Small businesses have basic needs similar to that of any living being. People need air, water, and food to survive. Small businesses typically need water and energy in order to operate. Energy can take various forms including electricity, gas, and alternative energy. When things are considered “essential” it is easy to overlook it as an area for possible cost savings. The interesting twist is that with savings on things like water and energy you are often making an improvement in the environment as well. So you have much to gain and almost nothing to lose by broadening your view on procurement to include basic necessities like water and energy.
Taking simple efficiency measures can yield big savings results with regard to water. You can bet your employees act differently on the job than at home where they pay the bill. It’s not always out of malice or to cause problems, but often just because they aren’t paying the bill they don’t think about it. Encourage employees not to leave the tap running on full strength when washing their hands, cleaning dishes after lunch in the break room, and any other water use that is typical in your office. Create your own version of a public service announcement to help employees start thinking about water use differently. Employees are also your first defense against plumbing problems. If they see a leaky faucet or toilet, be sure to have a process for them to report these problems instead of just shrugging it off as someone else’s responsibility. Follow that up with better maintenance particularly when plumbing issues are reported. Timely attention to problems will minimize the financial impact.
Finally, you’ll want to take ownership of the water budget. Examine it and monitor it regularly. If you have different meters or different locations make sure to hold each one responsible for the water use for their portion of the business. If they know it matters, they will make it matter. Does that make sense? If leadership put emphasis on water use, then middle management and ultimately employees will all start to do their part.
Energy bills are often one of the most dreaded of all expenses by a small business. Here are some common sense tips, some of which you probably do at home that can help reduce energy costs. Leaving electronic devices plugged in, even when not in use, are a huge energy drain. You’ll want utilize power strips that make it easy for each station to unplug their computer, printer, fax, lamps, and pencil sharpeners (or whatever else they have plugged in) each night before leaving. At a minimum, adjust settings to put everything into energy-saving sleep mode while still allowing pertinent programs to remain open. Install an energy-star rated programmable thermostat that can be set to automatically adjust temperatures in the office during the workday versus unoccupied times in the evenings and weekends. Sure it can be done manually, but this is one less thing you need to concern yourself with. If you feel like the office parent, constantly nagging your children, ah-hem, employees to turn off the lights when they leave a room consider sensor lighting that turns on when you enter and off after a period of no motion is detected.
Regular maintenance and cleaning can also make a significant impact on energy use. Crippled or broken HVAC systems consume energy like a black hole to try and compensate and keep up. Set up an annual check by a professional and make sure to keep replacing filters on a regular and consistent basis. You will also want to check your office refrigerators regularly as well. Maybe you have several in different parts of the building. Check gaskets, coils, and dust buildup to make sure these are running smoothly and efficiently.
A slight change in perspective on the procurement of water and energy for your business can add up to a significant amount of savings and in the process help your business decrease its environmental footprint.