Entrepreneurs Can Go Green During National Small Business Week

by Terry Norris

National Small Business Week is a time to recognize everything great about America’s small firms, and one of the best things about small businesses is the contributions we make to our communities. Giving back is really important to me, and so is protecting our planet. So, when I had the opportunity to turn my business success into a benefit for my community, I didn’t hesitate to invest in Earth-friendly upgrades to my company.

I own a laboratory that performs high technology calibration services for the medical, aerospace, agricultural and film industries. We do things like calibrating electrocardiograph machines and performing highly accurate measurements of temperature and humidity. We’re great at what we do, and after five years of 10 percent annual growth, we decided we would become Antelope Valley’s first net zero electric commercial building, which means our building would generate as much energy as it consumes.

To reach this ambitious goal took comprehensive steps: we invested in a rooftop solar system, LED lighting, timers that shut off refrigerators, control systems that place the building in a low-power state, controls that shut of our water heater periodically, coated the roof with low volatile organic compound coatings and added insulation, among other measures. We also modified our outdoor lighting timers to coincide with astrological timing rather than a specific time, trained employees to shut off unused lights and systems, created a contract to replace our single-pane windows with double-pane windows, and performed maintenance on our five air conditioners.

These steps resulted in more than a 100 percent reduction in utility electrical consumption, reducing our electric bill to nearly zero, as well as making our laboratories and offices 40 percent brighter. What’s more, our total investment of $85,000 saw a return in under three years based on tax incentives and a decrease in our electricity bill.

I understand that not every California small business has thousands of dollars to invest in energy efficiency, but that doesn’t mean California’s small business owners can’t maximize their energy efficiency and help their bottom lines at the same time.

A great first step small business owners can take is to request an energy audit from their local energy providers. They typically have professional auditors who can inspect businesses to try to identify any issues and areas where they can save energy and money. Most owners probably aren’t aware of the latest upgrades or their own businesses’ inefficiencies, so this is a great way to assess any facility.

Then there are also some simple, everyday things business owners can do. Weatherization is central to energy reduction, including low-cost strategies like adding weather stripping, as well as upgrading to energy-efficient appliances and equipment. Installing a programmable thermostat and regularly changing air filters can make a big difference as well.

These are just some examples of the things California’s small businesses can do to improve the energy efficiency of their businesses, and organizations like Energy Upgrade California have even more tips.

Small businesses probably can’t save the Earth singlehandedly, but they can still do a lot. Few successful small firms succeeded without some help from their community, so small business owners who are able to assist locally have a responsibility to do so. I can’t think of a better time to start giving back than National Small Business Week.

Terry Norris is owner of Precision Labs Calibration, Inc. in Palmdale, Calif., and one of the 58,000 entrepreneurs in Small Business Majority’s network.