Entrepreneurs

7 ways going green can save you lots of money

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Going green=more green

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Let's be honest: If you run a business, reducing your carbon footprint might not be your top priority. But going green can actually save money for you and your business — and improve your workplace culture in the meantime.

For example, one report from 2012 found that hospitals that reduce energy consumption and waste produced could save $15 billion over a decade.

Another study that year, by UCLA and the University of Paris-Dauphine, found that employees at eco-friendly companies are 16 percent more productive than average. The authors wrote that these workers were more motivated, better trained and formed more interpersonal relationships, which in turn increased efficiency.

Helping your company become more environmentally conscious can be a lot easier than you might think: A move as simple as installing solar panels can cut your taxes by nearly a third of the installation cost — and could cut your energy bills in half.

From conserving water to tax incentives, here are seven ways to a greener and more profitable business.

—By CNBC's Josh Weiss and Susie Poppick
Posted 20 April 2016

1. Switch to eco-friendly lighting

LED light bulb (L) and a compact florescent (CFL) light bulb
Scott Olson | Getty Images

Light emitting diode (LED) bulbs can use 25 to 30 percent less energy than incandescent light and last 25 times longer — which means big savings.

"LEDs are the most efficient lighting technology on the planet," said Josh Gehly, vice president of Green Lighting LED.

Some LEDs can last 20 years or more. While they are slightly more expensive upfront than incandescents, these bulbs and others like it (such as compact fluorescent lights or CFLs) pay for themselves in saved energy and replacement costs. Depending on the size of your company and where it is located, you could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars annually: Switching out 100 bulbs turned on for eight hours each day could save more than $1,000 per year.

In fact, the Department of Energy projects that widespread use of LEDs could save the U.S. more than $30 billion overall by 2027.

2. Buy used or eco-friendly furniture

Shoppers carry items purchased during the Alameda antiques fair
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Some people may not enjoy the idea of buying second-hand furniture, but used items can cut furniture costs in half and reduces landfill waste.

"The greenest thing you can do is buy re-used furniture," said sustainability expert Jennifer Schwab.

In the wake of the recession, purchases of second-hand furniture rose as many failed businesses were forced to sell their furniture to other operations, she said. If the pieces you buy are high-quality or collector's items, the furniture can even retain its value, she said.

Those shopping for new chairs, tables and other items should consider furnishings made of green materials. Wood pieces certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, for instance, come from trees grown in sustainable and socially responsible conditions. Bamboo is also considered by some experts to be eco-friendly, since its fast growth avoids the need for pesticides.

New eco-friendly furniture might not be cheaper upfront, but good-quality pieces last longer and can be more intelligently made, said Schwab. For example, Herman Miller designs modular furniture with easily replaced sections, so you can spend less if only one part of a piece breaks.

3. Let them work from home

Jesse Wild | Computer Arts Magazine | Getty Images

By allowing employees to work remotely, you can reduce your carbon footprint and paper waste, and cut down on costs required to light, heat and cool your office.

More people working from home also cuts down on carbon emissions from commuting. The federal government seems to support the shift toward more flexible policies: A 2013 report found that 47 percent of EPA employees were working remotely or "teleworking."

Companies can reap big financial benefits from letting workers go remote, according to Global Workplace Analytics: IBM has cut down real estate costs by $50 million, and overall the average real estate savings for a full-time teleworker is roughly $10,000 per employee per year.

4. Cut food waste and encourage healthy eating

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Healthier employees means lower health-care costs.

If you have a company cafeteria, consider creating incentives for employees to purchase heart-healthy, nutrient-rich foods. For example,