Renowned innovator and entrepreneur Elon Musk took green technology – a business segment that many saw as unprofitable 15 to 20 years ago – and turned it into the cornerstone of his companies.
But Musk wasn't alone in turning the page on making sustainable tech profitable. Other business owners started to see the multitude of benefits of going green for their organization, and that drove a need to develop products to support this new direction. Businesses large and small now look to gain the perks of being environmentally friendly, from cost savings to increased customer recognition.
Simple actions like switching to LED bulbs can save a company significant money while also saving the environment. But technology can help you go beyond these initial changes and solidify your commitment to green business practices.
Cloud-based technology for going green
Cloud computing has long been touted as a means for companies to save money. Since it allows organizations to only use the computing power they need, when they need it, and spin up new servers on-demand, it provides flexibility while limiting costs.
But leveraging the cloud can also contribute to your goals as an environmentally friendly company. By using AWS, Azure or other cloud platforms, you can reduce the real estate needed in your offices that previously housed servers. Beyond space for these systems, organizations using the cloud also reduce the level of environmental controls required to keep servers operating properly. Anyone who has ever stepped inside of an ice-cold server room can attest to the massive amounts of energy used to control the temperature in these rooms.
Be aware that moving to the cloud is not just transferring your environmental impact to someone else. Cloud servers host numerous virtual servers instances on a single, powerful server, as opposed to an organization using a server as a single-task resource. And because cloud facilities are dedicated to this purpose, they install highly efficient environmental systems to manage the internal environment. Cloud providers also have the option of locating in naturally cooler parts of the country and world, reducing the use of air coolers and humidity controls.
Reduce emissions with remote work options and tools
According to the EPA, the average passenger vehicle emits 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year. In addition, cars also contribute to the amount of methane, nitrous oxide, and hydrofluorocarbons in the atmosphere. Certainly, ridesharing and public transportation help to reduce these greenhouse gas emissions, but for many in the United States, these are not readily available options.
Working remotely, on the other hand, even a day or two a week, reduces the need for commuting. With an increasing number of collaborative technologies available to companies, and the acceptance of mobile applications as part of the corporate ecosystem, telecommuting today is easier than ever before.
Collaborative applications like Google's G Suite and Microsoft's Office 365 make it convenient to work and share documents and spreadsheets from the home office to the corporate one. And because working documents are saved in the cloud, such as Google Drive or Microsoft's OneDrive, team members can pick up where they left off, regardless of where they are working on a given day.
When everyone is in a single office, a question can be answered by walking down a hall or across the building. With telecommuters, access is just as easy with communication tools like Slack and Skype, colleagues can chat or even call one another, share files, and even search previous conversations, as well as hosting real-time conversations between groups.
Reducing daily commutes isn't the only way an organization can lower transportation usage in a move to become a green company. Virtual meeting software can limit the amount of air travel required as part of their business operations while still allowing for voice and even (virtual) face-to-face communication.
Meeting software like Skype, Zoom and Hangouts, provide the ability to meet whenever and wherever works for the attendees and a meeting can be initiated at a moment's notice. Thanks to cameras being ubiquitous on laptops and phones and an inexpensive addition for desktop computers, it's possible to see all meeting attendees without the need for extensive travel to do so. [Read related story: Tech Gadgets for Your Working Vacation]
Multiple savings with 3D printing
A revolutionary innovation in manufacturing, 3D printing has changed the way companies create products and manage inventory. These changes are great for cost-savings and even better for the environment.
Traditional production methods for metal parts and products, for instance, typically relied on taking a larger block of material and cutting it down to create a part. Creating the same part or product with 3D printing requires the item to be built up using layer upon layer of material, creating a nearly lossless production process. The result is a need for fewer raw materials and less waste.
The production process with 3D printing can also be more agile. Instead of needing to create larger numbers of products and store them in a warehouse, 3D printing allows for smaller batch runs and can more easily switch production from one part or product to another. Moving toward more just-in-time manufacturing results in a need for less standby inventory, and furthermore for less warehouse space. With a smaller warehouse footprint, companies become more environmentally friendly by reducing the energy required to maintain large storehouses of product.
Moving an organization to more green practices can be as simple as changing a light bulb or committing to using recycled paper products or can be as complex as changing and updating your manufacturing processes or staffing systems. Regardless of the complexity of change, technology has made going green a more realistic prospect for companies, regardless of industry.