Marketing a self storage business in today’s saturated market can be tough. Make it easier on yourself and the planet by ramping up your storage facility’s sustainability efforts! Consumers love working with green companies and shopping at environmentally-conscious retail stores. Whether you’re building a new storage property now or you’ve been in the industry for years, you can get in on this growing trend by making small (but significant) changes and moving towards greener business practices. Plus, you’ll be able to quickly and easily lessen your facility’s environmental footprint and save money in the process. Here are 12 ways storage owners can minimize their storage property’s environmental impact:

1. Build LEED-certified additions or remodels

If your storage buildings are dated, chances are there are a lot of ways you could improve energy efficiency throughout your facility. If you choose to build an additional structure or remodel an existing building, consider working with a LEED-accredited contractor. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and buildings that are built under these standards are designed to be energy efficient, with modern, low-energy lighting and HVAC systems, superior indoor air quality, water conservation, and sustainable materials used whenever possible. LEED-certified buildings receive ratings of Silver, Gold, and Platinum in how well they conserve energy and manage the impact on the environment. LEED-certified buildings are more sustainable and affordable to operate from month-to-month, as they typically have state of the art, modern systems and very low energy requirements. A non-residential building such as a climate-controlled self storage building is a perfect candidate for a money and energy-saving, LEED-certified project.

2. Go paperless

Cut your paper waste by implementing electronic signatures (e-sign) for leases and storing documents digitally via a cloud-based data storage or management software system. Since cloud-based storage is safer and more efficient than storing your sensitive documents in a file cabinet anyway, it just makes sense to quit the print, sign, scan, and store cycle. With the help of smartphones, tablets, and iPads, storage owners and tenants can approve, sign, and store leases, tenant agreements, delinquency documents, lien notices, and more right in their facility management software, without ever having to print. Your facility will save a ton on printer paper and ink, and you’ll save managers lots of time troubleshooting printer issues and shredding sensitive documents.

3. Add landscaping

Since storage facilities typically have large paved parking lots, land erosion from excessive water runoff can be problematic, often damaging to nearby streams, rivers, and adjacent properties. Roads and stream banks can start to crumble under the pressure of fast-flowing water runoff from your paved parking lot during a large rain event or fast snowmelt. Erosion control landscaping such as rip-rap (large rocks used to armor shorelines against heavy water or ice erosion), transition mats, and hedges can help protect neighboring properties, streambeds, bridges, pilings, and roads against becoming supersaturated and damaged from water erosion.

4. Sell recycled boxes and packing materials

If you’re selling retail items like locks, boxes, and moving and packing supplies in your office, you have a great opportunity to choose to sell recycling boxes and packing materials to your tenants. You can actually charge slightly more for eco-friendly moving boxes, so you’ll make more money while still offering a useful and convenient service to your tenants. If you sell packing peanuts and lots of plastic items, consider choosing biodegradable materials. Traditional packing peanuts do not break down and are laden with chemicals, making them a danger to both children and pets. Since they never break down, they often end up in landfills, oceans, and rivers. New, biodegradable packing peanuts are much safer and are 100% biodegradable and compostable, lessening the impact on the environment. Try to choose recycled plastic or low-plastic materials whenever possible to reduce waste at your facility and in your community.

5. Use Energy Star products

Energy Star-rated products such as refrigerators, dehumidifiers, HVAC systems, fans, and lighting are EPA-endorsed to be energy efficient. These modern products are designed to be both effective and low-energy, making them very affordable to maintain and saving business owners a lot of energy in day-to-day use. Replace outdated appliances and systems with their Energy Star counterparts wherever possible throughout your facility to save on your monthly energy bill, reduce excessive energy waste ,and lessen your facility’s environmental footprint.

