Sustainability Times: How Small Businesses Can Make a Big Environmental Impact

Source: Sustainability Times

During this past year, individuals and businesses alike have encountered numerous obstacles when it comes to finances, job security and overall quality of life.

Yet, what the pandemic has taught many of us is that when one slows down and takes a closer inventory on day-to-day practices, it becomes clear how wasteful the human species can be.

The need to take care of our planet has become increasingly more apparent, especially since the days of quarantine when the roads were less cluttered and the air was visibly more clean.

Although there are specific days that people celebrate the Earth, it should be an ongoing initiative to take care of the planet. Fortunately, there are ways – whether alone or with a group – to take steps toward an environmentally friendly personal and professional life.

Small businesses can make a big impact

Let’s keep in mind that nearly 50% of U.S. consumers want to change their consumption habits to save the environment. It’s easy to assume that small businesses, which are classified differently depending on the industry, don’t make a noticeable difference when it comes to sustainability practices, but that can be far from the truth.

Often it boils down to making the right choices when it comes to vendor selection. Sustainability, the capacity for Earth and human civilization to co-exist, is affected up and down the supply chain, so there’s often key opportunities when it comes to selecting the right business partners.

A few examples of what to look for in a business partner when focused on improving sustainability initiatives:

  • Sustainable sourcing of materials used.
  • Ongoing recycling programs.
  • Employee commitment to sustainable business practices.
  • Clear mission when it comes to bettering the planet (such as product sold results in trees planted).
  • Green business certifications (such as those available in California).

Growth in sustainability practices doesn’t happen overnight, but instead requires a keen focus on manageable steps that can be accomplished by everyone involved. A staff of 15 or a staff of over 1,000 can have and implement comprehensive sustainable strategies.

Teaching young people how to make sustainable choices

While partnering with the right vendor is a key step for amplifying sustainability initiatives, sometimes the most impact begins at the very beginning – teaching the younger generation about why it’s important to care for our planet.

Learning about ways to take care of the environment can start as early as elementary school. Teachers have the special opportunity to positively impact young learners, teaching them how to recycle in and out of the classroom.

The common phrase of “reduce, reuse and recycle” can easily be applied to nearly all lessons, school partners and incentive programs for students. For example, schools can commit to using recyclable school materials and purchasing books, like yearbooks, that can be recycled.

What’s more, partnering with businesses that support sustainability and environmental initiatives. Having this kind of impact early on can have a ripple effect to how one views environmentally friendly practices and products later in life.

When students graduate from high school or college, the motivation for many will be to look to work for companies that prioritize the environment.

No matter the company size or the experience level of a company’s staff, there’s always an opportunity to teach skills that go far beyond the daily work grind. And working toward a more environmentally friendly business model is an ongoing effort.

Small businesses have the advantage of making more personalized relationships with their customers and partners. Whatever the industry, there are ways to creatively showcase sustainability efforts, be it on the website, company e-newsletters or social media.

A smaller business might also have a more direct opportunity to have a representative speak to a school (such as during holidays like Earth Day) about the benefits of recycling.

Whether at home, work or school, everyone accumulates waste every day. It’s never too late to identify and implement more environmentally friendly practices. It’s the responsibility of people of all ages, all over the world, to play a part in making our planet a cleaner, safer place to work and play.

Why it’s important, especially now

The pandemic saw millions of people all over the world transition from working in the office to working remotely from home. For many, this was the first time in a long time that they slowed down enough to recognize the environment around them.

Lunch breaks that once were spent in an office cubicle were spent taking a walk in the neighborhood and admiring everyday nature that was once overlooked.

While the year was challenging, and heartbreaking, it did present society with a glimpse into what the world could be like – taking more care of not only the people in one’s life, but the environment. Taking steps toward a greener, healthier way of life means a dedicated effort to focus on the wellbeing of people and the world.

So, what to do?

One way that individuals and companies of all sizes can take care of the planet is by planting trees. This job is one that’s easier said than done, so smaller companies can easily make a bigger difference simply by partnering with organizations that have the tools and resources already in place.

Planting trees is something that can bring together groups of people that share the same mission of bettering the planet. Small businesses that get involved with vendors that have long lasting impacts, like planting trees, are often a part of a larger coalition of partners working together.

What might seem like a small thing – planting trees – can actually be a part of a larger story, which is making the world a better place and mitigating climate change.

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