Green dry cleaners, Green energy. Green puppy food. Green car washes. Green wall paints. Green grease removal.

Green: It’s everywhere. It’s taught in the first grade. It’s at the center of many corporate manufacturing and marketing policies. And whether you believe in climate change or still have doubts, consumers are now demanding GREEN.

Adopting environmentally friendly and energy efficient business practices provides numerous benefits to new and existing small businesses looking to control costs and attract customers. Non-toxic, recycled, organic, energy-efficient, reused, eco-friendly, and farm-to-table: these terms, and others, all help define the fast-growing green market.

So what can you do as a small business? Regardless of what options you choose, each one of them must be connected to your marketing strategy and company messaging and let your customers know. Four of five consumers say they are buying environmentally friendly products and services today, which sometimes cost more, even in the midst of a recovering economy.

Save energy now. The prudent use of energy is one of the easiest and most cost-effective steps you can take to cut costs and increase profitability right now, today. Take these steps to get started:

Conduct an energy audit to quickly identify areas where you can save energy costs.

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Purchase ENERGY STAR® appliances and office equipment.

Look for green power and renewable energy sources

Be green-minded. The type of business doesn’t matter. You can go green with little or large investments. A local restaurant may advertise farm-to-table food choices, the cleaners offers a local bio-degradable detergent option, the manufacturer of pipes invests in a zero-pollution state-of- the art waste recycling facility, the hand cart guy sells fresh squeezed organic lemonade.

Build green. If you are opening a business in a new or remodeled building, make sure you build green by installing energy efficient heating and air conditioning systems, appliances, equipment and lighting. And consider LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. According to the US Green Building Council, LEED is redefining the way we think about the places where we live, work and learn. As an internationally recognized mark of excellence, it provides small businesses a framework for implementing measurable green building design, construction, and maintenance solutions.

Think alternative energy. Solar, wind, hydrogen, bio-fuel, fuel cells and energy conservation technologies.

Of course, not every small business can install renewable energy technology at their facility; however, you can buy green power directly from many utilities at a slightly higher cost than regular electricity. If your utility does not offer green power options you can still participate by purchasing renewable energy certificates.

And remember: let your customers know!

How Can SBA Help? In Region VIII, we are committed to providing entrepreneurs with access to the resources they need to plan, market and finance their green business ideas, services, and products. Through the 504 loan program we have backed over 15 LEED certified projects and our Small Business Innovation Research program has funded numerous research grants, including economical and low capital intensive methods to dissolve heavy metal contaminants.

In Highlands Ranch, Colorado, the new Mike Ward Infiniti building has built to LEED standards and will be Silver Certified. The auto dealership utilized an SBA 504 loan for the project financed by a lending partner bank through a local Certified Development Company. It is the first auto dealership in Colorado and the first Infiniti dealership in the country to achieve LEED Status.

For a free comprehensive online guide to green business practices and other resources connect to and type Green Business Guide in the keyword search.

Daniel Hannaher is the SBA Region VIII Administrator.