Time and money are precious when building a startup. Because going green is often seen as expensive on both fronts, and because it’s a relatively new thing in the MENA region, many entrepreneurs feel intimidated, and stop their efforts before even starting.
Contrary to common beliefs, there are many simple things you can do to green your business without any previous expertise, dedicated budget, or waste of time. And the good news is, they’ll also help your startup save money!
Here are a few tips to make your MENA startup environmentally friendly:
Reduce paper waste
This is the easiest thing you can do at your startup to reduce your carbon footprint, and it will definitely cut your paper and ink cartridge budget. Only print what absolutely must be printed. If you have to print, print double-sided pages, with small fonts, use post-consumer waste paper, and print in draft mode. And don’t forget to use scrap paper to take notes.
Pay attention to your workspace
Last year, our contributor Leena AlOlaimy suggested entrepreneurs could opt for upcycling used office furniture rather than buying brand new. It saves money, she says, and re-painting, decorating and re-upholstering furniture can turn into a great teambuilding day with your staff.
Bringing in a few potted plants is not just nice decoration, it also helps freshen the air your employees breathe every day, and compensates for your carbon consumption.
Monitor your energy consumption
Saving on electricity takes no time, has a global impact, and saves money.
Don’t use lights during the day if the sun is enough to light up the office, keep the air conditioner at an ambient temperature (even one degree can consume up to 3% more energy), and switch off lights when you leave a room.
As for your computers and other electronics, activate the standby mode after 15 minutes, don't use a screensaver, and turn them and off in the evening using a general power outlet (it isn't true that turning your computer on and off will wear it out). Don't forget to unplug battery chargers and other chargers when the charging is complete, otherwise they are still consuming energy.
Buy eco-friendly light bulbs that use lower voltage, and purchase energy-efficient products in general.
If you live in a country that relies on power generators, why not produce your own energy with solar panels? Startups, like Gaia in Egypt, are making this move increasingly easy. It may not be the cheapest action to implement, but it will save you money in the end – and maybe the world.
Manage your waste
First off, let’s make something clear: recycling is only part of waste management. As Shaima Alhaj has explained, people dealing with any type of waste should think of reducing, reusing, and recycling – in that order.
What does reusing mean? It can be printing on the other side of used papers, refilling empty ink cartridges, sending one more letter in a used envelope, etc.
While not every city in the region offers recycling services, you can find private recycling associations like the Jordanian Environmental Society in Amman. Don’t limit yourself to paper. In Egypt, the startup Recyclobekia enables you to recycle your electronic equipment.
Getting your team to your workplace, or to meetings is also an important factor when considering your carbon footprint. You can help your employees cut their pollution by encouraging them to carpool or use public transportation, which can include creative solutions like private mini-bus, and boat taxi on the Nile in Cairo.
In cities with lots of traffic, putting in place an occasional work from home day can save time and cut your carbon footprint, as discussed here.
Similarly, ask yourself: do I real need to fly to a different city for this meeting, can I do it via teleconference instead?
All in all, a lot of small actions can make a big difference in helping your startup be more eco-friendly.