Owning a small business is a rewarding experience, but it can also increase your carbon footprint. Traditional operations don’t consider the environment when manufacturing goods or offering services. These 15 tips can make your company more sustainable and match your green lifestyle, no matter what it provides or where it operates
1. Reflect on Your Infrastructure
Consider what your company needs to operate. Do you rely on machinery that consumes tons of electricity or routinely use packaging that isn’t biodegradable? An infrastructure audit will reveal which parts of your business are most harmful to your carbon footprint and guide your problem-solving efforts. Instead of guessing at changes that might help the planet, you’ll make the most positive impact at the start of your sustainability journey.
2. Allow Hybrid Schedules
Many small companies couldn’t function without a tight-knit team of employees. You may have a few who handle the day-to-day responsibilities while you’re running your business. If they commute, they’re contributing to your brand’s environmental impact.
Business owners can work with their team members to initiate hybrid schedules where applicable. Working from home part of the week prevents people from burning gasoline to get to and from the office. The average passenger vehicle emits 4.6 metric tons of CO2 per year, so reducing weekly commutes will significantly help the planet.
3. Upgrade Your Materials
Think about which materials your business requires to create your products. You might need fabrics for your home-based sewing company or paints to make your art. Those items are likely harming the planet if they come from companies that don’t have environmentally friendly pledges.
Look into green alternatives for all your essential materials and brace yourself for a bit of a price hike. Sustainable production costs more even for massive supply brands, so you’ll likely have to increase the cost of your products to compensate. The good news is that recent research shows that 65% of millennials will pay more for products made with sustainability in mind. Your target market will accept a price hike if it’s the result of going green.
4. Give to Your Community
Community service projects are another way to show your support of the planet. Write blog posts and social media updates about how you’re donating your time to local green initiatives. Planting trees, picking up trash at parks or starting a community garden will give back to the planet and impress consumers who want to support green brands.
There may be a nonprofit that already hosts these events near your home. If not, it’s easy to start a social media group and invite people to give back to the environment with you during your free weekend afternoons.
5. Pledge Carbon Offsetting Donations
Small businesses rely on the internet for connecting with customers and selling inventory or services, which requires storage from data centers. Unfortunately, these places generate excessive carbon dioxide and contribute to global warming. Data centers host websites and virtual communication, so they’re always running and draining electric resources to stay powered on.
There isn’t currently a green alternative to data centers, but pledging to donate part of your profits to carbon offsetting programs will put sustainably-minded customers at ease. They’ll invest your donation into carbon reduction projects and instantly make your small business more sustainable.
6. Recycle Your Waste
Recycling may seem like an obvious way to go green, but it makes a significant difference for the planet. Sort your waste into recycling containers after cutting boxes to your product’s size or crumpling notes when a conference call ends. A local company can pick up your recycling once a week, or you can drop it off at a nearby center twice a month. Either way, your brand will produce less waste that ends up in landfills.
7. Conserve Energy Usage
Electricity is a necessity, so going off the grid is nearly impossible for businesses of any size. The best alternative is conserving your usage whenever possible. Set every computer in your company to dim after a few minutes of inactivity or go to sleep sooner. Look into installing solar panels or relying on natural lighting during the day.
Every watt of energy saved requires less electricity from local plants. They won’t produce as much CO2 to compensate for intense demand. The smallest efforts count, so reflect on where your business operates and how much you can invest in green energy to find the best electricity-saving solutions.
8. Consider Your Product’s Life Cycle
Research how long it takes for your product to break down in a landfill. It’s also helpful to think about how long your customers use it before discarding or replacing their purchase. Businesses that make single-use products can switch to biodegradable materials or become reusable to eliminate consumer waste. Products that do end up in landfills will break down quickly and never contribute chemical pollutants to the local environment.
9. Eliminate Paper Marketing Campaigns
Many small-business owners print flyers, letters and coupons for distribution to their mailing lists. It used to be a popular way to advertise sales and bring customers back for future purchases, but now consumers only see printed marketing materials as junk mail.
Printing companies use over 100 million trees per year to make items that instantly get thrown away. Your small business can stop participating in that ecological waste by switching to a digital marketing campaign. Experts can help your brand utilize social media and other virtual platforms to reach new consumers and get better results than relying on mailing physical advertisements.
10. Partner With Green Suppliers
Suppliers help businesses stay open. You may partner with several companies for product materials, shipping or operations support. It’s vital to determine if the brands you work with include environmentally friendly practices in their mission statements. Partner with an alternative brand if they don’t have any ongoing green initiatives. Your operations will become much more sustainable and appeal to eco-friendly consumers who want to trust the entire supply chain.
11. Get a Fairtrade Certification
Small-business owners who make food products can look into earning a Fairtrade certification. It’s a well-known sign that a brand creates ethical food products by supporting the farmers that grow and harvest their ingredients.
Corporate roften don’t have a choice in using eco-friendly fertilizers and farming equipment. Everything they do is highly regulated, but Fairtrade farmers have more freedom to give back to the planet. Consumers will appreciate your certification because it proves that you have an in-depth understanding of your industry’s environmental effects and have committed yourself to preventing them.
12. Store Products Sustainably
Your inventory storage also affects the planet’s health. Plastic bags and wrappings add to landfill waste and break down into chemicals that pollute the environment. Instead, store your products in reusable containers at home. If you need more space, look for storage unit companies with eco-friendly pledges. Including this information on your website will show people how seriously you take your pollution reduction efforts.
13. Ditch Packing Peanuts
Packing materials — like traditional styrofoam peanuts — are another form of single-use waste that ends up in garbage cans every day. If your business ships products that require extra safety packaging, look for biodegradable alternatives to styrofoam or plastic.
Shredded cardboard can cushion products and be recycled. Food containers can use corn starch as the primary packaging ingredient because it breaks down into natural elements when thrown away.
Fans of bubble wrap can use versions made with recycled polythene that breaks down and recycles easily. There are always other packaging options to keep your products safe without compromising your sustainable standards.
14. Start Paperless Billing
People often think that financial paperwork is a requirement for businesses. You might provide detailed quotes for potential clients, mail physical copies of their bills or send paper checks to your employees every two weeks. It’s a traditional way to handle operations, but it isn’t a requirement for companies in the modern world.
Switch to paperless options for billing and other financial arrangements. Your company won’t rely on natural resources to conduct business, and your customers will appreciate using less paper to get their preferred goods or services.
15. Make Your Home Green
Many small-business owners work from home, making it easier to go green. You have complete control over your environment, so you can pick whichever sustainable methods you’d like to use. Rain barrels cut down on your water consumption, and solar panels eliminate your need for electricity generated at an electric plant.
A smart thermostat reduces how often your HVAC unit turns on to keep your home comfortable. The best options for going green will depend on your location, budget and which changes most appeal to you.
Make Your Business More Sustainable
These are just a few ways to make your small business more sustainable. Put them into practice to see which strategies make the most difference for your brand. Your company will become much more eco-friendly, no matter what you prefer to change.