Engaging in sustainable practices benefits businesses of all sizes and types, but many business owners just don't know where to start down the path to eco-consciousness. A simple and easily implemented sustainable practice like recycling is a good start, but this only scratches the surface of the number of sustainable practices a business owner may consider on the road to total sustainability.
If you're looking for ways to improve the sustainability of your business in 2017, consider these sustainable New Year's resolutions this year.
1. Create Eco-Friendly Incentives for Customers/Clients
A business owner and his or her employees aren't the only people connected with the business who can engage in sustainable actions. One of the responsibilities of a sustainable business is promoting sustainable practices outside the business with business partners, distributors, and customers.
Business News Daily offers provides a case study of an eco-friendly retail idea:
"Consumer rewards programs are popular among retailers, and e-commerce site EcoPlum is no exception. With every purchase, customers earn "EcoChipz," which are redeemable for either rewards or a donation to environmental causes."
There are all sorts of eco-friendly incentives a business owner may consider, and many of them may actually save the business money, in addition to encouraging sustainable practices by customers. For example, a simple rewards program that allows customers to build points each time they bring their own bag can reduce how much money the business must spend on providing bags.
The business can increase the effectiveness of the rewards program by offering reusable personalized bags that have the business's name on them. Not only will the bags help customers reduce how many disposable bags they use, but the bags will give the small business a small yet valuable boost in visibility. Each time a customer takes that bag out for shopping, onlookers will notice the business's name on the bag, even if the customer is shopping somewhere else.
2. Expand and Improve with Sustainable Construction Materials
It's an exciting time when a business owner decides to expand the business into another location. In many circumstances, the business will need to spend some money on renovations or building an entirely new facility. This is the perfect time for a business owner to make a significant and positive impact in their business's sustainabiliy initiatives.
The owner of a construction business might know exactly how to undertake a sustainable building project, but for most small business owners, a look at the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) resources on sustainable building can help, particularly during the planning stages when the final plans haven't yet been approved.
The EPA shares:
"The built environment has a vast impact on the natural environment, human health, and the economy. By adopting green building strategies, we can maximize both economic and environmental performance. Green construction methods can be integrated into buildings at any stage, from design and construction, to renovation and deconstruction."
In addition to ensuring a business owner is doing everything he or she can to greet the new year with sustainable practices, there are also a number of economic benefits associated with sustainable building. Some of those benefits include:
- Reducing overall operating costs
- Improve productivity of employees
- Enhance marketing opportunities
- Increase life-cycle performance
Further, sustainable construction offers social benefits that can improve the lives of employees, customers, and members of the community.
3. Install Eco-Friendly Landscaping
Beds of flowers, lush grass, and other beautiful landscaping elements can improve the exterior of a business and lure customers in for retail shopping, as well as influence positive first opinions about a business. However, creating a sustainable environment outside the business is more important than choosing the biggest and most noticeable yard furnishings.
One of the popular topics of conversation for homeowners today is "xeriscaping," but this concept, which means creating landscaping that uses less water and fewer resources, is an appropriate topic for business owners, too. Any business owner with control over the exterior of the company building (whether it's an office building or a retail store) should update landscaping in an eco-friendly manner.
The city government in San Diego offers some great resources for landscaping that feature low environmental impact.
"Drought tolerant and native plants, efficient irrigation, and minimization of high-water use landscape areas conserve approximately 50 percent of landscaping water."
Virtually every business owner can engage in a few different eco-friendly practices when it comes to landscaping. It's essential to understand that a business doesn't need to operate in an area where a drought is in progress, or there is usually very little rain. Deserts aren't the only places where it makes sense to use plants that don't use a lot of water and ground coverings that help protect the soil from erosion and runoff.
4. Consider Environmental Offsets
Reducing or eliminating the use of certain materials as a business is a vital step in becoming a truly sustainable entity, but it's not always possible for a business to completely halt the use of items like paper. Although it's an admirable (and accomplishable) goal to eliminate the use of paper, sometimes it's much easier to simply reduce waste and engage in recycling.
One concept that may appeal to a business that is not yet ready or able to give up paper and printing documents is the idea of environmental offsetting. According to Springwise:
"Environmental offsetting has become a popular way to stay green in the past decade. Combining the practice with a ‘click and give’ model – enabling internet surfers to help a cause simply by using a particular service."
For example, programs have become available that connect businesses with charitable groups who plant trees. Each time someone prints a document, a donation is made to a campaign like the "Plant a Billion Trees" effort, which plants a tree for every dollar the organization receives.
Environmental offsets occasionally come under fire when used by certain businesses in the fossil fuel industry, but the concept is one that small businesses may employ without fear of negative press. It's a beneficial first step in becoming truly sustainable when a business owner cannot devote significant sums of money to become sustainable overnight.
5. Engaging in Good Maintenance Practices
Regular inspections of various systems within an office building or retail business may seem like an extra and unnecessary expense, but engaging in regular maintenance of various systems within the business is an important part of keeping the business efficient.
For example, running the air conditioner isn't exactly a sustainable practice, but many locations around the United States may become too hot for workers or customers without proper air flow. Upgrading an HVAC system to modern machinery can greatly increase efficiently even though the option does come with a significant investment for the average business.
In addition to replacing or upgrading various energy-using machinery, a business owner can also consider maintenance and cleaning for the purposes of increasing energy efficiency. While it's a noble goal to stop the use of air conditioners and heaters, it's not always so realistic. According to the National Air Duct Cleaning Association:
"…25 to 40 percent of the energy used for heating or cooling a home is wasted. Contaminants in the heating and cooling system cause it to work harder and shorten the life of your system. Although filters are used, the heating and cooling system still gets dirty through normal use."
Air duct cleaning is just one type of yearly maintenance project a business owner can consider to ensure excellent and efficient use of energy.
Let Howard Packaging Help You Keep Your Sustainable New Year's Resolutions
Sustainability continues to ramp up all over the world – for example, recycling in households across Europe has continued to rise, according to figures published by the European Environment Agency. The data showed that the volume of municipal waste going to landfill in the 32 EEA member countries fell from 49% in 2004 to 34% in 2014. Make sure your business is heading in the right direction!
Do you waste a lot of bags at your retail store? Are you looking for an innovative and sustainable solution for your business's packaging needs? Consider the environmentally-friendly packaging and bag options from Howard Packaging. Let us show you how easy it is to become sustainable and how using custom bags can boost your company's visibility and reputation. Contact us today to request a Free Catalog and Sample Kit!