On April 22, people all over the world will be celebrating Earth Day — a day to reflect on the importance of our planet and how necessary it is to protect it. By celebrating Earth Day, people consciously remember the benefits of healthy, sustainable living practices.
You might not be able to single-handedly stop climate change, but as a local business owner, you can make a conscious effort to take better care of the environment. Your eco friendly practices can have a direct impact on your community.
Why Should Your Business Become More Eco-Friendly?
Whether you’re the owner of a coffee shop or the head of a local real estate team, making your business more environmentally friendly can be beneficial to your long-term success, as well as your bottom line.
Why is that?
Consumers want to support eco-friendly businesses. In fact, 90% of consumers stated that they were willing to switch brands if it meant supporting an eco-friendly business. Individual efforts to recycle and be more energy efficient can certainly make an impact on the environment, but the larger impact comes when businesses make these efforts as well —consumers understand this.
By incorporating eco-friendly business ideas, you can align your brand’s ethos with that of your clientele. 81% of consumers believe it’s very, if not extremely, important that companies implement programs to help improve the environment.
With Earth Day just around the corner, and the desire for socially conscious companies at an all time high, consider taking steps to make your business an environmentally friendly option your local neighbors can feel excited about supporting.
How to Start Your Sustainability Journey
The first step is to record where your business is currently. Only by knowing where you're starting can you set obtainable sustainability goals for eco friendly business practices. Start by signing up for a free business energy audit. Nearly every state has local utility-sponsored programs to help companies gauge where they're at and what they can do to gain energy efficiency. This could mean replacing old light bulbs, updating insulation, sealing or replacing leaky pipes etc. Any repair or green initiatives recommended by the State auditors are typically subject to partial or sometimes full reimbursement from the State. Making these upgrades typically will lower your water and energy consumption, lowering utility bills in the process! If you're thinking about starting a sustainability initiative in your small business, this is a great way to take that first step. Sustainable business practices pay off in the end because consumers really do support eco friendly company practices. Follow up by investing in eco friendly products for your business. This includes recycled paper, products made with recycled material etc.
Now that you've started, here are nine practical things you can do to make your business more eco-friendly.
#1 Reduce Single-Use Items
Single-use items account for about 150 million tons of plastic waste each year. That’s equivalent to the weight of about four billion individuals. Fortunately, you can easily replace single-use items with their reusable counterparts.
If you own a restaurant, cafe, or coffee shop, you may rely heavily on single-use items for take-out and delivery orders. To help keep excess plastic waste out of landfills and oceans, purchase compostable or recyclable plates and cutlery for these orders. Similarly, if you own a retailer, you might consider replacing single-use plastic bags with reusable bags.
By switching to compostable materials where applicable, you’ll reduce the carbon footprint of your business. Compostable materials break down into compost (hence the name), rather than ending up in landfills.
There are also ways to reduce your environmental impact within your own team. If you and your employees rely on a single-cup coffee maker to power you through the work day, you’re likely going through hundreds of plastic coffee pods a month, not to mention any additional waste you may accumulate if you’re drinking this coffee out of single-use paper or plastic cups.
But you don’t have to give up your caffeine fix to save the planet. Instead, opt for a traditional coffee maker with a washable filter and have employees bring in their own mugs. This simple switch in business practices allows environmentally conscious companies to reduce their environmental impact with little effort. Eliminating single-use coffee pods, cups, and filters is not only eco-friendly—it’s also more cost-effective.
By reducing your environmental impact and using recycled material where you can, you'll be able to get one step closer to creating a green business.
#2 Source Sustainable Materials
Another way to make your business more eco-friendly is by sourcing sustainable goods and services from local suppliers. "Sustainable" generally means products and companies that utilize environmentally conscious practices. For example, companies that stock shelves with products made from recycled plastic, use renewable energy instead of fossil fuels and offset their carbon emissions. This might involve a little extra research to determine who you can partner with for local supplies.
When searching for suppliers that follow sustainable practices, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are their products manufactured in a sustainable fashion?
- Are their products made from recycled or renewable material?
- Are their products recyclable or compostable?
- Do their products contain toxic ingredients?
- Is there excessive packaging?
Sourcing sustainable products conserves finite resources and reduces waste. By sourcing from local businesses, you don’t have to rely on shipping products across long distances. This saves on packaging and fuel used for transportation.
Note: While sustainable materials can be more expensive, the cost of being eco-friendly can be balanced by offering your products or services at higher prices. In one poll of 3,500 consumers, 69% stated they would pay more for recycled products.
#3 Donate What You Don’t Need
When it’s time for your business to replace appliances, furniture, or electronics, consider donating these items to charitable organizations rather than taking them to the landfill. Not only will a landfill charge you to drop off larger items, these items create more waste for the planet and pollute the air. Electronics that are improperly disposed of and end up in landfills release heavy metal toxins, like mercury, arsenic, and lead.
When you donate items that are still in good condition you not only prevent these items from ending up in crowded landfills, but you also help other local organizations and community members who can make use of your donations. Plus, you can receive a deduction on your taxes.
#4 Reduce Your Water Usage
Businesses and public institutions are responsible for more than 25% of the water used in metropolitan areas. Even as a small business, reducing your water usage can have a significant impact on the environment. Cleaning, pumping, and distributing water takes energy. Conserving allows you to uphold responsible, eco-friendly practices and can even save your business money.
