Dear Eartha, business is booming in Summit County, and I want to get in on the action and pursue my dream of opening a small business in my mountain community. I am wondering what steps I can take to be sure to start an eco-friendly business. What suggestions do you have?
It’s so exciting that you are making the dream of owning your own business a reality. Let’s get you off on the right foot with some green business ideas. The good news is that regardless of what type of business you are opening — a retail store, restaurant, small business office, hair salon, etc. — it’s easy to create a green business model that will not only help keep our planet healthy but also save you money.
How do I go about greening my business?
There are so many ways you can set your business up to be eco-friendly. We all know to recycle paper, but you can also set your printer default to double-sided and use refillable ink cartridges. In the break room, try using eco-friendly cleaning products to keep your new space sparkling for your employees and customers. It’s also easy to quickly wash dishes or provide reusable serving ware instead of plastic utensils and paper plates. Providing clearly marked containers to make recycling of glass, plastic, paper, metal and cardboard convenient is another excellent step towards your green goals.
Sit down with your organic coffee in a mug instead of a plastic foam cup and let’s talk about energy efficiency for your space. Whether you are revamping an older space or beginning with brand new construction, it is important to know that energy use accounts for 65% of Summit County’s carbon emissions. A great way to understand how your business uses energy is to receive free sustainability consulting through High Country Conservation Center’s Resource Wise program. Beyond sealing any annoying air leaks there are other ways to improve energy efficiency, such as installing LED lighting, light sensors, smart thermostats and Energy Star appliances.
Another consideration is what type of construction materials you choose for your new space. You may not realize that recycled building materials exist in the form of wood, concrete, gypsum and metals. Once those walls are up, office furniture made from recycled plastics is a great option. Depending on your needs you can also wander through your local thrift store and opt for upcycled furniture. You may even be able to restore a unique chair or desk. Buying secondhand helps our environment and saves you money.
Finally, don’t forget about the outside of your business and keep your landscaping eco-friendly by focusing on drought-resistant plants, synthetic turf and low-flow irrigation systems. Keep in mind that installing solar panels is also an excellent way for your business to be energy efficient, especially in sunny Colorado.
How can I get my new employees on board?
You can start a green team and assign members to take recyclables and your break room compost bucket to the recycling center. Incentives for carpooling, taking the bus or riding their bikes to work are also productive ways to get your staff on board. Your green team can include articles in a company newsletter that will educate your clients to take their own initiatives to conserve energy. Encouraging employees to think about how their lifestyle impacts our environment will motivate them to be eco-minded not only at the office, but at home as well.
How can I learn more?
You’re not alone in thinking about how to make our community a greener place to live, work and play. In fact, the Resource Wise program has over 250 participating local businesses! And every year, the center recognizes their efforts by giving awards to five outstanding businesses. The improvements they have made may inspire you to take action too. The winners are:
- Rookie of the Year — Garden of Eden Flowers & Gifts
- Recycling Champion — Cala Pub and Restaurant
- Energy Champion — Copper Mountain Inn
- Most Improved — Rivers Clothing Co.
- Peak of Sustainability — Meta Yoga Studio
Join Resource Wise to receive free sustainability advice for your business, and the High Country Conservation Center will even help you pay for improvements you make. And check out other sustainable businesses across Summit County by browsing the green business directory at HighCountryConservation.org/business-directory.
“Ask Eartha Steward” is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at [email protected].