As Earth Day approaches, companies big and small journey to go where the grass is always greener by swapping their light bulbs for more efficient models, handing out reusable shopping bags and sending electronic receipts. There’s a reason these tactics have caught on, and they’ll serve your small business well for much longer than the month of April.
As it turns out, going green isn’t just a seasonal fad — it’s a responsible and lucrative business strategy. Internationally, more than half of consumers are reportedly willing to spend more with companies that are committed to having a positive social and environmental impact on society. What’s more, the population of consumers willing to pay for sustainability seems to be growing, particularly among millennials, the largest consumer generation, according to Nielsen.
Clearly, it’s not a coincidence that Pantone’s 2017 color of the year is greenery, as reported by Forbes. The environment is at the forefront of consumers’ consciousness, whether they want to spend more time reconnecting with it or donate more money protecting it. To leverage this environmental enthusiasm — and, not to mention, decrease your business’s carbon footprint — there are more ways to go green than just changing light bulbs and emailing receipts.
Composting keeps items like food scraps and yard waste out of landfills and recycles them into fertilizer and organic substances. According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), more than 50 percent of trash is compostable. Many Americans start composting programs on a small scale — usually in their household or workplace — but community composting brings local businesses and residents together to create a cleaner, more eco-friendly town or city.
“It’s another opportunity to come together and work on something together for a common end goal,” said ILSR’s Linda Bilsens, project manager of the institute’s Neighborhood Soil Rebuilders Program. Bilsens explained the benefits of community composting in a recent episode of ILSR’s Building Local Power podcast. For more information on community composting or how to get started, check out ILSR’s Neighborhood Soil Rebuilders Program.
For small businesses, buying local seems like a no brainer. More than walking the walk, though, buying local can be about finding more sustainable ways to do business. Let’s say you own a local bakery. To make your fruit-flavored tarts more eco-friendly, you can source produce from a nearby farmers’ market. That way, your ingredients don’t require the gallons and gallons of fuel traditionally used to transport food items across the country or around the world.
The same concept applies to a multitude of businesses. For instance, if you’re selling apparel, home goods or furnishings, source them from local designers or artisans. Local goods aren’t just better for your Main Street business — they’re also better for the environment around it.
Reward Green Behavior
Going green starts with you and continues with your employees and your customers. Encourage sustainable behavior by putting recycling bins around the store or office, and reinforce similar behavior through an incentive program. For your employees, offer a bonus or an extra vacation day for those who bike to work. For customers, consider offering a 5-percent discount to those who bring reusable shopping bags. The reward may require a small cost, but the return on investment could go a long way for your business and your community.
Through job creation and reinvestment, small businesses have a big impact on their communities. You can do your part to make sure that impact isn’t environmental. Use your entrepreneurial skills to find new ways to go green and work with other local businesses on and around Main Street to spread the sustainability. Whether for the environment or your bottom line, going green could be the key to small business success.