by Jace Brewer, Loan Officer for ACE

I don’t consider myself an environmentalist, conservationist, or preservationist. I work in the lending department at ACE and my focus is on small business.  So when given the task of creating a green plan for ACE, reducing expenses to impact the bottom line was my primary concern.  It is my belief that this priority in respects to “greening” a business is consistent with those of Georgia’s small businesses while facing this recession.

When given the charge, a team was created to deal with the task.  Fellow loan officer John Lawson and I were it. Our first order of business was to view the income statement and find expenses that could be reduced while providing a measurable benefit to the environment.  It is with these specific expenses in mind that a green plan was devised.

With respect to our organization, these costs were travel, utility, and office supply expenses.  Once we arrived at this point, a separate “mini-plan”, if you will, was created to reduce each expense and therefore reduce our environmental impact.

Travel Expense

Staff meetings, board meetings, special meetings, and spur of the moment meetings not only create additional payroll for travel time, but fuel must be purchased as well as mileage reimbursement paid out when applicable.  Additionally, as we all have been made aware, the burning of fossil fuels does not produce a positive impact on our environment.    Brainstorming took place and after reviewing possible solutions the answer to our dilemma pointed to video conferencing.  By purchasing web cameras for the office and for select staff and board members, the meetings of the minds could take place without having to spend operating capital on travel costs.  Sounding too good to be true, professional skepticism was employed and an analysis was conducted to portray the cost of setting up such a network versus the cost of fuel that would be spent driving.

For our organization video conferencing made fiscal sense.  The hardware needed to perform the video conferencing appears overwhelmingly cheap when compared with filling up the tank.  In addition, Skype, offers free and reliable video conferencing for up to six locations at once.

Once the amount of mileage to be saved by video conferencing is known, the Environmental Protection Agency, warmly known as the EPA, offers standard formulas to determine the amount of carbon output to be reduced by the decreased mileage.

Our spreadsheets exhibiting how the cost analysis was conducted and how we plan to capture our carbon reduction will be posted soon.

Utility Expense

When attacking this line item, we knew we needed some help.  There are hundreds if not thousands of energy auditors that provide services to weatherize offices or homes.  Before hiring an energy auditor, check the Energy Circle Guide to choose the right one for your needs.

Once the energy audit is complete a rough estimate should be available detailing the percent of utility bill that can be reduced by following the auditor’s recommendation.  We will be posting an Energy Audit Spreadsheet to help determine the cost effectiveness of performing the improvements relative to the cost.  Knowing the savings to be generated relative to the costs to make the improvements is vital information to know when considering the auditor’s conclusions.

Once the improvements to be made have been selected, one can again use measurements provided by the EPA to determine the carbon reduction to be generated by the improvements.

However, reducing utility costs doesn’t end there.  A policy for employees needs to be created using input from all employees.  The policy should include feasible energy reducing behavior that all employees can abide by.  Some of these activities may be as simple as turning computers off when exiting the office or closing the door when exiting.  Be creative, but do not lose sight of your business’ productivity.  Green Biz provides information on how to energize your employees when working towards “greening” your business.

Office Supply Expense

….Still working on this one….

Recycling

Recycling is something that everyone can do and do cheaply.  For over a year, Ace has recycled its plastic bottles and aluminum cans.  However, this avoided tackling our biggest use of all, office paper.  In many Northern Georgia counties, there are simply no facilities within a reasonable distance that will recycle such paper.  White County for example is one of those counties.  Fortunately for ACE an entrepreneur came to the rescue.  Eric Kilgor, with his newly created Recycle North Georgia company, provides recycling for surrounding North Georgia counties.  If no business can be found willing to perform the task, consider composting your paper or storing it so that annual or monthly trips can be made to make recycling feasible for your organization.

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