6. Offer recycling bins

If you already have dumpsters on your property for tenants, consider adding recycling bins next to them and encouraging tenants to use them. In addition to mixed recycling bins, there are bins just for paper, plastic, glass, cardboard, and more. Find out what your city’s recycling services require (some cities prefer glass to be separated from other recycled materials, and so on) and set up your bins appropriately. You can even take it a step further by hosting a clothing recycling and donation bin on your property - it’s 100% free and tax deductible, and the bins offer a convenient, feel-good way for tenants to get rid of their gently used clothing. You’ll keep recyclable materials out of landfills and help those who are less fortunate in your community. Tenants will greatly appreciate your dedication to recycling, and you’ll make your facility look more modern and eco-friendly in the process. Don’t forget to label your recycling bins clearly with what can and can’t be recycled.

7. Install solar panels

If you’re building a new facility, you may be considering utilizing alternate, renewable energy sources such as solar panels to power your business. Because self storage facilities are sprawling properties with large roof space, they’re often ideal for solar panels. Many storage investors in sunny climates look into solar panels during the building process, and more and more new facilities are being built with solar panels installed. The initial cost of installing solar panels is high, but the return on investment is great: there are both federal and state incentives to business owners using solar energy, and you’ll save 40-70% on your operational energy costs over time.

8. Host e-waste collections

E-waste (short for electronic waste) drop off stations are places where tenants can recycle drained batteries, empty ink cartridges, old cell phones, laptops and computers, cords, chargers, and electronic equipment. There are very few places where consumers can drop off e-waste without a fee, so it’s a convenient and attractive amenity to offer for free to your tenants. All you have to do is provide an e-waste recycling bin and label it appropriately so that it’s clear to tenants. It’s a simple way to help tenants declutter and help the environment. Work with your community waste and recycling services to get your facility set up as an e-waste drop off center for tenants.

9. Weatherproof your buildings

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that well-insulated, weatherproof buildings are more energy efficient. Conduct a thorough audit of your facility’s buildings to fully prepare them to stand up to your area’s toughest weather. Replace weatherstripping, install awnings, add solar or UV-blocking shades to windows, and apply heat-blocking radiant barriers to your roof. If last winter your building had lots of icicles hanging off it, it may be a sign that your roof has an air leak or inadequate insulation that allows too much heat to escape. By taking proactive steps to prepare your buildings for harsh winter weather or extreme summer heat, you’ll save a lot of energy and money.

10. Retrofit property lighting

LED light bulbs are worlds away better than traditional incandescent bulbs and compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. They’re brighter, they last much longer, they run significantly cooler, and they use much less energy than traditional light bulbs. LED light bulbs are affordable and easy to find for any light fixture online, so it’s easy to upgrade old lights to new LED bulbs without buying new hardware. To save even more, consider using a dimmer or motion sensor switch whenever possible, especially for large lighting projects like floodlights and hallway lighting that use more energy.

11. Be mindful of cleaning products and pest control

Use environmentally-friendly cleaning and pest control products whenever possible. If you’ve ever had a pest problem at your facility, you know how desperate storage owners can be to get rid of bugs. It’s important to always work with a professional pest control service who uses practices that are safe for the environment while working to eliminate problem pests. Even if you aren’t an animal lover, there are many good reasons why you should never use rat poison to remove rodents - the environmental effects can be devastating. For daily cleaning projects, try switching to a bleach alternative or “clean bleach” (bleach without chlorine that dilutes more easily) when cleaning out dirty storage units.

12. Take your lien process paperless (if possible)

Many states have modernized self storage lien laws to allow owners to send delinquency and lien notices through email rather than through postal mail and newspaper ads. If you’re an owner in one of these states, you’re in luck - you can save a lot of time, money, and energy by eliminating paper lien notices and newspaper ads from your delinquency process. If you’re using a modern, cloud-based facility management software program, you’ll be able to easily automate lien notices to be sent via email and store digital records in your cloud-based tenant records. You’ll save a ton on paper, ink, and post office costs, and you’ll be in full compliance with your state’s legal requirements for storage owners. Find out more about your state’s lien laws to see if you can digitize your lien process here.

Thanks for reading! If you liked this blog post, you may also like: Understanding solar energy, its cost, and how to efficiently plan for its use, How to winterize your self storage property, and 7 questions to ask yourself before going solar.