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How to Build a Business and Save the Earth at the Same Time

Our planet needs to be protected – not from alien invaders (yet), but from its own inhabitants. 

Held every April since 1970, Earth Day is a global event that highlights what we can do to save the world. The solutions are less dramatic than you may think.

In fact, from habits at home to business practices, changing the everyday things we do can often make a huge difference. 

This year, the theme of Earth Day is centered around restoring and repairing the world.

Find out how you can make healing the planet part of your routine and get inspired by some clever, Earth-friendly business ideas.

But first, greenwashing

The term ‘greenwashing’ has been around for a while, but it’s as relevant as ever in business. 

Coined by environmentalist Jay Westerveld, it describes a marketing tactic to deceive consumers into thinking an organization is more environmentally friendly than it really is.

Say for example an apparel brand runs a huge campaign about a collection made from recycled materials. But in the background, it still uses non-renewable resources and packaging.

If you’re scaling a business or making positive changes, great news. Just don’t fake it or exaggerate your company’s eco credentials to look good – actually do good, instead.

How to: start an environmentally friendly business

Being an entrepreneur today comes with great responsibility. You want to make a name for yourself, make money, and make sure that you’re contributing something good to the world.

If you’re looking to start a business, the easy part is building your website. But what about the business model? Need some clues? Start here:

Sell everyday products, but better

Research the coolest sustainable eCommerce businesses and you might notice something. Instead of inventing brand new products, they’re reinventing old, everyday things.

Take the toilet paper revolutionaries at Who Gives a Crap, for example. A certified B Corp, this online retailer is helping to heal the planet with an everyday item.

Who Gives a Crap donates 50% of its profits to global toilet-building and sanitation efforts. Plus, they avoid dyes, recycle paper, and use carbon neutral shipping. 

who gives a crap homepage

Innovate with waste materials

Unless you want to live naked in a home with no curtains or soft surfaces, you can’t avoid using textiles. Often, fabric production can severely damage agriculture, waterways, and more.

Companies like Piñatex are finding sustainable ways to create familiar-looking materials from unexpected waste: in this case, pineapple leaves are transformed into a leather-like fabric.

Even if you don’t want to sell products in your business, why not find ways to give new life to waste materials in your workplace? 

Pinatex website homepage

Give old things a new life

Of course, your business could avoid making anything new at all. As man-made materials now outweigh all humans on Earth, it’s a safe idea to make the most of what we already have. 

Reselling has been a lucrative business idea for years. French bookseller Recyclivre has gone the extra mile to save the planet by creating a national book exchange.

Picking up unwanted books in electric vehicles, the company has helped save nearly 50,000 trees so far by encouraging readers to pass on their unwanted items.

Reyclivre website homepage

How to: switch to an environmentally friendly business

Back in March we marked Global Recycling Day with a list of short- and long-term planet-saving ideas for businesses. Let’s catch you up – here are our 11 top tips:

If you run a business

1. Make sustainability a business policy

Use your influential position within the business to lead people into making better recycling decisions.

Make environmental responsibility part of your guiding principles, so that everything your company does – from meeting habits to eating habits – is better for the planet.

2. Work with like minded companies

While everybody’s individual efforts count, the things we can achieve when we work together are always more impressive.

Take that approach when thinking about business sustainability, and look to work with companies who are committed to recycling or eco-friendly work.

3. Add a dark mode function onto your website

Dark- or night-themed UI saves energy on devices with OLED or AMOLED displays by using more black and grey pixels.

It can decrease the need to recharge devices, so having the feature on your website means that you’re making a change. A tiny change, but a positive one either way.

4. Embrace cloud computing

Nowadays, hosting and processing data on the cloud can reduce carbon impact as well as increase opportunities to scale.

Cloud computing means using less electricity, but it’s also more common now for large-scale cloud providers to use less carbon-intense power than standard data centers.

man holding up sign that says 'no nature no future'

If you have a company workspace

5. Power down at night

Your devices should rest and sleep when you rest and sleep. After all, who are you leaving the lights switched on for, the mice?

Keeping your workspace electricity running overnight makes a huge impact on the environment. 

A well-known statistic from the UK shows that leaving your computer switched on every night for a year creates enough CO2 to fill a double-decker London bus.

6. Switch to reusable kitchen products

We should all stay hydrated at work. If your team is fuelled by water or caffeine, an easy way to embrace eco-friendly practices is to cut down on single-use cups.

Encourage your team to clean up after themselves, but consider purchasing an office dishwasher to make the switch to ceramics easier.

Studies have shown that a good dishwashing appliance is generally more efficient than washing by hand.

7. Share presentations virtually

Businesses can (and do) waste tons and tons of paper – in the US, around 1 billion trees’ worth of paper are thrown away each year. 1 billion trees.

Now that we’re all expert users of Zoom, Google Meet, and other video conferencing software, it’s never been easier to share slides in a virtual setting.

8. Recycle your team’s broken electronic devices

Set aside anything that’s no longer in use: keyboards, computer mice, monitors, tablets – there’s always another use for your unwanted electrical items.

Look for donation schemes, work with electronics retailers who will recycle for you, or find a local recycling depot.

pile of trash on tropical beach

If you have a shop or eCommerce store

9. Make sustainable sourcing a priority

It’s probably no surprise to you that factories can harm the environment. That’s why it pays to be conscious about what you source, how much you require, and how it’s being made.

Think about how your chosen products could impact the environment surrounding the factory. Air, waterways, and land can all be polluted by wasteful production.

10. Have local suppliers

Often particularly if you run a small business, it can be more cost-effective to sell products made closer to home. Plus, it helps the planet. 

Sourcing goods from neighborhood artisans, or experts from your home country, can save on the time and energy usually taken getting products to your warehouse or customers.

It also means that any faulty items are more easily returned, minimizing waste and packaging.

11. Find sustainable and recyclable packaging

It’s not that hard nowadays to find innovative packaging for nearly any item – do some research to find the best options for the types of products you sell.

Make it easy for customers to dispose of the packaging or return it to your business once they’ve received their orders.

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Written by

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Olivia is a writer for Zyro and an eCommerce know-it-all. Having spent many years as a retail buyer, she loves writing about trend forecasting, brand building, and teaching others how to optimize online stores for success. She lives in London and spends a lot of time exploring the city’s parks with her whippet.

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