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by Rachel Hutchisson, Business Doing Good & Blackbaud, Inc.

“It’s not easy being green.”  Well, at least not according to Kermit the Frog.  And although I love that little green frog with all my heart, I must beg to differ.

It actually CAN be easy for your small business to be green…or at least to take steps in the right direction.

You might say, right, sure, not really…how?  Here’s how.  Look around your local community for a nonprofit group or government agency that’s focused on the environment.  Ask them if they offer something called a “green business challenge.”  These programs are focused on helping organizations of all kinds head down the path toward being kind to the environment.

These programs are important and helpful because they provide an easy way for you to get involved and a checklist approach to what you might take on in your own green efforts.  Blackbaud (the great company where I work) has just completed its third year in the Charleston Green Business Challenge, which is run by the City of Charleston’s office of planning, preservation and sustainability.  Participating organizations get access to an easy-to-use web tool that both lists teps to take to be more green and offers a way to mark off your own progress.

Organizations that have been actively involved in environmental work can see how many of the items they have achieved and challenge themselves to be recognized, at the end of the year, as Tier 1 (i.e. an example for others to follow).  Others that are just getting involved might pick a few things to accomplish as a way to get started.  Both approaches are completely ok.

When Blackbaud got involved, we used the first year as a way to create a baseline.  We hadn’t done an audit before of our environmental work, so it was really cool to have a checklist to use.  Turns out we scored really well.  We had all sorts of good, green practices in place — from a long-time recycling program to using native plants in our landscaping that don’t require additional watering or care.  It was a great surprise to be ranked so well, and the honor helped us tell our story to employees and to build pride.

In years two and three, we have looked at what we can add to the mis.  We’ve installed hand dryers in the bathrooms during a scheduled refit, adopted a policy to use Energy Star appliances, and so on.  Most of the time, the additions weren’t hard to do.  We just needed to understand that they were important, and the Charleston Green Business Challenge helped us do that.

So whether getting going on green means starting at the beginning or adding to what you already do, find an existing program out there as a way to begin.  And if you aren’t located in a place that has a program, ask another city to share is checklist.  There’s no reason why you can’t begin the charge on your own, no matter how small your business may be!

Rachel Hutchisson (@RachelHutchssn) is VP, Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy at Blackbaud, Inc., a 2,700-person technology company that works exclusively with nonprofit organizations. She built the company’s “give back” function from the ground up, relying on expertise she gained in over two decades of working at the intersection of the business world and the nonprofit sector. Rachel is a member of the #GivingTuesday core advisory team, leads her company’s involvement in the Billion+Change pro-bono initiative, and serves on the boards of the Association of Fundraising Professionals International, The Giving Institute, and the Coastal Community Foundation. She is also a member of the core team that launched TEDxCharleston in 2013. She is a graduate of Dickinson College and received a master’s degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

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