To bring down your water usage, start by identifying any leaks on your property. While a leaky faucet may not seem like a big deal, if left unaddressed, a leak can waste an average of 10,000 gallons of water each year. That’s water you’re paying for and not using.
If you own a business that depends on water—such as a restaurant, coffee shop, or hair salon—you can install low-flow water valves to help conserve the amount of water you use.
#5 Lower Your Energy Costs
Every year, small businesses in the U.S. spend more than $60 billion on energy costs. But by taking steps to become more energy efficient, your business can save money and reduce your carbon footprint in the process.
There are a number of ways your business can reduce its energy usage, including:
- Investing in energy efficient appliances – While upfront costs may be higher, energy efficient appliances will save you money in the long run by significantly lowering your energy costs.
- Replacing incandescent bulbs with LEDs – If natural light isn’t an option for your business, LED light bulbs are the next best thing. LEDs use 25% to 30% less energy than incandescent light bulbs. Plus, they actually last longer.
- Installing timers on lights – To eliminate the risk of accidentally leaving lights on in bathrooms or break rooms, put your lights on a timer or sensor.
- Regularly cleaning and replacing air filters – When filters become clogged with dust and dirt, the flow of air is blocked. This means your HVAC system has to work harder and use more energy to do the same amount of work.
- Unplugging electronics at night – Often, electronics don’t stop drawing electricity when they’re powered off. Instead, these energy vampires go into a standby mode, and continue to pull energy. Over time, these devices can add an additional ten percent to your monthly energy bill, so make sure to unplug electronics that are not in use.
Making these types of changes can help your business save thousands every year. For example, the owners of River Run Bed and Breakfast in Kerrville, Texas saw savings of $2400 per year after installing energy-efficient lighting, better insulation, high-efficiency heat pumps, and smart thermostats.
#6 Implement Recycling and Composting Measures
Placing recycling bins and composting bins throughout your business can encourage both employees and customers to participate in your company’s eco-friendly practices.
As mentioned above, compostables are items that break down into compost—which can then be used to improve the health of soil. Some cities currently offer composting options as part of their recycling programs, so be sure you look into the offerings available to your business.
You can also recycle old electronics, as well as empty ink cartridges and toner cartridges. However, these products don’t go into the recycling bin with other plastics. Instead, they can be shipped back to the manufacturer for proper disposal.
#7 Prioritize Reusable Office Supplies
Certain office supplies, such as pens and sticky notes, contribute to landfill waste more than you may realize.
In the U.S. alone, over four million pens are thrown away every day. That’s a significant amount of plastic.
To help reduce this number, you can replace your traditional pens with pens that can have their ink refilled. You can also purchase dry erase boards, or encourage employees to take digital notes, instead of using sticky notes.
You can even start collecting and storing extra or unused office supplies. Not only will you be reducing waste, having a backstock of supplies will save your business money by reducing monthly supply purchases.
#8 Incentivize Employees to Switch Up Their Commute
Daily commutes to and from work greatly contribute to the amount of carbon dioxide in our environment. By incentivizing your employees to use public transit, carpool, or even work from home, you can help reduce the number of cars on the road and subsequently, the amount of CO2 emissions being released into the air.
Many cities offer subsidized transit passes for small businesses. If that's not an option in your area, using a human resources software to provide employees with public transit benefits can be a great sustainable business practice.
Also, consider installing a bike rack outside of your business. Both employees and customers alike can take advantage of this measure and leave their cars at home.
#9 Build Sustainable Partnerships
Your business depends on the local community, just as the local community depends on your business. Contribute to the sustained health of your community by partnering with a local environmental organization.
Your small business can:
- Provide goods or services during community clean-up efforts
- Hold fundraising events to raise money and awareness
- Donate supplies directly to the organization
By supporting community efforts to be more eco-friendly, you’ll also attract new clientele who share your desire to create a more sustainable future.
A More Eco-Friendly Business for a More Eco-Friendly Neighborhood
By implementing the eco-friendly practices listed in this guide, you can establish yourself as an environmentally conscious business and attract neighbors who support sustainable practices.
If you’re looking for the best way to market your business and your eco-friendly practices, choose Nextdoor. By joining this unique local hub, you can create a free Business Page, customize it to reflect your business, share your business values, and engage with the customers who matter most—your neighbors.
With a strong community and a shared goal, a more sustainable future is possible.
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CNBC. 7 ways going green can save you lots of money. https://www.cnbc.com/2016/04/18/run-a-green-business-make-money.html
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Energy.Gov. 4 Ways to Slay Energy Vampires This Halloween. https://www.energy.gov/articles/4-ways-slay-energy-vampires-halloween
Small Business Rainmaker. 6 Steps to Becoming an Eco-Friendly Business. https://www.smallbusinessrainmaker.com/small-business-marketing-blog/6-steps-to-becoming-an-eco-friendly-business
GreenBiz. Prioritizing the planet: 11 ways small businesses can become more eco-friendly. https://www.greenbiz.com/article/prioritizing-planet-11-ways-small-businesses-can-become-more-eco-friendly
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