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Updated: Jan 3, 2020
Talk about inconvenient truths: every single one of us is at least a little bit responsible for the environmental catastrophes rapidly befalling the Earth. Put enough of us together, and the effect is even more pronounced.
While two-thirds of manmade global warming has been caused by just 90 companies, it still behooves the responsible business owner to take matters into her own hands by adopting greener policies.
Whether you’re a shop, cafe or office, there are easy steps that you can take to reduce your carbon footprint and make your small business green.
Whether you’re an office that somehow, even in 2016, manages to go through reams of paper on the regular, or you serve hot beverages to a couple hundred people per day—post-consumer waste paper products are your friend. This type of recycled product has all the integrity and quality of a first-use paper source, with none of the oxygen deleting, forest destroying downsides. Toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates, receipt paper, merchandise bags. Whatever your paper need—you can find post-consumer products. It comes in different compositional blends. Opt for a higher percentage of PCW material for extra karma.
Better yet, transition as much of your business away from paper as possible. Screen-based menus, glass cups, and other options can help you reduce your impact even more.
Indoor air quality is often as bad as or worse than outdoor air quality as a result of the toxic compounds found in many common cleaning products. The manufacturing of these bad products is often harmful, the packaging rarely created in a sustainable fashion, and overall many of the companies creating these products are generally not a good thing for human beings.
Vinegar has tremendously underrated antibacterial properties, which is great because traditional antibacterial formulations available in commercial products are worsening bacteria resistance, contributing to an increasingly likely catastrophic situation where none of us are able to fight infections because of the dumb soap we use everywhere.
There are a range of more eco-friendly cleaning options out there. Check with the Environmental Working Group to assess the green-ness, or lack thereof, of your current cleaning products and find better brands to replace them if necessary.
Energy Star qualifying appliances use 10 to 50 percent less power than their less efficient counterparts. The Energy Star seal is actually a program overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency to encourage more responsible power use by consumers and businesses by allowing manufacturers to have their appliances certified as more eco-responsible. Visit the Energy Star website to see how much energy and money you could save by replacing your current refrigerator with an Energy Star appliance, among thousands of other helpful bits of information about making your business green.
Food waste is a huge issue for a number of reasons, all of them bummers. For one thing, the environmental impact of food production, particularly meat and some particularly thirsty crops, can mean is one of the single biggest contributors to manmade climate change there is. That’s one reason why it’s smart to minimize the impact where we can. There’s no reason to make food waste an issue on both sides of the consumer equation. Any business can get into composting, but it’s especially encouraging to see a growing number of food serving businesses recognize the growing importance of composting as a method for reducing waste.
Getting into composting is a bit of a rabbit hole. There are several different styles that produce several different outcomes (for instance, would you like to do worm composting? Do you have access to a garden?). Figuring out the right method for composting for your business may require a certain amount of very worthwhile research on your part.
You can start here.
If you implement all of the above, you’ll have made a measurable impact on your contribution to environmental harm. Your customers will appreciate the effort you’ve made to make your business green, and your initiative to foster a culture of environmental responsibility and stewardship for growing awareness of green options for local businesses. But there’s one thing you can do that will really push the envelope to the place that we should really all aspire to be.
We can reduce our harm, and that produces great, wonderful, necessary gains that any of us should feel proud of for adopting. But we can also offset our carbon footprint completely. There are services available (such as Native Energy) that allow you to purchase carbon credits, to help fund carbon reducing energy sources and projects, and a variety of other applications.
Ways that you can implement this would range from adopting a small price increase on your goods or services in order to pay for the offset or to allow customers to make voluntary contributions toward offsetting your carbon emissions.
Michael Jones is a Senior Editor for Funding Circle, specializing in small business loans. He holds a degree in International Business and Economics from Boston University's Questrom School of Business. Prior to Funding Circle, Michael was the Head of Content for Bond Street, a venture-backed FinTech company specializing in small business loans. He has written extensively about small business loans, entrepreneurship, and marketing.