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5 Easy Ways to Become a More Sustainable Small Business

September 1st 2023

Concerns about our planet continue to increase, pushing companies of all sizes to explore how they can reduce their impact on the environment. 

Although smaller companies have a smaller footprint, because there are so many, even minor efforts to minimize the business’s impact on the environment can reap big rewards. In fact, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA) as of 2023 there are more than 33 million small businesses in the U.S. Those businesses employ 61.7 million workers or nearly half (46.4 percent) of the private sector workforce.

Given those numbers, it’s easy to see how even small efforts to curb resource usage can make a difference. Here are five easy ways companies can become more sustainable:

1. Reduce energy consumption

Even if your workspace lease is all-inclusive, meaning you don’t pay separately for heat or electricity, you can still take steps to reduce your company’s energy usage.

One easy way is to swap out all the office lightbulbs and replace them with the LED variety. You can also install light sensors that turn lights off in spaces where no movement is evident after a certain amount of time. Keeping the temperature comfortable but not super chilly during the summer or comfortable but not toasty during the winter can also help; turn your thermostat up or down a couple of degrees.

2. Go paperless

Reducing your reliance on paper can save money and improve sustainability. U.S. offices go through 12.1 trillion sheets of paper. A year. That’s an average of 10,000 sheets a year per office worker.

Cutting back on your paper usage can mean everything from sending statements and invoices online to online bill paying, receipts, sending event invitations online, sending newsletters online, catalogs online—virtually anything that is printed can be converted into digital form to avoid having to print it out. Going digital also has financial benefits, with lower (or no) printing and mailing costs.

3. Become a hybrid workforce

Unless your business needs employees to be on-site in order to function, such as if you run a doggie day care, a restaurant, or a manufacturing operation, consider allowing your staff to work from home part of the week. Not only does that improve employee satisfaction, since many employees prefer not to have to trek into the office, but it reduces your employees’ energy usage en route.

Not having to commute to work saves time, reduces energy consumption (by not having to pay for gas, tolls, and parking or for public transportation), and saves money (by reducing the need for work attire and lunches out). At the same time, fewer employees on-site then reduces energy consumption at work.

4. Source materials locally

The shorter the distance your raw materials or products need to travel, the lower the negative impact on the environment. Having to transport materials cross-country generates more pollution and burns more gas than if you could purchase the same items in your zip code.

Consider finding business suppliers closer to your operations to reduce energy usage and shipping costs. An added bonus is that you can support other smaller businesses in your area.

5. Use environmentally friendly packing materials

If you ship products out to customers, look into recycled or sustainable packaging materials. Rather than stuffing boxes with plastic packing peanuts, which are terrible for the environment, consider instead starch-based peanuts, cardboard, and paper, biodegradable bubble wrap or mailers, mycelium, or bagasse paper to keep shipments safe.

At the same time, reducing the amount of packaging you use can also reduce your company’s environmental impact. Rather than triple-packing products in oversized boxes, try to be more compact. Find boxes that more closely fit the size of the product.

Sure, there are other steps you can take, too, such as recycling all office paper, putting all software and files in the cloud, and pursuing a green business certification if you want to go all in. But committing to even one of the above efforts will make a difference. Reducing your company’s energy consumption and wasting of resources can have a positive impact on our environment.

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