Everyone these days is talking about going green, saving the planet and looking for ecologically responsible ways of getting their work done. But talk is cheap. In many cases cheaper than a lot of eco-friendly solutions. So while many folks have good intentions, few follow through and spend the extra money to recycle their recyclables or use eco-friendly products. But what most people don’t realize is that there are some eco-friendly alternatives that are actually less expensive than their conventional counterparts. And that’s what I’d like to discuss here–ways that technology can help save the planet while saving your business money.
A commercial jet flying from New York to Denver puts as much CO2 into the atmosphere per-passenger as an SUV does in a month, according to a report in USA Today. While you may not be able to completely eliminate business travel, you can reduce it substantially using video conferencing and remote collaboration technologies such as the Mondopad.
Rather than flying your staff out to your remote offices frequently, conduct your meetings remotely using video conferencing with shared whiteboard and application sharing capabilities. For the cost of a few trips you can have remote collaboration anytime you need it. If you currently travel a lot you can easily save thousands of dollars each year and spend more time at home.
Use Less Paper
The vertical file cabinet was invented in 1898. And, believe it or not, the first FAX machine in 1843. Writing paper dates back almost 2000 years. So why are these still the predominant means of storing and sharing information? I guess old habits are hard to break. The U.S. is the largest consumer of paper, consuming 68 million tons per year. That’s a lot of trees.
What are the alternatives? Let’s be realistic. Use of paper is not going to stop overnight. Many business processes rely on documents being copied and/or faxed. Until those business processes change, paper will remain the preferred media for many. The easiest way to reduce the amount of paper is to store electronic copies on computers rather than making paper copies, and transmitting these electronic copies using email or other means rather than faxing to paper. Every modern office has computers and many have page scanners and email. So this is an easy first step for many. If the equipment already exists, the savings occur immediately through reduction of paper.
For those who want to take the next step, electronic document management (EDM) is that step. These systems can take your scanned electronic documents and store them in a way that makes them searchable and allows them to be categorized multiple ways. This has obvious advantages over file cabinets. Good EDMs will also take documents created with basic office software and store those also. Once stored, documents can be transferred and routed to other employees electronically for further processing. It is conceivable that a document can go through its entire lifecycle without ever being printed on paper. While these systems are not cheap, they do offer cost savings through increased employee productivity.
iPads and other tablet computers are also contributing to the reduction of paper. Attorneys, for example, are starting to take light-weight iPads to the courtroom rather than lugging boxes of paper files. And salespeople are entering orders on their iPads rather than writing and faxing paper orders.
Energy Efficient Computers
Even if you use computers to reduce the size of your footprint on the Earth, your computer itself might be an energy hog. Just because your computer or monitor has an Energy Star compliant logo on it doesn’t mean it’s not sucking more electrons than it needs. It still needs to be configured to use less energy. Most modern computers and operating systems (such as Windows 7) enable you to shut down parts of the computer when they are not in use. Monitors, hard drives, network cards and even the processor can be configured to go into a reduced power mode or even shut down completely when not in use. Some hard drive manufacturers are now also creating drives that spin slower or at variable speeds to reduce power consumption. And computer manufacturers like Dell are providing higher efficiency power supplies that use less power than standard ones.
You don’t need to invest in new equipment to get the power saving configuration settings mentioned above. Just use the Power options in your Windows Control Panel and you can start saving energy (and money). If you do invest in higher efficiency computers and parts, the low additional cost will pay for itself over time.
Saving the planet does not have to cost money. In fact, having the right “green” technology applied correctly can save money. If you would like to explore ways your company can go green, save money, or both, let us know.