, consider gifting your staff a reusable water bottle that they can take with them throughout the day; just one reusable bottle can replace up to 167 single-use plastic bottles per year.

To help your team acclimate to these changes, create little reminder sheets around the office to help remind them, or host a contest to see who can reduce their paper or plastic waste the most every month. However, remember to be careful to not push the issue too much, as doing so can make sustainability seem more like a chore than an opportunity. Going green is a fun way to make a difference in the world every day, so keeping it fun is the best course of action.

Related: 3 Ways You Can Bring Sustainability to Your Workplace

Recycle electronics.

Let's face it: we're all somewhat lazy when it comes to disposing of our electronics. We'll leave them sitting around for days or even months, eventually giving into the temptation of throwing them into the trash. While just one electronic doesn't seem to have much of a negative impact, the reality is that most electronic items contain toxic items that can leak into landfills and harm the surrounding environment (mercury and dirt don't mix).

Luckily, there's still plenty of hope for your worn-out gadgets: most companies offer buy-back or trade-in programs that can give you some cash back while responsibly recycling or even repurposing your electronics. Apple is known for their trade-in program and efforts to cut down on waste created from their products. As wonderful as the ability to recycle your electronics is, taking care of them to cut down on your purchase of these items is important, as well. Perform regular maintenance checks and be sure to turn them off when not using to conserve energy and avoid wearing out the battery.

Related: Giving Waste a Second Life

There's no question about it: sustainability is an incredibly important responsibility that every person and business should consider weaving into their daily routine. However, it doesn't have to be expensive or cumbersome to take on. By simply doing your best to conserve energy consumption, reduce waste, and responsibly recycle, your business can easily have a positive impact on the environment!

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