Now that we have some ideas about goals, it's time to put together a plan for your small business. Recommending a plan that would fit all small businesses is, of course, impossible. What works for a small shop with several employees might be quite different from what works for a home-based business. Thus, feel free to modify the suggestions that follow to meet your particular business needs.
As previously discussed, starting with a modest plan for the first year is probably the best approach because it will be the easiest to implement and its success or failure will be the easiest to measure. To begin, let's target two areas: electricity use and waste.
On the electricity side, our goal will be to reduce our energy costs. The EPA's ENERGY STAR program has set a goal of reducing commercial and industrial energy costs by 10 percent. Let's use that as our long-term goal. We'll set a more modest goal, however, of a 5 percent reduction in our electric bill for the first year and an additional 5 percent for the second year.
There are any number of steps we can take to try to reduce our energy bill, but if adopt too many in the first year we run the risk of losing our ability to measure the value of any one step. So let's begin more modestly. Let's commit to turning off lights, computers, and any other devices that use electricity when not in use.
Another great step would be to replace your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs, but a word of caution first. Use your common sense in determining when to replace the bulbs. If you've just bought a supply of incandescent light bulbs, you're not going to be saving 5 percent on your energy costs if you turn around and buy a second set of fluorescent bulbs. On the other hand, the sooner you replace your incandescent bulbs, the sooner you can begin to realize savings on the switch. Thus, this plan will recommend that you switch, but you should time your own switch in a way that makes the most sense for your situation. One possible approach is just to replace the old bulbs with the new fluorescent bulbs as the old ones burn out.
In the second year, you can commit to an additional step, such as lowering or raising your thermostat to reduce your energy costs.
Electricity Energy Plan
As a result, here is our energy plan:
|Energy Plan: Year 1|
|Goal: Reduce electric bill by 5%|
|Step 1: Determine current energy costs, including monthly electric bills for the previous year, as well as incidentals, such as the annual cost of buying replacement bulbs|
|Step 2: Commit to turning off all lights, computers, and other users of electricity when not in use|
|Step 3: Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs|
|Energy Plan: Year 2|
|Goal: Reduce electric bill by 5% (as measured against the energy costs prior to Year 1)|
|Step 1: Continue committing to turning off all lights, computers, and other users of electricity when not in use|
|Step 2: Continue to replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs|
|Step 3: Lower your thermostat by one degree in the winter and raise your thermostat by one degree in the summer|
Now let's look at the waste side of our plan. Waste is a little more difficult to measure than energy consumption, so let's try to stick to efforts that are more easily measured. As with energy consumption, we'll keep the waste measures simple in the early years.
For a goal, we'll use the same 10 percent that we used for energy costs, but let's shoot for the full 10 percent in the first year. As with energy consumption, there are many options, but we'll only adopt three in the beginning to keep it simple.
Waste Reduction Plan
Here is our waste reduction plan:
|Waste Reduction Plan: Year 1|
|Goal: Reduce annual office supply costs by 10%|
|Step 1: Determine current annual office supply costs as they apply to copy paper and printer ink cartridges|
|Step 2: Commit to printing on both sides of the paper whenever possible|
|Step 3: Buy recycled printer paper when replacing current printer paper|
|Step 4: Refill printer ink cartridges rather than buy new ones|
|Waste Reduction Plan: Year 2|
|Goal: Reduce annual office supply costs by 5% (as measured against the office supply costs prior to Year 1)|
|Step 1: Continue to commit to printing on both sides of the paper whenever possible |
|Step 2: Continue to buy recycled printer paper|
|Step 3: Continue to refill printer ink cartridges|
|Step 4: Commit to electronic-only as much as possible; avoid printing documents whenever possible|
Evaluating the Success of Your Plans
Once these plans are set in motion, several questions remain unanswered. Should I evaluate at the end of Year 1 or wait until Year 2? What about other green initiatives not mentioned in either plan? If my goals are not met, what changes should I make? For answers to these questions and more, see Evaluating Success.