How small businesses can save money on energy - East Valley Tribune: Business

How small businesses can save money on energy

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Posted: Thursday, May 5, 2011 4:15 am | Updated: 6:22 pm, Thu May 5, 2011.

Environmental measures can be easy or hard. Go for the easy measures with the biggest return first. Shel Horowitz, author of "Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green", offers some excellent advice:

Most businesses leak huge quantities of heated air in the winter and cooled air in the summer. Simple and very inexpensive measures like insulating outlets and switch plates on outside-facing walls with foam gaskets (and plugging unused outside-wall outlets with baby outlet protectors) can make an immediate difference. Make sure windows are properly caulked and doors to the outside close tightly and have rubber sweeps.

Install programmable thermostats to stop heating/cooling air when the building is shut for the night. Plug computers, machinery and appliances into smart power strips that eliminate "energy vampires" by cutting power to the device when it's not in use.

Cut your paper costs by 40 percent or so by switching to depleting (two-sided) printers and copiers, setting them to default to two-sided, and training your employees to use that setting when possible.

Encourage employees to do more on screen and print less in the first place. Tell them about the computer settings that display larger print without changing the actual document, for instance, the Zoom feature in Microsoft Word and most Internet software. This makes reading on the screen a lot more comfortable.

Next, look at steps you can take to make your employees more comfortable and happier, which in turn will make them more productive. Bring houseplants into work areas -- they chew up carbon dioxide (a major greenhouse gas) and turn it into oxygen. Provide natural lighting where possible.

Set aside the money you save from these measures to look at more complex steps, such as adding more insulation, auditing your manufacturing process for energy savings, planting an area of your roof or adding solar panels, going through the LEED or Energy Star certification process, and so on.

Start talking about all the green things you're doing in your marketing, on your website, and in your press releases. In some cases, the marketing benefit can be enough to cover the capital cost of the next round of improvements.

For further information, please visit

Bruce Freeman, The Small Business Professor, is president of ProLine Communications, a marketing and public relations firm in Livingston, NJ and author of "Birthing the Elephant" (Ten Speed Press). E-mail questions to

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