12/29/2015 | Sophia Bera

If your middle market organization is looking to save money, you may benefit from creating a more energy-efficient office. Utility bills can cost thousands of dollars each year, and improving your organization's sustainability policies should help you significantly reduce these costs.

Green Office

Even if your company rents office space and therefore has limited control, there are steps you can take to cut down on energy use. Here's how to start:

1. Let There Be Less Light

Odds are good that your space has closets, storage areas, conference rooms, bathrooms and certain offices that are not in use all the time. It's not economical to keep these rooms bright for eight hours a day. An easy solution to this problem is to encourage employees to switch lights off when they leave rooms. Even better, you can hook up motion sensors so lights automatically turn on when someone enters and turn off when the room is empty.

If you're willing to invest a bit more, swapping out conventional lightbulbs for LED bulbs will also cut down on energy use. Further, there are converters available that let you retrofit fluorescent light fixtures and install more energy-efficient bulbs with smaller diameters.

Finally, you should create and enforce an office policy that asks employees to turn off every light at the end of the day. It's incredibly wasteful to keep the lights on for the 15 hours a day when no one is there, not to mention all weekend long. If someone needs to go to the office during off hours, they can turn on lights as needed.

2. Not Too Hot, Not Too Cold

Even small changes to your heating and cooling practices can yield significant energy savings. During the warm season, turning the thermostat up by just 1 degree can cut cooling costs by 2 to 3 percent, according to the Salt River Project. You should also take advantage of nonworking hours and lower the heat or air conditioning to increase savings, as well as work with your facility manager to ensure that the HVAC system is properly maintained and operating efficiently.

3. Efficient Equipment

Computers, printers, kitchen appliances and other equipment use a lot of power, even when they're not running. As you replace older machines, look for new ones that have the Energy Star label; this signals that they operate more efficiently and often power down when not in use. It's also a good idea to comb the office for machines that are no longer used but still plugged in, because these can often be discarded or moved to storage.

To further improve your office's carbon footprint, program equipment to enter sleep or standby modes after a set period of inactivity and ask your employees to shut down computers and monitors before they leave for the day. The U.S. Department of Energy notes that using sleep modes or power management features can save you $30 per computer on your annual energy bill.

As you replace old desktop computers, you may want to consider switching to laptops. Not only are they more energy efficient, but they give your employees the ability to telecommute (if working from home is allowed). Don't underestimate the effect that commuters have on your company's overall carbon footprint.

4. Go as Paperless as Possible

Saving paper is good for the environment and good for your bottom line. Send memos via email, bill your clients electronically and encourage employees to cut back on printing (or to at least print on both sides of paper). You can also win back precious office floor space by converting your file system to an electronic one. Not only will files will be easier to find, but you also won't have to make room for filing cabinets.

5. Adjust Employee Habits

If you want to ensure long-term success for your energy-efficiency initiative, you need to get your staff excited about making these changes. Create a committee that figures out solutions to common office efficiency problems, or set up a reward system for employees who embody green habits.

It can also be beneficial to show employees the data related to energy-saving practices: For instance, how have their efforts helped the environment over the past year? If workers see the real difference they're making, they'll be more motivated to keep it up.

What changes have you made to improve your office's energy efficiency? How are they working out? Let us know by commenting below.

Sophia Bera, CFP, is an NCMM contributor and a financial planner, writer, speaker and entrepreneur who has been featured in the New York Times, Forbes, Yahoo Finance, Money Magazine and more. While her primary focus is on millennials and money, she is passionate about helping companies attract and retain next-generation talent. Follow her on Twitter or sign up for the free Gen Y Planning newsletter.