Integrate sustainability into every aspect of your small business

By Sam Casteris

The bad news: the earth isn’t doing so well.

For years, humans have lived their lives without giving the health of the planet much thought. Now, that thoughtlessness is coming back to bite us— and unfortunately, it’s our kids’ generation that is most likely to suffer from it. That is, unless we do something about it.

The good news: there’s still time to do something about it.

These days, major brands and individuals have been making changes to their businesses to reduce their carbon footprints and reverse some of the damage that’s been done to the planet.

As a small business owner, you are in a unique position. You are able to implement changes in your company that can have a positive impact on the world. Plus, it’s good for business — as sustainability issues are being discussed with more frequency, going green has become trendy with consumers! Many people prefer to support a company with a sustainable bent.

Unsure of how to integrate more sustainable practices into your business? We have some handy tips for you:

Light up your office life…sustainably

Are the fluorescent or incandescent bulbs at your office causing you more grief than you’d realized? Not only can the light from those globes be a bit jarring, but they are also not very energy efficient.

By fitting your place of business with LED lights, you are making multiple good choices. First, you are reducing your own costs— LED lights last longer, shine brighter, cost less to run, and are the most sustainable option out there.

Though there may be initial installation costs, LEDs are an investment that will pay for themselves tenfold. Your office will be using less energy on a daily basis, which is good for both your planet and your budget.

Give your old fry oil a second chance

If you own a food business, you might be familiar with the ole Fryolator. Commercial deep fryers produce some of the tastiest food in America, from french fries to buffalo wings. Of course, these massive machines require lots of maintenance. They must be properly cleaned and the oil should be changed consistently.

Of course, this poses the question of what to do with the old fry oil. Tipping it down the sink could cause drain blockage that costs thousands! Until recently, many eateries dumped their old oil into buckets and had it removed by waste services that were costly and inefficient. Nowadays, there’s a greener, more modern solution available— and it’s pretty amazing.

Today certain companies will pick up your cooking oil and recycle it into biodiesel. Then, if you have enough to give, they’ll even send you a rebate check. The same grease that your crew made fish and chips in today can help to fuel a car tomorrow.

Offer incentives for your staff to go green

It’s no secret that people love to win. If you have a big team, this is a great way to encourage a more sustainable culture within your company. Try challenging your team to see who can create the least amount of waste every month. The winner gets a bonus, tickets to a special event, or another coveted prize.

Let the sunshine in 

If you own the building where you operate from, have you considered installing solar panels on your roof space? They are absolutely incredible— instead of fueling your house with energy derived from fossil fuels, they rely on sunshine!

Solar panels, though a somewhat costly investment, are a massive money saver in the long run. Many states now even offer incentives to get started. Since the energy you’ll be using will come from the sun, and not the grid, you won’t have to worry about huge electrical bills, especially during air conditioning or heater season.

Encourage reusables with branded freebies

Want your team to ditch single-use items, like plastic water bottles? Start the problem before it starts and give new employees some branded swag to welcome them, sustainably. Cloth grocery bags, metal water bottles, to-go coffee cups,  tupperware, or reusable straws are all work-friendly ways to ditch the plastics while on the clock…or in life.

Go as paperless as possible

Are you still marketing with flyers, physical coupons, and mail? It’s time to go digital. Not only will it keep your business modern and appealing to more demographics, it’s better for the planet.

Let’s say you have a team member standing outside your store, handing out coupons or pamphlets. You can hope that the people who don’t actually come inside are recycling them, but chances are, they’re ending up in the trash—or worse, crumpled up on the street.

Save paper by ditching it entirely. Instead of coupons, try offering a promo code, or special deal for people who check into your store on social media.

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Sam Casteris is an avid travel and lifestyle writer interested in helping budding entrepreneurs run their own businesses sustainably.

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