The numbers of woodworking businesses that actively attempt to be environmentally responsive and to promote that for business is still small but it is growing. Most of the folks who hesitate to jump on the green bandwagon typically raise concerns about the cost of going green and fears that customers won’t be willing to pay the price. But most of that is short-sighted thinking.

Let’s put green thinking into different terms. What about running your business more efficiently with less waste? That’s something every business owner agrees with. Well, that’s green. One of the most important principles of lean manufacturing is the elimination of muda, the Japanese term for waste. By practicing green principles of creating less waste, recycling or repurposing the waste that you do create, and choosing materials, supplies and practices that lead to less waste, you can be environmentally response and add to your business efficiency.

Another area that many shops balk at is paying more for environmentally friendly materials such as no-added-formaldehyde sheet goods and low-VOC finishes. But what is the real cost here, and what is the potential value as perceived by customers? Do the math. Calculate how much more it really would cost to add eco-friendly materials to a specific project. Take a high-end custom kitchen project, for example. The information I have is we are talking an increase real costs of only hundreds of dollars in a project that will be sold for tens of thousands of dollars. Isn’t the marketing value to close a sale worth that?

Which brings us to a repeated complaint I hear: “My customers don’t ask for green.” There are two kinds of customers these days, the ones who want eco-friendly products and are willing to pay for them, and the customers who think going green is nice, but don’t want to pay. (Oh, I suppose there are a few customers who for some reason oppose green on some kind of principle, but I’ve yet to meet one.) So, aren’t you ahead of the game by including environmental value as part of the rest of the value you sell to your customer? Isn’t this yet another way to differentiate your products from the competition? Doesn’t that mean more sales? Successful entrepreneurs don’t wait until customers ask for something to supply a new product; they think of a product that fills a need and then sell it to customers. Nobody asked for an iPod before Apple invented it.

Take a hard look at your business, every part of it, and see where you can cut waste, be more efficient, and adopt eco-friendly practices. Then don’t be shy about telling your customers what you are doing. You’ll be surprised how much green you can make and save by going green.

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