The expression “going green” might have a gimmicky sound, but for small businesses, selling environmentally friendly products and services can be very profitable. And even companies whose line of work is more traditional can benefit from using green products and practices.
Many company owners use environmentally friendly cars, recycle materials and buy biodegradable office supplies because they care about what happens to the environment. It also makes good business sense, making their companies more competitive and lifting employees’ morale.
W&M Properties, a New York-based real estate company that also has a construction affiliate, has switched its fleet of more than 25 pickup trucks to hybrid Ford Escape cars. President Tony Malkin said of the hybrids, “they pay for themselves in the fuel savings.” He noted that most of the company’s driving is done on local streets, and called the pickups’ mileage “appalling.”
W&M has also implemented recycling programs in the buildings it manages, including ones that handle discarded computers — “it’s what you’re supposed to do, but people don’t do it,” Malkin said.
The company also is recycling about half the materials it’s removing from a project being done for Pitney Bowes. “You’re using less landfill space, and it’s product that can be used again in the future,” Malkin said.
Malkin said his company is using more green practices because “the current way of doing business is destructible.” But, he said, “people want to do business in an environmentally sustainable fashion and we are at a competitive advantage by moving the needle toward green.”
There are many ways that companies can go green. Some of them are simple, and basic, such as conserving energy with appliances and equipment that aren’t power guzzlers. Recycling is a very common way to go green. So is buying paper and other supplies that are made with recycled material.
There are plenty of resources detailing how to go green on the Internet, in bookstores and in libraries. Environmental groups have information as well.
Mark Mandel, co-owner of Mark Drugs, a Roselle, Ill., pharmacy, said his business recycles even though the local government doesn’t have a recycling program.
“It’s an extra effort, but we feel it’s important to be conscientious about the environment,” he said.
Mandel said paper from computer printouts is sorted, with blanks pulled out, saved and reused. His company hasn’t needed to buy prescription pads since it started recycling.
He also finds it’s good for morale. “The staff realizes you are concerned,” he said, and noted that the good feeling generated by his attitude filters down to their interactions with customers.
“Everyone takes a team attitude,” he said.
The company plans to construct its own building in the future, and Mandel said it will be a green building.
Of course, for some companies, their reason for being is green, for example, organic food stores or manufacturers of clothing made from natural fibers only.
Floorworks, a Toronto-based hardwood flooring manufacturer, sells green products — it says its wood comes from forests that have been approved by the Forest Stewardship Council, a group that aims at managing forests in an environmentally friendly way. Co-founder Brian Greenberg said the company also donates a percentage of its profits toward the replanting of rainforests.
Greenberg said the company wanted to help fight the deleterious effects of climate change. “One of the problems we can address through the sale of our products is to be involved with reforestation.”
That kind of activism appeals to many consumers, who are often drawn to the idea that the money they spend can be doing good for the world. But they’re also looking for products and services that are good for them — Greenberg said his company has thrived by selling flooring that isn’t covered with polyurethane, but that’s protected by oil. That stops plastic particles from going into the air, he said.
The Greenhouse Grille, a Fayetteville, Ark., restaurant, sells organic food and uses as many environmentally friendly products and services as it can find. Clayton Suttle, a co-owner, said he and his partners have eaten organic food for years because of its health benefits, and “when we were looking into opening a restaurant, it just kind of carried over.”
“We’re trying to go as much so-called green as we can,” he said.
The partners weren’t sure from the get-go that their concept would work. But organic food has become very popular in their area, and the fact that local organic farmers were selling their meat and produce to the restaurant has helped.