Going Green

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Turning a White Paper into Real Green

Using white papers to generate leads for your business.

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Five Simple Ways to Save Money and the Environment

Pulling ahead of the competition in today’s economy requires a lean, focused organization that makes customers feel good about doing business with you. With an uncertain stock market and leading economists debating whether the worst is over, now is a great time to cut some of the wasted expenses from your business. And now that consumers are clamoring for more environmentally sound products and giving preference to businesses that consider their impact on the planet, cutting waste may not only save you money, it could give you the edge that makes customers choose you over the competition.

Tax Credits for Going Green

Thinking about going green? There may be tax credits available to you for your initiatives.

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Evaluating Success

Now that you have set your goals and decided what to incorporate into your green plan, the final step is to establish some rules for evaluating the initiatives that you put in place.

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Building a Plan

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.

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Setting Goals

The first step in getting started with a new green plan is to set your goals. For most small business owners, the goal is rather simple: to save money. Even if everyone's goal is to save money, however, there are additional steps we need to take before our goals are properly set.

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How Can I Get Started?

When some small business owners think of going green, they might envision hours spent on the roof installing solar panels or other similarly complicated (and expensive) projects. For our purposes, let's put aside for now all the grand schemes and concentrate on small steps.

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Private Resources

The term "private resources" generally refers to private-sector financial assistance for those small businesses that want to go green. Those looking for loans or other financial assistance would typically be interested in larger scale projects involving upgrades to your business or new equipment. If the resources you're looking for are more in the nature of guidance and information rather than financial assistance for structural upgrades, go back to Federal Government Resources or State Resources.

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State Government Resources

State government resources are available to small businesses, although they are fairly limited. States offer low interest loans, grants, and other subsidies to small businesses to help them become more energy-efficient. In many cases, when you start exploring what might be available, you'll find that the benefits are targeted to those who develop the green technologies as often as to those who implement them, but it's worth looking around if you need financial assistance to adopt energy-efficient technologies.

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Department of Energy

The Department of Energy's role in green technologies is to support basic research into climate change and environmental degradation. It doesn't offer a great deal for a small business owner, unless the small business owner is involved in alternative technologies research and development.

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Small Business Administration Resources

As you might expect, the Small Business Administration provides energy efficiency assistance for small businesses.

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EPA Resources for Small Business

Probably the best place to start to look for small business resources through the Environmental Protection Agency is the Small Business Gateway. The Gateway includes general environmental information, environmental laws and regulations, suggestions for finding government funding, and access to environmental experts, if you're so inclined.

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Tax Incentives Generally

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 created several tax incentives for those involved in green technologies. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 and the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 extended the expiration date for many of those incentives, which had been set to expire at the end of 2008.

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Federal Government Resources

The resources available through the federal government for going green are mainly available through the Environmental Protection Agency and the Small Business Administration. Some resources are also available through the Department of Energy.

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What Resources Are Available?

Resources to help the small business owner adopt green technologies are available from the federal government, from state and local governments, and from private resources. Not surprisingly, informational resources are far more prevalent than financial resources, but some financial resources do exist. The problem for most small businesses is that many of those resources are targeted for the developer of green technologies rather than the end user.

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Gauging Indirect Benefits

Indirect or intangible benefits are defined for purposes of this discussion as those that are not capable of being easily measured. They range from the psychic benefits of feeling as if you're helping the environment to benefits that directly affect your business.

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Kilowatt Hours

While carbon footprints are the most common measure, other measurements do exist. Probably the next most common approach to measuring human energy consumption is in terms of kilowatt hours. The idea is to compute the amount of energy humans consume in all their activities and express that figure in kilowatt hours. One kilowatt hour is the amount of energy that a one-kilowatt light bulb will draw if left on continuously for an hour.

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Measuring Carbon Footprint

A carbon footprint is commonly considered to be a measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, often measured in units of carbon dioxide. The greenhouse gases are generated by the fossil fuels we burn to sustain our everyday living. The carbon footprint of any individual, business, or country can be measured.

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Measuring Savings

Being able to measure the amount of money you save from the green initiatives you adopt is arguably the most important step in the process, because without it you probably wouldn't adopt a green program. You need to be able to know whether your green initiatives are delivering cost savings.

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How Do I Determine Cost Effectiveness?

The benefits associated with adopting a green program in your small business fall into three categories:

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Recycling is defined as the process of converting used materials into new materials. Not every type of material can be recycled; those materials most commonly recycled are aluminum, cardboard, glass, paper, plastics, and steel. And contrary to what many believe, recycling is typically not one to one, meaning that material that gets recycled isn't necessarily converted to that same material. Thus, old glass doesn't necessarily end up as new glass, and old plastics don't necessarily end up as new plastics.

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Reducing Waste

Much is said about recycling, but relatively little about reducing waste in general. Although recycling is important, it isn't as effective in reducing landfills as trying to produce less waste from the beginning.

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Managing Waste

It's an unfortunate fact of life that we humans are generating an ever-increasing amount of waste. In the past 35 years, the amount of solid waste generated, on average, by each man, woman, and child in the U.S. has risen to 4.4 pounds a day from 2.7 pounds a day, according to the EPA. Biocycle magazine, an industry trade publication, reports that the U.S. generated 409 million tons of non-hazardous waste in 2001, up from 247 million tons just 11 years earlier.

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Conserving Water Resources

When green programs are discussed, most of us think in terms of global warming and what we might emit into the air. But going green embraces the broader goal of preservation of all of our resources, of which water is one of the most important. It's one of the most important because the availability of clean drinking water, which we tend to take for granted, is becoming alarmingly endangered.

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Getting from Place to Place

Modern transportation is a huge contributor to carbon dioxide emissions, which in turn is a significant component of global warming theory. Highway vehicles alone account for 26 percent of U.S. CO2 emissions, according to the EPA. Airplanes are also big contributors, spewing significant amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.

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