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Go green! 10 easy ways small businesses can make their office more eco-friendly

Making your office a little greener is not just a great way to do your bit towards a healthier and more sustainable planet, it can also give your business a point of differentiation, while also helping your bottom line.

Encourage eco-friendly options to become habit in your workplace, and make a conscious effort to practice environmental awareness every day. Here are 10 simple steps your business can implement today to save money and reduce your impact on the environment:

1. Hit the switch

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When you’re a small business, every penny counts, right? Reducing your electricity use helps the planet, and your pocket. It should be a no-brainer, but how often do you walk out of a meeting room without turning off the light? Or leave your computer running when you leave at the end of the day?

Remember to turn off meeting room lights when not in use and switch all unnecessary lights off after hours. At the Xero office, our bathroom lights are set to turn themselves off after a certain period of time. Another trick is to change your computer settings to turn your computer to hibernate, rather than go onto screensaver, which uses more energy unnecessarily.

2. Go paperless

Do your best to reduce the amount of printing you need to do, and if you have to, print double-sided to limit the number of sheets you use. Share documents digitally with your colleagues, use digital note-taking tools, and store soft-copy files online using cloud document apps such as Dropbox or Box, rather than printing them off.

In our office, we use ‘follow-me’ printing, which requires us to swipe a personal card at the printer, reducing the likelihood of accidental or forgotten printing.

3. Move to the cloud

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Cloud solutions allow your office to become more efficient, streamlined and collaborative, and again will also help you reduce the amount of printing you need to do. Your team can collaborate in real time on documents, enter their timesheets digitally, create digital forms that are filled out online, process purchase orders, manage accounts, and communicate via various online tools.

Wondering what ‘the cloud’ is all about - to help you get your head around it, here are 5 cloud computing myths, busted!

4. Work from home

Because cloud software can be accessed from anywhere, it also makes it easier for your employees to work from home. Working from home means one less commuter on the road, and reduces the amount of energy you need to consume at the office.

5. Sort your trash

Here at the Xero office, we make an effort to recycle by separating waste into the appropriate bins. Encourage your team to do the same - make it easy to recycle by ensuring bins or containers are easily accessible.

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6. Real greenery

Plants do more than just make the place look pretty. They also absorb air pollution and increase the flow of oxygen, and in doing so, they help reduce ‘sick building syndrome’. Liven up your workplace with a bit of natural greenery - just make sure you keep them watered!

7. Teleconference

When possible, use teleconference facilities such as Skype or Google Hangouts rather than travel to meetings off site. It’s not only better for your productivity, but will also help lessen the impact of your carbon footprint.

8. Drink fair trade

Coffee is a staple of any office, but make your brew an ethical one but choosing fairtrade or organic products. If possible, don’t use disposable cups, and provide filtered water rather than bottled water. You could consider gifting your team a branded aluminium bottle for them to fill and keep at their desk, so they don’t need to purchase plastic bottles.

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9. On yer bike

Offer secure bike stands, as well as showering facilities, to make it easy for your employees to cycle to and from work. When it’s time to expand or move your office, consider locations that are handy for public transport. Encourage your staff to carpool when possible, and offer them flexible hours so they can travel outside of peak traffic times.

10. Off-set your footprint

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Get your business behind local environmental projects, such as beach clean-ups, tree-planting drives or waterway restorations. Getting involved helps make your community a better place to live, and also gives you a team-building activity that makes everyone feel good!

What other initiatives have you implemented in your small business to help make it a greener place to work?

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