With the recent news regarding the effects that climate change will have on our world, it’s more important than ever that small businesses do their part to be environmentally responsible and engage in best practices that aren’t just good for the Earth but are also good for their bottom-line.
While banning plastic straws for their environmental mayhem is all the rage right now, despite claims of ableism, there are greater steps that your small restaurant can take to be a better ally to the planet.
Rather than putting the onus on your business for utensils and plate ware, suggest your customers bring their own if they’re interested in reducing both their environmental footprint and their bill. You can also opt for reusable bottles, coffee cups, and other dishware. It also helps to promote a more vegetarian menu to reduce for water and carbon footprint, improve the sustainability of your food sources, and to cater to a growing vegan and vegetarian populace. As a bonus, make sure the fruits and vegetables you’re buying meet the sustainability trifecta of being seasonal, organic, and local.
Take your sustainability beyond just individual behavior by integrating recycling into your business model. Recycle more than just the dishes. Compost food scraps and donate them to a local garden, recycle your used cooking oil into biofuel. The more integrated your sustainability is into the core of your businesses, the more effective it will be in sending a message to larger companies that investing in sustainability is worth it to their bottom line.
Running your own shop presents many opportunities for you to engage in and promote environmentally friendly practices, including replacing the items you stock with greener alternatives to ensure your business practices, ensuring you use biodegradable cleaning products to reduce your reliance on and exposure to toxins that might seep into the environment, and switching to compact fluorescent and LED lights. Not only do they look better, but they last longer and use less energy, saving you hundreds of dollars over time.
Because of the nature of agriculture and controversies around complex topics like GMOs and pesticides, being green while working in the landscaping industry has historically been difficult. Recent trends, however, have helped to better enable small landscaping businesses to thrive and expand their practices.
Among those trends is urban farming, the practice of growing vegetables in small plots of land in metropolitan areas, as well as increased prevalence of organized and managed community gardens. Urban farms, as a matter of both practicality and principal, avoid the use of hazardous chemicals and pesticides, but this allows you to market alternatives and promote other urban farming-friendly practices for customers and clients to take up. It’ll also allow you to branch into managing composting bins for busy urbanites, as well as doing routine landscape maintenance on their green spaces.
As a landscape business-owner, you’re also in a great position to sell clients on sustainable and environmentally-friendly practices, like xeriscaping, using synthetic grass, installing green walls, and making use of reusable landscaping materials/
For those of us operating long-held family laundromats, the prospect of switching to be more environmentally-friendly by doing things like reducing water usage and reducing heat use might sound more like an eviction notice than smart operational moves. Becoming more energy and environmentally conscious, however, doesn’t mean reduction in the quality your customers have come to expect. In fact, you’ll end up saving hundreds of dollars in operational costs.
For example, you can switch to high-efficiency front-loading washers. They reduce water use and potential waste, saving both you and the environment from millions of wasted gallons of water. You can also switch to cold water only cycles. The formulas detergents use no longer necessitate the use of hot water for a thorough cleaning. By using cold water instead of hot water, you save the cost of heating water and thousands of pounds of carbon emissions per machine. Another measure you can take is stocking all-natural laundry detergents and non-chlorine bleach, both of which safer for the environment, kinder to fabrics and your skin, and cost-efficient. By stocking these, you can introduce your customers to better products, help them eliminate trips to the store, increase your profits, and, of course, help protect the environment.
What else can small businesses do?
While small businesses across the board can implement the above-suggested changes, the world also benefits when business owners use their voice and buying power to advocate for larger systemic and institutional changes.
As a small business owner, you can work to increase your own awareness of environmental issues within your industry, educate the local community and governments about environmental challenges your business faces, advocate for utility companies to switch to alternative, renewable energy sources, like wind, solar, and geothermal, encourage employees to use public or carbon-neutral transportation options, and switch to “green web hosts” who take measures to reduce the environmental costs of their servers and infrastructure have on the Earth.
You have power in your voice and your actions. Now, more than ever, it’s important that you see yourself and your business as a force for positive change when it comes to our shared environment and the planet we live on.