These days, everyone is looking for an excuse to go green. A recent survey conducted by the Federation of Small Businesses discovered nine out of every 10 small businesses are actively searching for ways to make their companies more energy efficient. The reasons to do so are as diverse as the companies themselves. A large portion believe efficiency measures will cut their overall energy costs and grow their bottom line. Others think a commitment to green initiatives will improve marketing and draw in more customers. And still others abandon the idea of financial prosperity for the more altruistic side of things. After all, sustainability doesn't have to be about revenue streams. It can be about protecting the environment: the trees, the air and, well, real streams of clean, unpolluted water.

No matter how you slice it, intelligent energy consumption can work wonders for the right company. What kind of investment options are available to small business owners on the lookout for the best equipment for bringing sustainability to their workplace?

"Smart meters make it easier for customers to compartmentalize and protect their energy data."

Solar panels
The cost of solar energy has been in a free fall over the last decade, and sources say this isn't likely to change in the years to come. The Solar Energy Industries Association found that since the U.S. government shifted its investment tax credit program to include a write-off of 30 percent on any solar photovoltaic system for residential or commercial use, the price for these installations has dropped by more than 73 percent.

Additionally, solar panels are a purchase dedicated to supplementing your current utility plan with 100 percent sustainable energy month after month, permanently reducing your small business's costs for as long as the systems last, which can be between 25 and 30 years.

Time to plant the seed for energy efficiency in your small business.Time to plant the seed for energy efficiency in your small business.

Smart meter
With or without the aforementioned solar installation, smart meters are an excellent investment for small businesses hoping to reduce their carbon footprint. On the one hand, businesses planning to generate energy on-site will require technology that will allow bidirectional energy flow. That way, retail energy providers or utilities can buy back your energy and apply that credit directly to your monthly bill. Smart meters do just that.

However, there are benefits for the average energy user that isn't planning any major installations anytime soon. Smart meters make it easier for customers to compartmentalize and protect their energy data, all while streamlining the retail energy sector. According to the California Public Utilities Commission, smart meters can sync directly to your supplier. This connection can show changes to your rates in real time and display your usage in a number of different units, including dollars-and-cents estimates. No longer will you need to schedule a time a representative can swing by your basement to read the meter. Instead, the information can be uploaded directly to the supplier's confidential servers.

Equipment and business industry piece brought to you by Marlin Equipment Finance, leaders in equipment financing. Marlin is a nationwide provider of equipment financing solutions supporting equipment suppliers and manufacturers in the security, food services, healthcare, information technology, office technology and telecommunications sectors.