Thursday, February 2, 2012

Go Plastic Free with these Green Business Tips

 As a partner of the Kanu Hawaii No Waste Challenge, we have compiled a number of ideas, both basic and ambitious, concerning how to green your retail or food service business, specifically when it comes to waste. Based on our research, including conversations with both local business leaders and customers, we are providing you this list of tips to consider as well as vendors that can assist in implementing these changes.

Becoming a “greener” business speaks to the core philosophies of your establishment. According to studies by the U.S. Government Small Business Administration, adding green-minded policies and products to a marketing strategy can boost your reputation with the growing number of environmentally concerned customers.

We understand some of these ideas, such as switching to compostable packaging, carry a cost. However, just as many of these initiatives can save your business money and resources in the long run. As the Hawaii Green Business Program reports, these types of initiatives not only benefits the environment, but also increases operating efficiency, and improve the "bottom line."

Hawaii, especially Oahu, is at a crucial moment for waste management. Addressing issues at the source, such as single-use plastic and foam at the checkout counter, is a great way to start alleviating this crisis. We hope you will work together with us to care for Hawaii.

Initial Steps -- You can’t manage what you can’t measure.
Audit Waste Output –Take time to assess what different kids of waste you generate in the dumpster, behind the counter, or at your desk. You can even weigh and itemize your trash. Inside the store, take a look at: packaging from ordered goods, kitchen waste, and staff daily rubbish production. Second, take a look at the potential waste you send out the door, typically product packaging.
Identify Goals for Waste Reduction – Are these items necessary, reducible, or recyclable? How can you reduce staff daily rubbish? Can packaging items be reduced or repurposed?
Hatch a Plan – Based on your assessment, think about the tips provided below and which ones are best suited to your particular business. Make a list of prioritized goals and procedures to initiate. Set attainable, measureable goals. Consider cost and savings, ease of implementation, outcomes, and other benefits. Poll customers for feedback prior to changes.
Measure your Changes – How much have you diverted from the landfill with staff policies or new types of packaging? How much money have you saved (or not saved) in overhead costs? Poll customers for additional feedback about the changes.

Tips for All Types of Businesses
Employee Involvement is Key – Make sure your employees understand your goals or products to further help your business goals. Address your waste reduction plans and green philosophies at the time of hiring and at regular staff meeting. Incentivize reducing outgoing waste with rewards or profit share.
Build a Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Atmosphere – Get employees on board by promoting ideas such as reusable water bottles and coffee mugs. Provide a place for staff to recycle materials such as paper, aluminum, glass, and plastic. Appoint a Green Team.
Rethink your Paper Usage -- Change your printer settings to allow double-sided printing or designate a draft tray filled with scrap paper. Buy copier paper with a minimum 30 percent post-consumer recycled content. (100 percent is best!) Collect used paper for recycling. Stock bathrooms and kitchens with post-consumer recycled tissue products.  If you still need to fax documents, retire the paper machine in favor of a scanner or eFax service. No more separate paper, toner, power and maintenance, and you only print the ones you really need to.

At the Checkout Counter
Implement the “Just Ask” policy – The difference in cost between plastic and biodegradable items could be deferred by training your employees to ‘Just Ask’.  Encourage your employees to ask if the customer would like a bag, or if they can simply carry the item out, or if they need take-out utensils.  Those simple questions can save more than the cost differential!
Green Marketing – Create a reusable bag, water bottle, or an eco-hashi set with your business’s logo. Customers can show off where they shop to others and represent you as a green business.
Free Bags – Give customers a free bag with their first purchase. They will remember your store fondly. Yes, there will be an initial cost, but once you have provided your customers with bags, you will spend far less buying paper or plastic bags in bulk.
Reusable Bag Discount – Create a reward system. For example, any customer that brings their own bag or buys a reusable bag, the business will give $.25 off their purchase or donate $.25 to a local charity.

Retail Stores
Offer Free or Discount Repairs – Tell customers that broken or torn clothing and other products may be brought back to the store for repair with no expiration date. No need to throw out your pants with a broken zipper, just bring them back in. Customers will appreciate your commitment to the quality and longevity of your products.

