Reducing waste and emissions is increasingly integral to the running of an efficient business. With 95% of scientists agreeing that there is a current climate emergency, it’s more important than ever to make changes.
We all share a responsibility for helping to reduce waste, especially plastic. It’s time to think outside of the box when it comes to packaging and processes.
Here are 13 ways that your business can look to reduce its environmental impact:
1. Re-using packaging with recycled paper tape
Lots of businesses purchase new, branded boxes to send out their products to clients. They do look great (and we’re a bit jealous) but can you really justify throwing out all the packaging you receive, only to have new boxes produced?
Try ordering paper tape (made from recycled paper, naturally) that is custom branded with your logo. This can be used to give old boxes a new lease of on-brand life. The best of both worlds.
Get a sample first to check that the tape sticks well onto card as well as onto any plastic tape that’s already there (from previous use). It communicates your business logo and branding, and also shows your clients that you’re serious about saving resources.
2. Encourage suppliers to go paper free with you
Most suppliers send invoices by email these days, but there are always some that still send old school paper versions. This is two-fold waste of resources; printing it out and sending it by post (think petrol and emissions…)
Ask your suppliers to stop sending paper bills, switching to email instead. You can also take yourselves off mailing lists, and ask suppliers not to send catalogues in the post. If your polite requests are ignored, write “Return to Sender” on the envelope and put it back into the postal system. This will mean post gets sent back to the company at their own cost (which tends to motivate them to update their records, if they haven’t already!)
3. Banish plastic address labels and sleeves from your packaging.
You wouldn’t think it would be hard to find an eco-friendly way to label boxes with the courier address label but we’ve found it really tricky.
Courier companies provide stick on plastic sleeves to attach to the box or, for larger volumes, a label printer but both of these options use plastic. We found a great supply of recycled paper labels and printed onto these for a while, until we realised that the sticker backing was unrecyclable!
We recommend going right back to basics - print onto recycled paper and use paper tape to attach it to the box. Zero plastic and everything is recycled and recyclable.
4. Keep a well-equipped staff kitchen
Having plates, cutlery and maybe a microwave at work means that staff are more likely to bring their own lunches in, often in reusable tupperware.
Ready meals and sandwiches bought from shops almost always have lots of packaging. Staff may drive to and from the shops during their break - less downtime for them, and more emissions!
So, for forks’ sake, at least get some cutlery in your drawers!
5. Commit to buying plant-based drinks and staff meals
“A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication [water pollution], land use and water use.” – Joseph Poore, University of Oxford
It’s thought to have a far bigger impact than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car, as these only cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Stock up on non-dairy milks for tea and coffee, and even if you don’t provide a totally plant-based offering, try to commit to having a few days a week when you do keep your staff meals vegetarian or vegan.
6. Compost staff kitchen waste
Have a bin in the kitchen for food waste; ideally one for cooked waste and one for ‘home compostable’ waste. Take home the home compost if you can and organise a collection for the cooked waste.
Organic waste sent to landfill breaks down without any oxygen present and emits methane (a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more damaging than carbon dioxide). Organic waste placed in a compost bin in the garden rots in the presence of oxygen. Microbes, fungi, insects and worms slowly decompose the rubbish into a sustainable source of compost that can be used to provide nutrients for the soil.
If a quarter of us switched from dumping organic waste in landfill sites to composting it, we'd save the equivalent of 2.5m tonnes of CO2 from reaching the atmosphere each year.
7. Give away unwanted packaging materials
What do you do with all the bubble wrap, polystyrene, packaging chips, void fillers, odd sized cardboard boxes, padded envelopes and other crud that you get sent by suppliers every day?
You could recycle what you can and chuck the rest in the bin for landfill – but it would be much greener to find someone else who can use it as is – before it needs to undergo the process of recycling.
We offer ours to neighbouring small businesses and enterprises. There may be a few local places near you who would love to reuse your old materials – saving them money and helping them improve their eco credentials in one fell swoop!
Ask around, put a message on social media or approach some likely businesses and organisations.
8. Use An Energy Provider That Does 100% Renewable Energy
There are lots of renewable energy companies now and some of them have some great initiatives including green gas and tree planting initiatives.
Often it works out cheaper than using one of the Big Six energy providers that rely on fossil fuels. Make sure you choose a provider that uses 100% renewable electricity.
You can find out more, compare rates and make the switch at www.bigcleanswitch.org
At I Dress Myself, we use Bulb and have been really happy with their service and pricing. If you’d like to join, you can sign up via our referral code and get £50 off your first bill. www.bulb.me/hannah68
9. Support a local tree planting initiative (and help your team to thrive too!)
Planting trees is a great way to help minimise the damage done to the environment. Trees absorb carbon dioxide to produce oxygen and wood, as well as locking up carbon. Trees can also improve soil quality, stability, reduce the impacts of flooding, provide vital habitats for wildlife.
Native broadleaf species help to preserve the biodiversity in the UK. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recommended that at least 30,000 hectares be planted every year. Last year, the UK planted just 13,400 hectares of woodland, the majority of which was in Scotland. Woodland cover needs to increase from 13 per cent to 17 per cent – the equivalent of 1.5 billion new trees.
Planting trees is one of the best ways to address the damage already done to the climate. We need to start prioritising their planting, so that they can grow and begin absorbing carbon dioxide, sooner rather than later.
Be a part of this initiative at an integral time, either by donating money or time. It can be a great team building activity for your employees to spend time planting teams together.
10. Create an end-of-day checklist to ensure that everything is switched off
Create a custom checklist for the end of the day, so that the last person to leave is prompted to check that everything is turned off and shut down correctly.
Reduce energy by making sure no unnecessary energy is used overnight - think heaters, lights, computers and printers.
11. Use an energy efficient kettle and only boil the water you need
Most workplaces would grind to a halt without a steady flow of tea and coffee. Energy efficient kettles use less electricity and many have markings to prompt the user to only boil the amount of water required.
Sustainable online platform Do Nation have calculated that, collectively, UK tea drinkers could save nearly £1 million a day in electricity savings by only boiling what’s needed.
12. Encourage employees to walk or cycle to work
Make sure there’s somewhere safe for employees to store their bikes. You could promote schemes such as Love to Ride, which encourages people to track and post about their cycle to work commutes, and offers amazing prizes as an added incentive.
Cycling or walking has the added bonus of increasing the health and happiness of your employees. It’s even shown that cycling to work increases productivity!
For larger businesses and where cycling isn’t appropriate, why not set up or join a car share scheme? Sharing with just one other person instantly cuts fuel bills and carbon emissions by up to 50%. It also helps to foster good working relationships between employees that get to know each other on the commute.
13. Set Goals and Monitor Progress
Weigh and record your waste so that you can set goals for waste reduction and monitor your progress. Check your electricity and water meters every month.
You could challenge your staff to beat previous months’ readings and come up with new ways of saving resources. It's part of our sustainable approach to have measurable goals that we can document and work towards each year.
So, there you have it; 13 ways that you can reduce the environmental impact of your business.
Putting together this list has shown us two important things:
We’ve actually made quite a lot of changes over the years!
The cumulative effect can be quite large.
Let us leave you with an inspirational quote by Greta Thunberg, to help spur you to action:
"Sometimes we just simply have to find a way. The moment we decide to fulfil something, we can do anything. And I’m sure the moment we start behaving as if we were in an emergency, we can avoid climate and ecological catastrophe. Humans are very adaptable: we can still fix this. But the opportunity to do so will not last for long. We must start today. We have no more excuses."