By Hugh Tyrrell

Published in: Supermarket & Retailer  29 – 5 – 09

These days, it pays to think environmentally – not only because it’s the right thing to do but also because saving on natural resources such as water, electricity and petrol, and reducing wastage also makes a positive contribution to your bottom line.

Running your business  in an environmentally-friendly way gives you a competitive edge. Greening your business shows your care about the community you work in and this increases customer loyalty,  giving more reason for your customers to keep coming back.

Many of the tips and guidelines listed here you may  already know. It’s your job as owner or manager to see that they are talked through with staff and kept in place until they become part of everyday running of the business.

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What is eco-efficiency?

Being eco-efficient means buying and using as few natural resources  (like water, electricity, petrol, stationery, cleaning products) as possible in the operation of your business. It also means being smart with the use of resources and materials,  and ending up with as little wastage as possible.

Eco-management begins with measurement

To start on the path to eco-efficiency, you need to know how much of which resources you are using now. Most of the information you probably already have available, like water and electricity usage.  Keep it in a file or place that you can easily refer to, so you can compare savings over time as you introduce eco-efficient improvements.

Save on electricity use
  • Change over to compact flourescent  globes. Now widely available, these globes have a much longer life than standard globes, so they consume less electricity. Which means greater long-term money-saving for the business, and less carbon emissions into the air at the power station.
  • Set your hot-water geyser or system at a lower temperature. You don’t need scalding hot water to come out of the taps. This helps reduce energy required to heat the geyser.
  • Keep the door seals of refrigerators working properly, Frayed, torn or perished rubber seals let in warm air and  make the fridge motor work harder, increasing energy use and its costs.
  • Turn off lights, computers and unnecessary appliances at night and over weekends. You’ll be surprised how much can be saved over time if you and your staff are disciplined about this.
Use less petrol
  • Keep your vehicle engines well tuned. A smooth running engine burns less fuel (and reduces maintenance and repair bills too).
  • Plan your journeys carefully to combine multiple errands, reduce unnecessary trips and take the shortest routes
  • Keep your tyres properly inflated. This puts less tyre rubber on the road, which in turn reduces friction  – so less petrol is needed to keep the wheels turning.

Vehicle exhaust emissions contribute to global ‘greenhouse gas’ build-up which is leading to climate change (droughts, unpredictable extremes of weather, coastal flooding). You can minimise your contribution to greenhouse gases while reducing your fuel bills.

Save on water use

  • Find and fix leaks. These could be at taps and toilets inside as well as outside.
  • Fill a plastic litre milk bottle or two with water, seal and place in the toilet cistern. This saves you one or two litres at every flush.
  • Wait until there’s a big build-up of  cups and plates for washing-up. This way one sink of water washes all the crockery and cutlery at one time rather than continuous water use for washing throughout the day.
  • Cut down on car washing. In some areas, including Cape Town, wasting water in this way is against the law.

Buy ‘greener’  office and other products

There are many ways you can put your purchasing power to good ‘green’ use. Look out for and select environmentally-preferable products and services. Some environmentally-preferable products to choose include:

  • Recycled printer cartridges and refillable toner
  • Recycled paper and pads
  • Non-toxic cleaning materials
  • Eco-friendly pest control that doesn’t use highly poisonous chemicals

Manage and recycle waste

Keeping  your business premises clean and green makes customers and staff feel good, and  reduces health risks from flies and vermin. See that  sufficient bins are provided  for waste materials and other refuse and that they get from there into your local council’s regular waste removal system.  If litter is a problem outside your premises, ask your local council to provide more bins and to keep them emptied.

If you receive your stock in boxes, recycle the cardboard packaging once  there’s enough of it. If you sell beverages, make sure you are set up for receiving and returning glass bottle empties.

The tips and hints listed here are by no means comprehensive and may seem small, but if done continuously over time, add up to a big savings – for your bottom line and for our environment.

Hugh Tyrrell  is founder of GreenEdge Communications, a specialist green business consultancy. Visit or email or tel: (021) 4488123  Cape-based.