First Person: Going Green Helped My Business Save and Grow

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I gained a lot of points for being Eco-friendly in my small business, and even gained a loyal customer base for doing it. Saving money along the way is just the extra perk. I saved $1500 in the first year using these 5 key measures to "go green" in my small business. Anyone can do the same. The eco effort required was small.

Register receipts

I noticed that most of the cash receipts in my video store were just being tossed in the trash. Each night I was throwing away pails of my own cash receipts - an incredible waste. The first step I took was to make my receipts smaller. I adjusted my machines to the smaller sized paper, and reduced the amount of printing to just the necessary information. I'm always dismayed that my grocery store receipt is 24 inches long for 5 items, and loads of advertising. Second, I started a policy of only printing a receipt "on request." A receipt is only printed if the customer asks for one, and a sign clearly indicates this. I went from spending $650 per year on paper and ink, to just $75 per year. I also saved some trees.

Solar Lighting

No, I didn't install full solar panels, but there are other ways to use solar power. With a huge front window, I didn't need to have lights on near the front. Plenty of sunlight comes in already. I put solar light bulbs (often called solar garden lamps) in the front window, so they charged all day and stayed lit at night. These are now available at any hardware store for less than $50. If it's possible, install a skylight to let in more sunlight.

Bags

Have some cloth bags printed with your logo. Offer them "at cost" or free to your customers. It's good advertising, and will save you a lot on the cost of paper or plastic bags. I had hundreds of cloth bags and book-bags printed. The average cost was $3.05 per bag, and I sold them for 2.99. However, I saved $400 a year on plastic bags. Meanwhile, hundreds of students were sporting my store logo at their schools. Free advertising.

No Fliers or Coupons

Replace fliers with signs and emails. Printing 1000 fliers for a store promotion is wasteful. It's better to email the promotions and have them posted on signs in the store window. My experience is that 90% of all fliers end up littering the streets, anyway. Don't print coupons, but have coupon codes instead. Customers don't print an emailed coupon; they just mention the code.

Extra Insulation

Rent a store or office in a busy district with a row of buildings that connect. This provides extra insulation. My first store was in a mini mall, so my store was actually inside a larger building. My heating and air conditioning costs were minimal, since I was insulated by the mall itself.

Ask your staff to make more "green" suggestions and offer an incentive for them to help. Install bike racks to encourage biking over driving.

Advertise that you're an eco-friendly business, and explain your measures to your customers. You'll be surprised how loyal they become to green stores. It's win-win for the small business owner.

*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a small business story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.

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