Money is power when you turn green
It’s the little things that add up. When contemporary arts centre Object Design decided to green up its offices, it upgraded to energy-efficient lighting and put a worm farm in the garage, prompting staff to add their organic foodscraps. The steps turned out to be more than feel-good moves, yielding more than $5000 a year in savings, more than double its initial investment.
Nearby hip inner-city Sydney drinking hole The Winery adjusted the water flow rates in its kitchen and bathrooms, and added an organics bin to have 70 tonnes of kitchen waste a year diverted from landfill, resulting in lower water costs and garbage collection fees. Next on its to-do list is to overhaul its lighting to use less energy.
Anthony Prior, of Keystone, the company that owns the bar said the changes were a ‘‘no-brainer’’.
‘‘There’s a business case for it, and you feel like you’re contributing and doing a little bit for the environment.’’
Similar plans will be rolled out at seven other Keystone venues.
As electricity prices skyrocket, heating up the political debate, and green awareness grows, business groups across the country are looking to help companies reduce their environmental footprint.
And while cutting emissions and looking after the environment are widely associated with higher costs, fuelled by the carbon tax, more companies are realising that becoming greener can also boost their profits, and they’re exploring local, state and federal programs supporting such moves.
Object Design and Keystone took part in the City of Sydney’s Smart Green Business program, aimed at helping small and medium-sized companies adapt their practices so that they’ll be in the black after turning green. The 260 companies it has advised so far are saving an average of $5000 a year in energy costs, plus water and waste expenses, according to Tom Belsham, the city’s manager of sustainability programs.
From Canberra, $20 million of federal government grants have gone to industry groups and non-profits working to help small businesses save energy, with a second round of grants opening in October.
One recipient, the Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is ramping up its ‘‘Carbon Compass’’ initiative educating small and medium-sized businesses about becoming more energy savvy.
The reasons for business owners to join in are varied, says the City of Sydney’s Belsham.
‘‘To be able to differentiate their business from a green perspective [for marketing] is a driver for some, but there are other drivers,’’ he says. ‘‘Some just see the economic sense, some look at it from the point of view that it’s the right thing to do, and it’s a classic opportunity to engage with their staff with something that is both in line with business and staff values.
‘‘Some see it as a necessary thing to do because of what’s happening in our society and from an overall perspective that this is where the train is moving.’’
Power prices have climbed by half over the past five years. The surge in energy costs, and prospects of more stringent government regulation may force companies to sooner or later overhaul their practices anyway, making it a smart move to get in early and reap the benefits, says Tony Hall from GreenBizCheck, a commercial environmental certification provider.
‘‘People should make sure it’s high on their agenda because it’s coming, so why not get on with it now and reduce future cost and risk,’’ he argues. ‘‘Energy costs are going to become so high that businesses will have no choice but to embrace sustainable business practices.’
- Study your business’s energy and water bills to identify potential areas of waste.
- Check lighting and electronic appliances, making sure equipment is up to date and not sucking too much energy, refrigerators seal properly. Reduce water flow rates in your taps and switch to energy-efficient lighting.
- Enquire about industry or government assistance. There’s initiatives such as the NSW Energy Efficiency for Small Business Program which offers help in assessing your energy consumption and offers up to $5,000 for buying and installing energy-efficient equipment.
- Use teleconferencing instead of business trips.
- Introduce recycling and organic waste bins.
- Promote a green work culture by encouraging staff to switch off lights when leaving the rooms, turn off all equipment and appliances when not in use, put down blinds to reduce need for heating or airconditioning, print double-sided, car-pool or ride the bike to work etc.
- To avoid a backlash, practice what you preach - don’t drive a Hummer to work or use a Nespresso machine without recycling the coffee capsules.
* Source: Mark Matthews, manager, Green Smart Business