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Posted on Apr 30, 2012 in Blog, Waste, Water

SMEs, Save Money By Going Green!

Resource Efficiency is the new buzzword.  With our limited amount of natural resources and with the astronomical

level of extraction of non-renewable natural resources over the decades, our world is facing a future with less available and more expensive virgin materials.  Additionally, as we are in a time of peak oil (where production of oil will continually decline) businesses, including SMEs, will have to adapt to a new business paradigm by using less energy, producing less waste and formulating new business practices to reduce their costs and create a healthier bottom line.

5 ways of reducing your resource footprint

1-            Reduce your electricity and energy bill

After salaries, the biggest cost for most service-based SMEs is their electricity bill.  Computers, printers, overhead lighting and other electricity sapping equipment are the prime users of electricity.  This is an area where a small behavioural change will have a big impact.  Much of our electricity is wasted… computers and other equipment on but not in use and lights on when no one’s about.  Leaving equipment on standby uses up to 40% of electricity it uses when in full use.

An easy way to reduce costs and cut down on spending is by installing motion sensors for lights in less used areas such as the bathrooms, halls or kitchen.  A more manual method is simply ‘SOS’ (switch off something) and turn off all electronics and lights that are not in use.  The EPA estimates that an average business will waste €6,000 annually by not switching off computers/ equipment/ lights over the weekends and bank holidays.

Another way to easily save some money is to turn off the heating system when leaving for the night and during the week-end.  Lowering your thermostat by 1°C saves up to €100 a year.

2-            Waste disposal

The cost of disposing your waste will continue to rise with the landfill levy at €50 and rising.  Small businesses need to investigate methods of reducing their waste stream.  The 3-Rs are incredibly important when reducing your waste bill…reduce (don’t produce waste in the first place), reuse and recycle.

  • Reduce by not printing emails and not purchasing disposable products
  • Reuse by printing on both sides of the paper and using old envelopes and scrap paper for notepads.
    • Reuse your computers and other equipment by donating them to a computer recycler who will clean the disk and computer and resell at a discount to other SMEs or charities.
  • Recycle paper/cardboard, glass, plastic, metal and organics (food) in recycling stations in the office (don’t put bins at desks) and to make it easy, office recycling should resemble home recycling.
    • Recycle old electronics by dropping them off at the place of purchase or your local recycling amenity centre.  You can find your nearest centre that accepts electronics on your local county website.  Please don’t dump them because there are valuable metals locked up in the product as well as dangerous materials such as mercury, lead, cadmium, chromium, CFCs, PCBs, asbestos and arsenic.

You can also donate your old computer to a local school, charity, or nonprofit organization.  See article on Promise-It in our newsletter.

To avoid lunch time waste, try to bring your own cups, glasses, cutlery and dishes to work to avoid throw-away plastics.  As Ireland’s tap water must meet EU drinking water standards, most of our tap water is of high quality and can be consumed directly…bottled water is not necessary and adds to an already large plastic waste stream.

Shop around for your waste management service…this is a competitive marketplace.  Additionally, avoid the use of open skips.  You pay for the rental and by weight and if they are open, you will also pay for the rainwater lodged in the skip…they also attract vermin.  Using a wheelie bin is a much more cost effective method and encourages waste separation and recycling.

3-            Water Consumption

Water metering is the topic of the moment.  Although most households at present don’t pay for their water, most businesses have had to face water charges for a while now, unless you work from your home.  Nevertheless, businesses can reduce their water usage and hence their costs by a few simple methods:

  • Replace your 20 litre flushing toilet with a dual flush system or place a bottle or brick into the cistern to displace water and reduce the amount of drinking quality water flushed down the pipes.
  • Fix leaks.  One leaky tap can waste up to 75 litres of water/day.
  • Take night-time meter readings.  If you find that your business is using water during the evening hours when no one’s about, you most likely have a leak.  Fixing your leaks will also save you money.
  • Does your business have a running urinal with water constantly running through the system?  If so, replacing it with a simple flush system will save you a great amount of money.
  • Lastly, if you are a big user of water, you may want to invest in a rainwater harvesting system, which would most likely pay for itself within 4-5 years.

4-            Responsible purchasing

To support resource efficient  suppliers, try purchasing supplies that are made from recycled products including pens, paper or packing material.  Changing your current incandescent light bulbs to CFLs or LEDs is another energy efficient purchase—one bulb lasts around 5 years and saves around €100/bulb in costs. CFLs use 70 percent less electricity than their incandescent counterparts, which, as a result of a bill passed last December, will begin to be phased out in 2012.

If you are in the market to purchase new equipment, try to purchase energy efficient items with ‘AA’ rating.  These items will save you further electricity costs.  Additionally there are grants through the Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland (SAEI) to help finance the purchase of these items.

  • The SEAI has developed the Accelerated Capital Allowance (ACA), which is a tax incentive which aims to invest in energy saving technologies.  The ACA allows companies to write off 100% of the purchase value of qualifying energy efficient equipment against their profit in the year of purchase.

5-            Transport Costs

Most of a business’s carbon footprint comes from its air travel and staff commuting by car.  Not only  does travel increase CO2 emissions, it can also affect the bottom line.  A business can save money, time and resources by limiting the amount of air travel.  Where possible, a business should attempt to conduct meetings through teleconferencing.  Where travel is necessary, travel by public transport should be the first consideration.  Not only is travel by train/bus more carbon friendly, but with the current cost of petrol, it is more cost efficient and conducive to working en route.

Additionally, when considering staff car commuting, there are several government tax deductions that businesses can avail of to reduce their travel costs.

Tax Benefits and Government Grants:

Bike to Work
Do you know that you can get tax relief of up to €1,000 for buying a bike to cycle to work?
This is a Government initiative that enables your employer to buy a bicycle and bicycle accessories for you, without you being liable for benefit in kind taxation. For a tax payer at the top rate, this equates to a minimum saving of 41% on the cost of a new bike.
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In Dublin, many individuals are taking advantage of the Dublin bike scheme.   An annual pass can be purchased for €10 and further charges are only imposed when a bike trip is longer than 30 minutes.  This is a great and well-received new development in Dublin.


Public Transportation
With, you can cut the cost of your commute.  Employees and directors can receive Annual, Monthly and Part Yearly rail/bus/ferry commuter tickets which are Tax and PRSI free as part of their salary package.
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A Final note… An environmental audit can save you money and the environment

Small businesses can receive a free resource efficiency audit through a programme initiated by EPA.  For more information about this service, check out

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