In this economy, businesses are trying to cut costs any way they can.
Turns out, one big way to save is by going green.
The Early Show's green living contributor, Danny Seo of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, visited our Saturday Edition to suggest small changes that are not only good for business, but good for the environment, as well.
Not only can the more than 27 million small business owners in the United States play a huge role in conserving our natural resources, but their green actions can help their bottom line, too. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average office worker in the U.S. uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year. That's 4 million tons of copy paper used annually, or 96 trees. It all adds up:
CHOOSE ENERGY-EFFICIENT SERVER AND SOFTWARE
Probably the easiest way to improve your office's efficiency is by investing in a server. A huge benefit to having a server is that you can access your data from anywhere/anytime, and still maintain actual physical control of all of your data. Servers are built to sync with smart phones, which means you can work from virtually anywhere. What's fantastic is that many offerings are becoming increasingly affordable, energy efficient, and geared toward small businesses.
The Dell PowerEdge Server is one such model ($1,295; dell.com). It actually consumes up to 25 percent less energy than previous generations. When combined with performance gains, that results in up to a three-fold increase in performance-per-watt over previous generations.
Much like how your computer needs an operating system, servers require software to run. So, once you pick out a server that will have a small impact on the environment, you need to load it with software that will have a big impact on your business. For small business owners, you need something tailored to your specific needs.
The Microsoft Small Business Server software ($1,089;microsoft.com) is, as its name implies, built specifically for small businesses. By installing it, you can connect with customers, vendors, and suppliers from virtually anywhere, with access from any Internet-connected computer or a smart phone. Basically, with the correct server software, you can get just as much work done outside the office as in.
Creating an eco-friendly, paperless office has spin-off benefits. Aside from avoiding paper waste, you can also become more efficient in all areas of your business life, from cutting back on travel and fossil fuels to getting rid of all the material resources that paper demands, such as storage space, fax machines, toner cartridges, etc. Here's a staggering statistic: Fax machines annually consume around a trillion pages of paper, or 735 million trees. Going paperless would alleviate most of that waste.
Small businesses generate 60 percent of all commercial waste and cause half of all environmental damage worldwide, according to the European Environment Agency
FREE AND EASY WAYS TO UPGRADE
It's OK if you don't have the budget or technological comfort level to invest in a server. There are some other user-friendly resources available that can enable you to create an eco-friendly office:
Microsoft's Office Live Small Business (http://smallbusiness.officelive.com/) provides a ton of great tools that will bring all your processes online. You can create a company Web site, get up to 100 e-mail addresses, make a "virtual filing cabinet," manage projects, and track all your customer interactions. All of that's free and easy, to help you manage invoices and other paperwork without any paper.
ON THE GO TECHNOLOGY
The great thing about creating a paperless office is that the eco-benefits don't stop at the door if you use one a smart phone, which research shows is the No. 1 tool for small business owners. By a smart phone, I mean a cell phone that has many of the same Internet features as a laptop. Now that all your processes are online, you can access everything your office needs to function from anywhere with one of these phones. Forget driving to the office; run your business from anywhere and save a lot of gas.
The Samsung BlackJack II ($329.99. With a two-year AT&T commitment, it's $79.99) is a second-generation smart phone that's incredibly affordable. For a small price, you can get online and manage your business without having to drive to the office. Since the BlackJack II runs on Windows Mobile technology, it's built to give you some incredible features when interfaced with a server running Microsoft software. For example, Small Business Server software offers a "remote Web workplace" feature enabling you to access your Outlook e-mail, shared calendars, and internal network on your phone.
Another great smart phone is the HTC Touch Pro (Retails for $579.99. Two-year AT&T commitment is $299.99). It features a 3-D touch interface that makes it easy to zip through common tasks such as messaging, calendar appointments or making calls with just one touch. You can even deliver PowerPoint presentations with your phone, all with the touch of a button.
FROM OBSOLETE TO HI-TECH SAVVY
Forget the antiquated fax machine, which is an energy hog since it always needs to be on and uses reams of paper. Set up a digital Efax account (efax.com) and receive faxes sent directly to your e-mail inbox. People will send them via a regular dedicated fax number, but they're then scanned and sent to you as digital, totally readable documents. One benefit of Efax is that you can fax yourself important documents and create an instant digital file of that paperwork that you'll have on-hand whenever you need it; this is totally paperless, too.