Sustainable small business trends to follow this year

Adopting green operational practices that prioritise a sustainable business is becoming a primary concern for small enterprises. With environmental crises on the rise, savvy consumers are wearier about climate change – and it’s changing their buying habits.

Although consumers are the key reason for establishing sustainability practices, data also proves that sustainability efforts can positively affect a company’s bottom line. Aside from minimising waste, it can reduce operating expenses and decrease risk. According to The Business Journal, 79 percent of companies use risk management as a reason to incorporate sustainability practices.

So, what’s good for the planet is also good for small business growth.

Any small business looking to implement the best sustainable practices can vary in their approach. However, companies can make the most impact by following these sustainable trends.

Use sustainable packaging and materials

For many businesses that sell products and ship them, the packaging is a major operational component – and one that can produce significant waste. However, there are plenty of greener options for small businesses. 

Redesigning product packaging to meet environmental standards and customer demands offers new business opportunities. According to research, 87 percent of consumers will purchase from brands advocating social responsibility and ecological change.

Recycled paper and cardboard are the most prominent sustainable packaging options. However, some companies are making strides by creating entirely compostable packaging that results in zero waste at the end of its lifecycle.

Businesses that carry other brands’ products might not have control over the materials used in their inventory. However, there are companies that take strides to partner with green brands. For instance, Exclusive Beauty Club, a beauty product website, carries eco-friendly brands and provides product details mentioning details like sustainable, recycled and biodegradable materials. Even if you’re selling products you don’t own, you can still be transparent about their production. 

Reduce, reuse, recycle

The most efficient method to keep waste out of landfills is never sending it there. Estee Lauder is an example of one company whose manufacturing and distribution centers have sent zero waste to landfills since 2003. In addition, any waste it can’t recycle, the company incinerates and converts into energy.

Small businesses should look into reducing waste wherever possible. Instead of plastic cups, plates, and utensils in your office, opt for real glass and ceramic alternatives.

In addition, it’s important to reuse whenever possible. A warehouse is the best place for reusing boxes if they’re still structurally intact. Employees in the office can also be encouraged to reuse both sides of printer paper.

If reducing and reusing isn’t possible, recycling is the next best thing. Contact your city council to find out if they can provide recycling bins for your business.

Purchase sustainable supplies

Small companies can purchase items that ensure their workplace is sustainable. Printer paper and cartridges, cleaning products, and to-go containers can be detrimental to the environment due to how they are processed.

For paper items most commonly used in the office – such as toilet paper and reams of printer paper – you can look for labels that say they come from post-consumer waste. Products like these tend to be recycled and reduce overall waste. You can also purchase recycled printer cartridges that have been emptied, cleaned, and refilled with new toner or ink – and save on costs.

Cleaning products listed as green cleaners don’t include toxic chemicals – and there’s a whole industry of them. Consider opting for all-natural cleaners that work just as well. Using these products keeps poisonous ingredients from the environment and waste out of landfills.

Upgrade for better energy efficiency

Becoming an energy-efficient company benefits your small business and the environment. While it reduces your company’s carbon footprint, it also reduces its energy bill. With that in mind, consider these simple changes you can make, such as:

  • Using energy-efficient appliances
  • Switching to LED lights
  • Automating lights with sensors
  • Installing smart thermostats
  • Making the most of natural light
  • Supplying staff with laptops instead of desktop devices

Go with green web-hosting services

Did you know that websites can use energy, too? Servers that host websites are continuously running and using copious amounts of energy.

Fortunately, small businesses can save by choosing where they store their data. Many companies are offsetting their energy usage by going carbon-neutral. Companies like Google and Microsoft claim to decarbonise their data centers to achieve 100% renewable energy. 

Purchase carbon offsets

When there are changes you can’t afford to make to reduce your carbon footprint, purchasing offsets can move you closer to the goal of carbon-neutrality.

Consider purchasing carbon credits through a carbon offset program to help you counteract your emissions. When working with these companies, you must look for third-party certification and research their project investments.

Many reputable companies that sell carbon credits will use the money to invest in projects that mitigate climate change – such as reforestation. Terrapass, 3Degrees, and Carbon Checkout are just a few carbon offset organisations that can help you start your carbon-neutral journey.

Compost

A simple way to divert waste from landfills is to start composting. Many cities are capable of composting organic waste. The only difference between a banana peel in the compost rather than in the dump is its effects. When the organic matter goes to landfills, it slowly decays and produces methane – a deadly greenhouse gas. However, the composting process quickly wears it down, becoming soil for gardens and parks.

Consider introducing a compost program in your business. Encourage employees to throw away leftovers in the compost, turning them into soil instead of methane.

Walking the path to sustainability

Although smaller companies don’t have as much capital as larger organisations, they don’t need a huge budget to impact the environment positively. If all businesses worked together to contribute to reducing the impacts of climate change, waste and pollution, it could make an entire world of difference.

Every business needs to play its part, no matter its size. It all starts by taking account of individual carbon footprints and implementing measures to reduce them.

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Cora Gold

Cora Gold is the Editor-in-Chief of women’s lifestyle magazine Revivalist (revivalist.com). She strives to live as best as she can, and she loves to share her experiences with life, adventure, sustainability and more through her writing. Follow Cora on Twitter (@CoraGold2), Pinterest (@revivalistmag) and Facebook (@revivalistmag).

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