4 Sustainable Business Practices That Make a Big Impact — But Won’t Blow Your Budget

simple ways for businesses to be more environmentally friendly


Businesses and corporations have a major responsibility when it comes to helping reduce environmental impact and preserving our planet. 


As an eco-friendly paper company on a mission to end deforestation, we at Cloud Paper support the planet-saving effects of a sustainable business model. But we also want to point out the (perhaps unintentional) advantages of eco-friendly operations.


Sustainable business practices aren’t just an ethical choice, they’re also a financially beneficial one. 


Survey after survey, study after study show us that customers prefer sustainable companies. And those numbers are only growing with each younger generation, not diminishing.1 Unfortunately… 

Investing in sustainable business practices is often very expensive. 

Solar panels aren’t cheap, sustainably sourced materials usually come with added costs, and not every company has the means to replace all their appliances and light fixtures with energy efficient alternatives. 


But not all sustainable business practices have to be giant sweeping changes. Sometimes one small fix can make a big difference. 


Take this story from Walmart, for example (I know, it’s a bit odd to be using Walmart as an example of sustainability, but check it out): 


A manager at a single Walmart store noticed that the light in the employee vending machine was always on, even though the room itself supplied plenty of light to see the products within. 


The store didn’t just turn off that vending machine light, they turned off all the vending machine lights across every Walmart, and the reduction in energy saved Walmart $1 million dollars that year.2


One million dollars from that one tiny light. Think about the energy that move saved as well. It might not sound like much, but when we apply sustainable business practices across hundreds or thousands of businesses, it all makes a difference. 


So even if your business is small, it still counts. And even if you're not able to make sweeping changes, it all adds up. 


Here are 4 sustainable business practices you can implement today that will immediately lower your business’ carbon footprint:


  • 1. Start with Simple, Sustainable Office Policies

  • Plug not in the electrical socket


    One of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to make your business more sustainable is to implement basic eco-friendly office policies. 


    Educate your employees about your sustainable initiative, then encourage them to join in. Some simple steps can be things like: 


    • Turn off bathroom and breakroom lights when no one is there
    • Shut down computers at the end of the day and enable energy-saving settings
    • Unplug appliances that aren’t in use (It’s OKAY not to unplug the printer — I know it has an existential crisis every time it’s shut off — but maybe try unplugging the coffee machine after noon and reminding employees to unplug phone chargers when they’re not in use.)

    These sustainable business practices not only save energy and resources, they’ll save money as well. As operating costs are reduced, that money can be used to reinvest in green initiatives like water-saving faucets and LED light fixtures. 


  • 2. Swap Out Office Supplies for Sustainable Alternatives

  • eco friendly office supplies for your business


    Most of us have heard we should be using LED lights, but what about all the other office supplies? 


    This is an area where one small swap has a massive impact, because many office supplies are used daily. Whenever items are used or discarded on a frequent basis there is an opportunity for a small change to make a big difference. (Kind of like the small light bulb in the Walmart vending machines).


    Consider making some of these easy sustainable swaps: 


    • Standard printer paper → Recycled printer paper (keep it electronic when possible)
    • Traditional toilet paper and paper towels → Bamboo toilet paper and paper towels 
    • Keurig/K-cups → Coffee pot (bonus points for a reusable filter)
    • Clorox wipes → Reusable, biodegradable dish cloths
    • Paper cups → Mugs and glassware (bonus points if they’re thrifted)
    • Bottled water → Filtered faucet or Brita

    They may seem small, but when you and all your employees use these items every single day, think how much of an impact such a change will have over a month, a year, and five years!


    Many of these swaps are very comparable to the price of traditional supplies and some will actually save you money! (Don’t you just love reusables?)


  • 3. Ramp up Your Recycling and Add a Compost

  • Another simple way to incorporate sustainable business practices is to recycle more and start a compost


    See if you can go beyond traditional curbside recycling. The EPA estimates that 70% of American waste is actually recyclable. However, some of it is tricky to recycle. 


    Items like ink cartridges, lightbulbs, and ballpoint pens can actually be recycled, but they require special recycling programs to do so. Some major manufacturers team up with distributors like Staples and OfficeMax to form recycling collection programs that are often free to utilize. See what’s available in your area and start a collection box at work! 

    Don’t forget to recycle e-waste. 

    E-waste (electronics waste) is the fastest growing form of waste in the United States and much of it is recyclable! Americans alone throw out 53 million tons of e-waste every year, but only 20% of it gets recycled. 


    Again, check for collection programs at major outlets, like Best Buy. 


    If you have a little cash in your budget for recycling, you can utilize uber-convenient options like Terracycle’s Zero Waste Box, which allows you to collect traditionally non-recyclable items in a single stream system and mail them back to be recycled. 


    Starting a company compost is another easy sustainable business practice that will significantly lower your carbon footprint. (Psst — that’s because composting reduces methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gasses).  


    Plus, composting food waste is basically free if you have a place for it. 


  • 4. Get Your Employees Involved

  • Employees gathering for a company brainstorm


    Educate, inspire, and embrace employee-led initiatives! If you’re feeling stuck on how to implement sustainable business practices, try forming a Green Team or simply host a company brainstorm. You’d be surprised how many of your employees already have ideas to implement!


    Another wonderful way to support sustainability is with volunteer opportunities.  

    Embrace VTO (Volunteer Time Off) 

    You don’t have to organize a company-wide highway cleanup in order to make a difference with volunteer work. 


    One highly effective technique is simply to offer your staff VTO (Volunteer Time Off). Offering just one or two days of VTO every year motivates and empowers your employees to volunteer for a cause they believe in. It’s a win-win-win for your staff, your company, and your community. 

    Sustainable Business Practices Can Be Simple Yet Effective

    Remember that sustainable business practices don’t have to be massive, sweeping changes. 


    Taking the baby steps makes a big difference when you multiply it across thousands of businesses in the US. What we need is for business owners to step up and implement the sustainable business practices that are within their reach.


    So if that’s not solar panels this year, maybe it’s time to try a tree-free toilet paper. Think of how much toilet paper your office goes through in a year — I’m willing to bet it’s a lot. You’ll save so many trees! 🥰

     bamboo toilet paper and paper towels makes great eco friendly office supplies



    1. https://www.entrepreneur.com/growing-a-business/its-official-customers-prefer-sustainable-companies/324001
    2. https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/book-blog/pages/making-sustainability-a-business-advantage.aspx