So in case you don't recall Hello Etsy, you should see my posting from September, but in one sentence, it was the summit on small business and sustainability put on primarily in Berlin, Germany, but with smaller scale sessions held in cities in the United States as well. I attended the session the Etsy headquarters in DUMBO, Brooklyn on Sunday, September 18th.
As I mentioned in September, I'm glad that Etsy is tackling the idea of sustainability and how small businesses can shape commercial business. But, I wasn't overwhelmed by all of the speakers. For example, I felt a great disconnect with the last panel, even though I loved that each of the speakers were showcasing projects they've worked on in the past and are presently working on to change the lives of others (for the better) and make not just social change, but a larger impact.
Of all the panelists in that segment, I greatly enjoyed Victor Lytvineko of Raleigh Denim who talked about starting a denim company in Raleigh and finding the sewing machines and the old Levis employees who taught him so much. Maybe, I'm just that kind of person; the kind who enjoys stories of nostalgia and rebirth. I'm not sure. But I do know that of all the panelists his story rang deep to my heart.
But anyhow, lets talk about what I did LOVE about Hello Etsy, meeting new people aside (one of which I am planning to feature because she's incredible on the environmental front!). I totally dug the session titled, "Greening Your Office Space" with Kate Houstoun, Director of Sustainable Business Services, Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia.
The write up for the program stated the following, "Kate will lead workshop participants through a one-hour exploration of workplace sustainability. Participants will learn simple (and not-so-simple) steps they can take to improve the environmental impact of their work environment. Participants will leave the workshop with the beginning of their written plan to improve the efficiency, products, and behaviors of their workplace to reduce its toll on the earth."
Ummm, I did not leave with a plan, but I did leave with a new buddy and some notes to share with YOU. Hooray!
If you're like me you have a laptop, run your small business from home (in some cases in the same room you also sleep in), live with two other people, already compost produce scraps and coffee grounds, recycle, and try to limit consumption of goods and toxic chemicals.
If you're not like me then you have a studio space (maybe it's the shared kind like a 3rd Ward, or something similar), but you're also running bare bones. If you're definitely not like me then you have a brick and mortar shop, or a small office with several employees and electronic gadgets that require energy, heat, etc. You're not say, Johnson and Johnson, who has thousands of employees and products, but you run a pretty large scale operation.
If you fit into the last two points there, then some of Kate's points are going to be great for you. If you're like me, then some of Kate's points don't quite suit you, but the tips will help plant the seeds of how you as a solo artists/entrepreneur/business can make changes now and what you should know for the instance that you do start running a larger operation and want to practice environmental sustainability AND save some dough.
Our session was in competition with a financial planning session, which means that we didn't compete. When you're a small business, money matters. A LOT. The thing that I don't think many people realize is that taking initiatives to be "green" can save you money in ways you may not think, but that research proves.
So lets start with this fun fact - Did you know that over 40% of our national energy consumption comes from offices and homes? Yep! 40%! I didn't either.
Below are the tips I think you should know on how you can save money, be an eco-warrior, and maintain an environmentally sustainable small business.
- A green office is one that functions well because everyone involved actually participates in the process. Engage your employees!
- The hardest challenge to reaching your goal of becoming a green office is changing the mindset of your coworkers and employees.
- Create a team that includes some of the people who are anti-change. They will help to show the barriers.
- Find what are the keys to the van - this helps to give responsibility and ownership to employees. The project becomes there and not just another thing to follow.
- Use visual reminders like metrics to get your point across - not everyone responds to warm and fuzzy.
- Power down equipment and use power settings when you're leaving the office.
- Provide flexibility in your dress code. (Don't make men wear suits in the summer!)
- Post reminder signs to turn off the lights.
- Open blinds and use daylight - turn off the lights!
- Double-side printing
- Use electronic faxing
- Get rid of disposable items (cups, forks, plates) and use mugs, bottles, and dishes from home.
- Drink tap water/provide a water cooler.
- Create a solid waste policy- make sure it is sustainable and has clear signage.
- Conduct a waste audit - what is thrown away that can be recycled?; What is being recycled that should not be?; What could be composted?
- Designate a waste "champion" - remember to reward your team and create responsibility and ownership.
- Establish a purchasing policy.
- Buy environmentally friendly (% recycled, Post Consumer Waste (PCW) content, Certified brands).
- Provide organic, all-natural, fair-trade food items and cleaning products.
- Source locally whenever possible.
Improve Air Quality:
- Consider air filters.
- Switch your cleaning supplies.
- Buy used office furniture.
- Get one or a few plants.
Transportation: Accounts for 1/3 of all greenhouse gases produced in the US!
- Offer teleconferences and webinars.
- Offer Zipcar rental options.
- Encourage public transit and carpooling.
- Compressed work weeks.
- Work from home.
Some of these are super simple like, biking everywhere, getting a plant, buying a used desk, and sending your documents by electronic fax now. I personally don't bike, but I walk and or rely on public transportation, I own several plants, and already send documents by PDF, completely skipping the fax option. If you're already doing so, you're greener than you may have thought! If you're not, well, what are you waiting for? Go buy that plant!
If you'd like some light reading on this topic, here are some websites Kate recommended and I approve of:
www.storyofstuff.com (this short film may horrify you; you've been warned!)
Until next month, or a few days from now, make small steps to live green!