3 Sustainable Practices Your Small Business Can Implement Today

2 min read • Jan 19, 2020 • Elizabeth Aldrich

We only get one planet, and we all know it’s important to take care of it. Whether you live a green lifestyle at home and think your business could improve or you’re just starting to learn about sustainability, you can take some easy steps to make your small business more earth-friendly, all while saving your company money.

Here are the best ways to start building a more sustainable business today.

1. Reduce or Eliminate Single-Use Plastic

The amount of plastic in our oceans is staggering. One article from National Geographic states that around 18 billion pounds of plastic flow into the ocean every year.

One simple way to combat this plastic waste is to eliminate plastic bags. Replace them with paper bags or cardboard boxes–or encourage customers to bring reusable bags.

Follow up by replacing plastic straws with more ocean-friendly alternatives. Bamboo and metal straws are ideal as they can be reused. If your business needs single-use straws, paper straws are a popular choice. Even better, Mexico-based Biofase sells straws made from avocado seeds that are similar to plastic straws and won’t dissolve in your drinks.

If you’re feeling ambitious, try completely eliminating plastic. Replace plastic cups and lids with paper or encourage customers and employees to bring their own reusable cups and bottles. You’ll have to get rid of any plastic packaging that’s used on your products as well, which might require some creative problem-solving. One grocery store/toiletries brand went plastic-free by offering their products in bulk.

2. Switch from Paper to Digital

Do you know how many sheets of paper your business uses each year? To give you an idea, your average office worker goes through a whopping 10,000 sheets of paper per year, according to the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance. Imagine the difference you could make if your business went paperless.

Whether you’re still keeping records in a physical notebook, giving out paper receipts, or printing out paperwork and contracts, almost everything can be done digitally nowadays if you set aside a little time to make the switch. While it might cost some money up-front to get set up for an entirely paperless business, the initial investment will pay for itself later when you’re no longer spending money on paper and ink.

3. Buy and/or Sell Used and Reusable

Shopping second-hand rather than new is one of the easiest and most wallet-friendly ways to lead a more sustainable lifestyle. Your business can follow suit by purchasing equipment, supplies, and other capital used whenever possible. You can also buy products you can reuse, return, or refill.

If you run a shop, consider incorporating this feature into the products you sell as well. Clothing stores can add a “gently used” clothing rack to their store for budget-minded shoppers while restaurants and supermarkets can offer items in bulk and sell refillable bottles and reusable to-go containers. Consider giving shoppers a small discount for sustainable practices like bringing their own shopping bag.

As a bonus, cutting waste and energy usage reduces costs immediately. When going green helps both your bottom line and the earth, there’s no reason not to do it.

Elizabeth Aldrich

Elizabeth is a freelance writer covering personal finance, business, and travel. Her writing has appeared in The Motley Fool, Business Insider, Yahoo! Finance, LendingTree, Student Loan Hero, FOX Business, and more.