Eco-friendly small business practices are great for the environment and your budget. Many eco-friendly strategies are designed to reduce consumption, so they help cut costs on everything from packing supplies to electricity. Going green can also boost profits; when your operations, products, and packaging are green, customers can feel great about supporting your business.
From packaging scraps to printer paper, small businesses produce a considerable amount of garbage. You can spend less on disposal fees by finding ways to reduce waste. Your break room might be a surprising culprit. Cut back on trash by using larger containers of cream and sugar instead of individually packaged versions. Consider a ban on disposable plastic water bottles, and install a water cooler. If you find yourself hauling away bags full of takeout boxes, ask employees to use reusable containers. In exchange, stock the kitchen with standard dishes and utensils to generate less trash and cut supply costs. Around the building, reduce waste with:
- Air dryers
- Bulk cleaning solutions
- Reusable air filters
- Shredded office paper as packing material
To get employees on board, the Recycling Council of Ontario suggests you use contests and incentives. Give a gift card to the employee who produces the least garbage, or offer a prize for the most creative waste-reduction idea.
Instead of sending solid waste to a landfill, find creative recycling options. Start by recycling anything you can’t reuse: cardboard packaging, plastic film, broken electronics, and paper. Consider supporting nonprofits or local organizations by donating used furniture and equipment. If you use fluorescent lighting, remember to recycle the tubes when they burn out. The bulbs contain mercury, so it’s important to bring them to a recycling center. If your business generates food waste, be sure to check your city’s requirements. In Vancouver, local law requires you to separate and recycle food scraps. Instead of paying a hauler to take scraps, save money by partnering with nearby businesses to install an organics management system. You can donate the compost to local residents, farmers, or community gardens, a benefit for the area and an easy way to reduce long-haul transportation emissions. Another great recycling option is the Waste Exchange Network, a website that allows you to post your commercial waste for others in your province to claim. In this case, one person’s trash is definitely another’s treasure; users offer everything from used fryer oil to drywall scraps.
Adjust Your Packaging Plan
In homes across the country, plastic shopping bags overflow drawers and cupboards, and often make their way to landfills. Your company can help the environment by charging customers per bag. In the six months after English stores began charging for bags, total usage dropped by 85%. This strategy allows you to order fewer bags, which reduces your use of fossil fuels. Plus, since you’re passing on the cost to customers, you can spend less on supplies. If you have control over packaging, you can expand your impact by switching to reusable containers. Straus Family Creamery in California packages milk in glass bottles and charges a deposit. Customers get their deposit back when they return the bottles, which are then cleaned and reused. With a similar strategy, your business can buy fewer containers and send less to the landfill.
Audit Utility Use
Use fewer resources and slash utility bills by streamlining your company’s power, gas, and water usage. Small steps can help you make a difference right away:
- Turn off cash registers, computers, and office equipment at night.
- Invest in motion-sensor lights for your freezers and refrigerators.
- Use natural light for illumination whenever possible.
- Install energy-efficient fixtures and equipment when it’s time for replacements.
- Replace incandescent bulbs with LEDs.
Then, take a closer look at your operations with a facilities audit. Work with a professional auditor to find heat leaks, poor insulation, or high water usage. If you want a DIY option, the Energy Savings Toolbox from Natural Resources Canada guides you through the process. By finding and fixing inefficient areas, such as drafty windows or leaky pipes, you can avoid wasting expensive utilities.
Choose Green Energy Sources
Depending on where in Canada your business operates, you may be able to choose your utility provider. If that’s an option, try to select a company that uses sustainable hydro, geothermal, solar, or wind sources. Look to companies such as Just Energy, which offer green energy plans that use renewable energy credits to offset standard power usage. If you have the space and the investment capital, you can generate your own electricity with a small renewable system, such as solar panels or wind turbines. The system covers a percentage of your company’s energy needs, automatically reducing monthly bills. Plus, if you produce extra power, your utility company may offer compensation. In Québec, Hydro-Québec gives you credits for excess power that’s fed into the grid. During months when you need to draw from the grid, these credits offset the cost.
Investigate Tax Incentives
In some cases, going green can help you save money on your tax bill. The government provides a range of Canadian tax incentives and other benefits for businesses that go green. Programs vary by province; to start, check out the Canada Business Network listings. In Nova Scotia, for example, you can receive rebates when you buy energy-efficient items, as of March 2017. By making the effort to go green, you can show customers you’re committed to sustainability, all while cutting costs. As a result, you can improve your image and boost business from eco-friendly shoppers.