It's more important than ever to do all we can to help the environment and minimise our impact on climate change. While corporations are the biggest contributors to global emissions, we all have a responsibility to respect the world around us, small business owners included. But it's not all doom and gloom, there are small things we can do so here are 6 ways you can make your small business more eco friendly:
1. BE CONSCIOUS WITH YOUR PACKAGING
Packaging is essential for a small business and whether you're selling online or in person. Luckily there are more and more eco friendly packaging becoming available to us every day. Cardboard boxes & mailers are widely available and you can even get recyclable and biodegradable padding like honeycomb wrap, Flexi-Hex sleeves and dissolvable packing peanuts to replace their plastic-based alternatives. If you want to know what to do with the plastic-based alternatives, see point 6! Companies like Noissue and Happy Pack offer loads of sustainable options for all sorts of businesses, like plain and customisable tissue paper, mailer boxes, food products and more. If you don't have a big budget, custom stickers and stamps are great for doing your own branding on more cost-effective plain packaging!
2. USE SLOWER SHIPPING OPTIONS
Thanks to companies like Amazon, we have become accustomed to super speedy delivery. But getting our purchases quickly comes at the cost of the environment. Quicker delivery methods like 24 Hour, First Class or Special Delivery use planes to get mail to the destination quickly, which is obviously not good for the planet. Slower delivery methods like 48 Hour or 2nd Class more often use vans and trucks to move post from one place to another, and most mail delivery companies in the UK use electric vehicles to reduce emissions. And not only are slower methods cheaper, they sometimes arrive in the same time as quicker methods anyway!
3. BALANCE YOUR STOCK
As a maker, I know how easy it is to get carried away making art you're proud of! Be careful not to overproduce though, or raw materials can be wasted. I'm definitely guilty of doing this, and unfortunately this has come back to bite me when they didn't sell! Not only did this mean I had excess stock laying around, it also made me more upset than usual that my creations weren't selling. It can take a while to get to know which of your products sell well and sometimes popular pieces can be totally unpredictable, so don't beat yourself up if make too much. Two ways you can get around this problem are doing limited releases with small batches, or making to order. The process that works best for you will depend on your demand and your time and the product you're making, but finding that balance will result in less waste and less negative feelings.
4. USE QR CODES INSTEAD OF INSERTS
How often have you received a package with a million inserts and put them straight in the bin? We're all guilty of it, and understanding what customers do can help shape what you do as a small business owner. Obviously, branding is important and the customer's experience opening their parcel, so streamlining your marketing materials is key. One way you can do this is by using QR codes instead of printed information. I would recommend linking this QR code to a biosite like Linktree - this way you can direct customers to multiple different things and you don't need to worry about changing the QR code on all of your printed marketing materials if you need to update something. Plus you can make short-term links for things like new releases, viral products, affiliates and more!
5. KEEP YOUR SCRAPS AND OFFCUTS
Most types of craft will produce scraps and offcuts as part of the production line. Luckily, in most types of craft, these scraps and offcuts can be saved and reused. I work mainly with polymer clay and while it's a versatile and hardwearing material, it's made of plastic. But as long as it hasn't been baked, it can be remixed almost indefinitely. I save all my raw scraps and mix them to make unique marble patterns and new colours. These will either become new zero waste jewellery or be used as the backing for earrings like JADE, GEO and ORION. I also save as many of those little bits that come off when I'm sanding and drilling and use them as terrazzo and confetti chips in zero waste jewellery. You can even keep those tiny plastic baggies that your supplies come in to store them!
6. REUSE PACKAGING
To run a small business, you need supplies, supplies which are often purchased online and delivered to your door. These packages will contain the supplies you need to make your products, but they also often contain packaging materials which can be reused! As long as it's not damaged or branded, things like bubble wrap, packing peanuts, tissue paper and filler can be reused in your own parcels. I have boxes of bubble wrap, packing peanuts and filler that I've collected from supply orders and I used them to protect products in the mail. Keeping and reusing these materials means that I've never paid for them in the 3 years of running this shop! Some may find this controversial as another company would have paid for these things, but surely throwing them away is worse than giving them a new life?
These are just a handful of ways you can make your small business more eco friendly but there are so many more. Being more sustainable isn't a one time action but a long term commitment that should be applied in every aspect of your work. Give some of these a go with your shop!