Geri Stengel

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There's Green Out There, Both Money To Be Had and Environmentally Friendly Technologies: Go Get It!

It bears repeating: New York state, city, and county really want businesses to "go green." And they're putting their money where their mouth is. All levels of government, and some utilities, are offering big incentives if businesses implement energy-saving technology.

small business owner, small business resource, nonprofit leaders, entrepreneur, social enterprisesOnly no one's stepping up to take the handouts! Center for an Urban Future has just published a report, Energizing New York's Small Businesses, that details not only how much money is out there but how little is being accessed.

Energy costs, according to the report, are one of the biggest obstacles to doing business in New York City. That's because New York City's energy costs are among the highest in the nation. If you're thinking about cutting costs – whether as a business owner or nonprofit leader – this is an area you should not overlook.

The report lays the blame on two problems with the incentive programs: too much paperwork, not enough publicity. One small business owner had to lay out $25,000 for consultants to deal with the paperwork needed to get back all the rebates he'd earned. As it turned out, the upgrade to his heating system was well-worth it.

But that's a scary story ... and a frustrating one. If the government wants small business owners and nonprofit agencies to help the environment, why is it erecting a red-tape wall – actually a whole maze of walls?

The report suggests a universal application, somewhat akin to the Access NY application that people fill out to determine all the social services for which they might be eligible. That's a great idea! You might want to call your political reps about that.

Of course, there are those who have done the research and know where the money is buried. I wrote about ERE and Going Green Incentives Can Minimize Cost of Rehabs, Upgrades.

You can also check our webinar archives for Climb the Green Ladder: Make Your Company and Career More Sustainable.

Much as I admire ERE, I agree with the Center for an Urban Future: It has got to be made easier!  In the meantime, check out the report's 10 Cost Effective Tips for Small Businesses to Reduce Their Energy Use. From changing the light bulbs – we all did that already, didn't we? – to getting an energy audit, from installing a ceiling fan to buying the right size air conditioner, these tips are simple and inexpensive.

After you've done that, though, you might want to take the bigger step: Contact the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency, also known as NYSERDA, and start making your way through the paperwork. It may mean the difference between thriving and barely getting by.

Have you tried to use government incentives to go green? What was your experience? Easy? Difficult? Do you have suggestions for others who want to cut energy use?