Food Service Businesses
Start with Reusable Dishes and Cutlery – Not all customers order take out. Invest in reusable items for on site dining. If this is a new aspect for your business, consider thrift store finds or hotel/restaurant supply resale stores to save money.
Switch to Compostable Packaging – Forget the foam! Switch to sustainable products, including biodegradables made from plant-based materials for your take-out food containers. Choosing non-petroleum based products reduce your impact at the landfill and on the environment.
Take-Out Container Charge – For those that need to take their food ‘to go’, a restaurant might consider adding the calculated difference, say $.25, on to the bill to cover the costs of biodegradable containers. Poll customers for feedback. We’ve found that many consumers would gladly pay the difference to receive their food in a non-toxic container.
Reusable Container Discount – For any customer that brings their own cup or container for take-out, the restaurant will take $.25 off their purchase price.
Repurpose Kitchen Waste – 1) On-Site composting – Composting fruit, vegetable, and even paper waste can reduce your waste stream and provide valuable compost to share with staff or customers. There are many methods, both high and low tech, for composting that we can point you to.  2) Develop a relationship with a local farm that can use the scraps for animal feed as an alternative or for excess kitchen waste beyond what your compost bin can hold.
On Site Gardening – If your business has space, even on the roof top, try your hand at growing some fresh, local produce. Start with herbs and greens to test out your green thumb.

Other ideas
Other aspects of your business’s waste stream to consider are water and energy. You can apply these same audit and reduction techniques to your water, electricity, and gasoline bills. Save money and help the planet at the same time.

Energy Use
Audit your Energy Efficiency -- The Hawaiian Electric Company recommends two online energy audit tools to achieve a good level of understanding of your total energy consumption. Contact your utility company to arrange for a free (or inexpensive) energy audit. An engineer will examine your operations and provide you with a detailed report about how your firm can save on energy costs, from rebates to improved maintenance.
Turn off lights and unplug electronics after hours -- computers and other electronics use energy while they're plugged in, even when they're switched off. (Plug all your appliances into a power strip and you'll only have to flip one switch at the end of the day.)
Set computers to sleep and hibernate when inactive, and lose the screen savers. Flying logos or slideshows can use up about $50 of electricity in a year. Look for power management or energy saving features on the control panel for Windows, or system preferences under the apple menu for Macs.
Use Energy Star office equipment -- most major brands carry energy-saving models marked with the Energy Star label.
Reduce driving by consolidating errands. Encourage staff to use alternate transportation like the bus or bicycles.

Water use
Install faucet aerators and low-flow toilets.
Check for and fix leaks.
Recycle water.
Landscape for maximum water efficiency.
Buy less toxic cleaners to improve what goes down the drain, not to mention indoor air quality and risks to employee health.

Local Technical Experts
If need be, Kanu Hawaii can help you get in contact with local consultants who can help your business do a waste audit and implement changes such as adding energy efficient equipment. Send us a message for more information.

Utilize the Hawaii Green Business Program Checklists: Vendors for Customizable Reusable Bags and Bottles
Green Bottle
Klean Kanteen
Chico Bag
1bag at a time

Local Distributors of Bio-Compostable Food Containers
Styrophobia: This Honolulu based organization working to reduce environmental degradation and economic injustice through education, community networks & sustainable products and enterprises. Styrophobia products are available through these distributors: Diamond Head, Malolo, and Hansen., 808-234-7336

Online Resources
EPA WasteWise Program: Need more information on how to assess and manage your Waste? WasteWise is a free, voluntary EPA program through which organizations eliminate costly municipal solid waste and select industrial wastes, benefiting their bottom line and the environment. WasteWise helps its partners meet goals to reduce and recycle municipal solid waste and selected industrial wastes. Members receive free technical assistance and access to web-based data management tracking.
Hawaii Green Business Program: The Green Business Program is a partnership between the Departments of Health, and Business, Economic Development, and Tourism, and the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, working together to assist and recognize businesses that operate in an environmentally responsible way. The program helps businesses to go beyond compliance to conserve energy, water and other resources, and to reduce pollution and waste. This program also provides valuable opportunities for industry members to share information on practices that have been implemented which save money and conserve our precious natural resources.

Green Business Guide by the US Government Small Business Administration
Green Business Guide by NRDC
Greening Your Business handbook from Earth Press
50 Ways to Green Your Business article from Fast Company
The Basics of Greening Your Business article at


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  2. One best example of it is having a business and the among the top business today is a cafe. Good thing to hear that this post contain information that the new entrepreneur can make use of. Such a informative for me.

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  3. I agree with all these tips! If all businesses (and everyone) can incorporate these to their daily routines, we can make a huge difference to the environment. Also, businesses shouldn’t only focus on financial achievement because as what Al Halvorsen said, “For businesses to succeed, societies must succeed as well.”

    - Sabrina Garza