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How can your small business go green?

Each of us can do our part to reduce our carbon footprint, sure. And we all should. But individual actions can only do so much. Businesses need to be setting examples for sustainability, even where governments fail to do so. 

Beyond the existential reasons for going green, consumer data is also giving financial reasons to do so as well. A recent global studyshowed that 57% of consumers would change their shopping habits to reduce environmental impact. Further, of those consumers, 71% would pay more for sustainable brands. 

For many small businesses, though, going green can seem like a daunting task, and with a lot of misinformation out there, it can be tough to know where to begin. Many people often think going green will cost a lot of money too, but this isn’t the case. There are plenty of practical measures that small businesses can take to begin their sustainability journey — without costing the earth.

Here’s a handful of ways you can start being eco-friendly in your business today.

Reduce, reuse and recycle

Start slimming down your carbon footprint by implementing as many ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ practices as possible. From enforcing the use of recycling bins in the office to glass over plastic product policies and encouraging reusables, such as leftover card boxes that are a little worse for wear but still sufficient for packaging and shipping goods. Starting a compost in your workplace is another great way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — creating nutrient-rich soil and keeping your rubbish from smelling. Cardboard boxes and shredded paper can be used in compost as a ‘brown’ material to balance out the ‘green material’.  

Move to renewable energy 

Lessening your business’ reliance on traditional coal-generated energy sources will not only slash your monthly bill but boost your green credentials. GreenPower is an accredited program that makes it easier for small businesses to support renewable energy without changing their supplier or undergoing installation procedures. A growing number of Australian businesses are helping to support Australia’s renewable energy sector by displacing 50% or more of their annual electricity consumption with GreenPower.

Some other ways to become more energy efficient in the workplace include:

  • Switch out your old bulbs for long-lasting LED lights. They use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs and don’t contain mercury like compact fluorescents. Plus, they last 50 times longer than incandescent bulbs!
  • Automate light usage. Changing out light switches with motion sensors allows you to keep light usage down to only the times it is needed.
  • Utilize natural light. Inside lights can be draining for humans and electricity alike. When the sun is out, you can dim or turn off your lights to save energy (and recharge your people).
  • Laptops over desktops. Desktop computers are real energy hogs. Laptops use up to 80% less electricity!
  • Turn off or put to sleep. There are many machines in a typical workplace, and they don’t need to be humming at all times. Shut them off when not in use. You can easily set up energy-saving functions for computers, so they get some shut-eye when not being used for a time.

Partner with like-minded suppliers

When choosing who to work with, select companies that share your passion for the environment. A little research goes a long way, and there are eco-friendly alternatives for almost everything on your checklist — from the toilet paper you buy to who you bank with to which super fund you use and who you use for your shipping. Creating an ecosystem of partners who understand your business and act in the best interest of the planet enhances the efforts you’re making with your own products. 

Consider carbon offsetting

Carbon offsetting is taking responsibility for your carbon emissions by reducing them somewhere else. For example, planting a tree for every ten items sold and soaking up carbon dioxide directly from the air or perhaps investing in environmental projects through purchasing ‘carbon credits’. 

Purchasing carbon credits is one way businesses can account for those unavoidable carbon emissions and begin their journey to becoming carbon neutral. Any individual or business can estimate their own emissions and offset them with one of many great organisations. 

The estimation may be the difficult part, but many carbon offset marketplaces have calculators to help you simply estimate your footprint and guide you on how to buy equivalent credits. Here are some great organisations to offset your greenhouse gas emissions:

Partner with a carbon-neutral delivery service

As online shopping continues to explode, it’s estimated that by 2025 the global parcel volume will reach 200 billion (over double what it was in 2017). If you’re an eCommerce business, delivery is the final step in your supply chain and can be the greatest contributor of carbon emissions for online retailers — over 10% of global CO2 emissions come from the transport and logistics industry. By choosing a carbon neutral courier service, you’ll fund projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, offsetting your business’s carbon footprint. 

Opt for low-impact packaging

One of the biggest consumer concerns with online shopping is the extraordinary amount of packaging that ends up in landfill. There are many alternatives to support the war on plastic — from corrugated cardboard boxes and packing paper to water dissolvable packing peanuts made from cornstarch and even mushroom packaging, a 100% biodegradable replacement to polystyrene.

Another great example is compostable satchels (made from worm-friendly corn starch and PBAT) that can easily replace traditional plastic poly mailer bags — and they’re low cost. 

Read more: E-waste: How businesses can maximise security while saving the environment

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James Chin Moody

James Chin Moody

James Chin Moody is the Co-founder and CEO of Sendle, Australia's first 100% carbon neutral courier service. James has previously held roles as Executive Director, Development at the CSIRO, Australian National Commissioner for UNESCO, member of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology Advisory Board and Trustee for the Australian Museum.

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