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  • Green Your Business
    Game Plan
    In-Depth

    Prioritize Energy Efficiency Projects

    If you’re convinced it makes sense for your business to go green, you may be wondering, “Where do I start?” The answer depends on many factors, including the type of business, the age of your equipment and facility systems, local utility rates, hours of operation, and access to capital to pay for upgrades.

    As reported in The Big Green Opportunity PDF, the areas that small businesses are focusing on today, in descending order of popularity, include waste reduction, energy efficiency, transportation efficiency, water conservation, green purchasing, and renewable energy. The top 10 environmentally beneficial actions with the fastest return on investment (shown here with the primary funding sources) are:

    1. Purchasing energy efficient equipment (tax credits)
    2. Training staff to conserve energy (tax credits)
    3. Installing efficient lighting systems (utility program)
    4. Recycling and/or reusing in-house plastics, paper, metal, glass, and/or organics (utility program)
    5. Redesigning products to require less energy in production (loans from friends or family)
    6. Creating employee incentives for reducing energy use (financing from the seller)
    7. Enabling energy-saving settings on computers (tax credit)
    8. Buying local products (loans from friends or family)
    9. Installing energy efficient windows (tax credit)
    10. Installing solar panels (self-funding with company dollars)

    Whether you own or lease your building, a significant portion of your operating budget is spent on utilities—electricity and water to run lighting, heating and air conditioning, plumbing, office equipment and more. And these energy costs just keep going up. Simply using existing energy more efficiently remains the easiest and most cost effective way to manage utility bills and make a positive impact on the environment. According to ENERGY STAR, most organizations can realize annual energy savings between two and 10 percent, with some saving much more.

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    Game Plan

    • The Small Business Administration offers a long list of energy saving tips, some of which can be accomplished with little or no capital investment. A few you may consider right away include:
      • Change or clean HVAC filters regularly.
      • Control direct sun through windows with solar screens, solar films, awnings, and vegetation.
      • Use fans instead of air conditioning during milder weather.
      • Turn off lights and other electrical equipment when not in use.
      • Replace older incandescent light bulbs with efficient LED bulbs. LEDs are rapidly coming down in price, and will last for many years.
      • Always buy ENERGY STAR office products, such as printers, televisions, ceiling fans, thermostats, and other equipment.
      • Use laptops instead of desktop computers. Laptops consume less energy.
      • Switch to rechargeable batteries. Studies show rechargeables are more cost effective than throwaway batteries.
      • Consider efficient vehicles such as hybrids, plug-in hybrids, or electric cars. You may be able to offset some of the costs with federal and state incentives for alternative fuels and vehicles.
      • Fix leaky faucets and toilets.
      • Insulate water heaters or consider a tankless water heater when it’s time to upgrade.
    • Find and compare cars that deliver the best fuel economy at the Department of Energy’s official government source for fuel economy information.
    • To search for the cheapest gasoline prices in your area, and for other gas mileage tips, visit this page.