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Decreasing Your Footprint – Lessening the Environmental Impact of Your Business

Going green can help you earn more green for the business.

An increasing number of people, particularly in the younger generation, are becoming more concerned with protecting the environment and more conscientious of the way their consumer habits are affecting the planet.

According to a survey conducted by Greenbiz, 63% of people polled stated that they believe the threat of climate change is “very serious,” and 46% stated that “they want to change their lifestyle ‘a great deal’ to be more environmentally friendly.”

Although many want to change their behaviors, they also state that they feel they face barriers to improving their impact on the planet. Just behind “lack of government support” at 47%, 34% of consumers ranked “lack of business support” as a significant impediment to achieving their environmental goals.

It is up to all of us to do our part in improving our world we will leave behind for our children. While the particular environmental impact of each business is unique, here are a few general tips to get you thinking of how you can update and improve your business to help protect our planet.

  • Ditch the “compostables.” Often, restaurants and grocery stores offer compostable bioplastics in things like cutlery or disposable bags, touting them as a more sustainable option. Unfortunately, however, this is seldom the case. While composting is a wonderful and beneficial practice, most American households do not own a compost bin or have access to curbside municipal composting. Even if a product is compostable, if it goes into a landfill, it will not break down. These products need very specific conditions of moisture, heat, oxygen, and dry materials to actually break down to form a beneficial soil. If your business is not providing commercial composting and providing a place for these items to go when they’re disposed of, they’ll most likely end up in the trash, not doing anyone any good. Consider using reusable mugs, plates, and cutleries in restaurants or cafes. In other stores, encourage your customers to use reusable bags, providing some for sale if possible.


  • Take a look at your emails and carbon footprint. This particular point applies to most businesses in this day and age. We’re all aware of the waste that comes along with sending out paper flyers for marketing, but are you aware of the significant carbon impact caused by email? According to Greenmatters, emails are stored on “the cloud,” which is fueled by electricity generated by fossil fuels. eCo2Greetings calculated that “an average year of emailing emits about 136 kilograms of CO2e, which is about the same impact as driving 200 miles in a gas-powered car.” Consider sending out fewer marketing emails to help offset this problem for your customers.


  • Add vegan options to your menus or inventory. According to the United Nations, “meat and dairy (farmed livestock) accounts for 14.5% of all manmade greenhouse gas emissions,” which is “roughly equivalent to the exhaust emissions of every car, train, ship and aircraft on the planet!” While it may not be necessary to immediately switch your entire menu to plant-based alternatives, adding just a few vegan options can be tremendously helpful both in lowering your impact and appealing to vegan or aspiring-vegan customers (39% of Americans say they are trying to eat more plant-based!)


  • The great debate: paper towels vs. electric dryers. Air dryers use energy, but paper towels waste paper! Which is better for the planet? According to a study done by the Portland government, the answer isn’t quite so black and white. Basically, the most environmentally friendly option is to invest in a high-speed hand dryer, like a Dyson. If that’s out of your price range, paper towels are a better option than a standard, “non-high-speed” hot air dryer.


  • Avoid greenwashing. According to Business News Daily, greenwashing is “when a company purports to be environmentally conscious for marketing purposes but actually isn’t making any notable sustainability efforts.” Consumers are becoming increasingly skeptical about claims made by businesses regarding their sustainability efforts, so full transparency and honesty in your efforts is key. Check out this link for a comprehensive list of ways to avoid both blatant and inadvertent greenwashing.

As consumers continue to take environmentalism more seriously, they look towards businesses to help them make beneficial choices in their daily lives. By improving the environmental impact of your business, you may improve your own profit margins and customer satisfaction, as well as benefitting the world we all live in.