Going green is trendy, and for good reason. We’re a relatively wasteful society, and much of material we discard can be reused through recycling programs. Sometimes reducing, reusing and recycling requires extra steps or a healthy dose of habit-breaking. However, if every business made a few changes to reduce its carbon footprint, the effect could be astronomical.
There are obviously factors that are out of your control as a business owner. If you’re already well-established and haven’t replaced your store fixtures in years, they may not be made from recycled materials. However, you can mix up your operations in little ways to do your part in sustainable business practices.
The benefits of recycling
On the most basic level, recycling is about taking items that could be thrown away and giving them another use. These products are collected, sorted and cleaned, then fashioned into something new or sold as raw materials. Commonly recycled items are newspaper, plastic, glass, aluminum and steel. However, even electronics, batteries and clothes can be reused. You probably encounter recycled materials on a daily basis, from trash bags and egg cartons to car bumpers and carpeting. Both aluminum and steel can be used over and over again for items such as soda cans.
Many of recycling’s positive effects benefit the environment. When materials are recycled instead of trashed, landfills aren’t as overloaded. The practice is also creating new jobs in recycling and manufacturing industries, a welcome change in the often-bleak unemployment rate, according to the United States Environment Protection Agency. Natural resources such as trees are conserved when paper and cardboard are recycled, and energy is saved as a result. Without cutting down new trees, companies don’t have to pay for processing and shipping new paper, and neither does the environment. Benefits of Recycling explained that factories use less energy when processing recycled materials than fresh raw items, while emitting fewer greenhouse gasses and less pollution.
Incorporate recycling practices into your business
Big name companies have been creating and promoting their own recycling programs in the past few years. From Staples’ binder recycling initiative to Best Buy’s commitment to recycling electronics, steps are certainly being taken. Two other major corporations with green initiatives are Starbucks and Lowe’s.
Small businesses can make their own pledges to reduce, reuse and recycle. The first place to start is within your daily operations as a retailer. Before your current contracts expire, search around for suppliers that use recycled materials in their packaging. Regardless, you can make the decision to recycle the cardboard boxes that merchandise is shipped in. Additionally, place recycling bins in backroom areas and encourage employees to use them for snacks and drinks they consume on breaks. A separate paper recycling bin should be established to collect materials used in administrative tasks.
For businesses that use plastic merchandise bags, give back to the environment by making your store a plastic bag drop-off location. Many supermarkets have started collecting plastic shopping bags to send for recycling, and it’s easy for you to do so with PlasticFilmRecycling.org. You don’t have to go the official route though – it’s also effective to simply let customers know that you offer the service when they stop in. Even if you typically use paper shopping bags, you can create a return system so you ensure they reach recycling centers rather than landfills.
Finally, consider how you can cut back on the waste you produce during sales transactions. Try sending digital receipts and coupons instead of printing them and asking customers if they want a bag before you use one.