It's Earth Day, and once again we proud, carbon-conscious conservers should reflect on the ways we can preserve and beautify this spinning rock we call home. Whether you're a small business or just one person, Going Green when it comes to the home and workplace can sound daunting, but it's a lot easier (and more beneficial) than you think. Here are 5 simple, innovative things you can do to cut your carbon use--and your costs, in the process:
1) Digitize Everything: You know those awesome IBM commercials? The ones that always end in the tagline: "Let's build a smarter planet"? Most of what they talk about in those ads is really just taking the things that are on paper and making them digital. Go get a scanner, like the Neat Desk, and turn all your paper into easily-editable, instantly-sendable documents. Your receipts, reports, itineraries, and more can be just one click away! No more stacks of unorganized tree product sitting on your desk, waiting to be lost. Yes, doing this can be a bit time-consuming; but once you're done, and it becomes habit, there's no better feeling. For you or the trees.
2) Email and Efax: Sure, you probably already do email, but when have you actually stopped to think: 'I can just email this to Bob instead of printing it out.'? Being conscious of not using the printer is what we're going for here. Oh, and if you don't know about it already, there's a wonderful product out there called "Efax." It does exactly what the name suggests: sends a fax, electronically. You can set up an account to receive electronic faxes to your own fax number, too. In many cases, sending an Efax every now and then is free, but even for the heavy hitters out there, it's still cheaper than buying all that paper and paying for the fax line.
3) The Miraculous E-Signature: If you're like me, you do pretty well with sending and receiving stuff electronically; but the one thing you just can't escape is when you have to actually sign something. You're in luck: a miracle exists, and it is called "E-Signature." Programs like Adobe Reader, or Mac's Preview program, heck-- even Microsoft Word all feature the option to add your John Hancock right on your computer (or iPad or iPhone). No printing, no scanning, no actual ink harmed in the making of this invoice; just send it off as you would any other email document. This has saved me countless cartridges of ink, and a few reams of paper.
4) Do The iPad Shuffle: It's presentation time, and you have a lot of information to cover. So like any good worker bee, along with tossing up the Power Point you hand out the paper version so everyone can follow along and make edits and markups. If you're a growing business, you probably do a decent number of presentations, but even if you only do a few, there's just no need to use all that extra paper and ink: a refurbished iPad is right around $300, and will replace that paper and ink every time you collectively stumble into the conference room. You can use it to view the slides, make edits, and take notes, sure; but if you want to get really fancy, you can collaborate in real time with everyone else on that presentation, making changes and sprouting ideas that everyone can see on their own iPad. Not to mention the fact that it's also a document scanner, an email workhorse, a cloud storage machine, and a Microsoft Office replacement. So get your people an iPad-- it'll pay for itself faster than you can figure out how to change the toner. Whatever toner is.
5) Educate Your Home & Office Electronics: At this point we've probably all heard of a "smart" device: a piece of equipment that automates a process or connects to a network to help you control it. Luckily, when it comes to saving on your energy costs (and reducing usage) there's no shortage of "smart" devices out there to help in your Green quest. Here are a few to get you started:
-The Belkin Conserve Switch is a surge protector that shuts off the juice when it's time to call it a day: just press a button on the included remote control, and the whatever you have plugged into it can no longer drain electricity. Buy a few of these and stick them around your home and office to save up to half on your energy costs.
-The Nest Smart Thermostat not only learns your energy use habits over time (like, when you get up or get home from work) to automatically adjust the temperature-- it can also be controlled from your smartphone or tablet. Smart heat and A/C at the tap of a virtual button is a reality, and it can save a whole bunch of carbon credits-- and dollars.
There are so many things we can do, and not just on Earth Day, to make this world a better place to inhabit. These Tech-minded tips are just a drop in the bucket, sure, but every drop counts. All we can do is be mindful of how we collaborate with this planet, and with enough of us making small differences, every day, we'll lick this Global Warming thing yet.