9 creative sustainable business ideas to reduce your impact
There are so many ways for businesses to become more sustainable. It doesn’t stop at reducing the amount of energy you use or instituting a recycling program (but you should definitely do those things). Being more sustainable can be an exercise of creativity. Here are Sendle’s 9 sustainable business ideas to reduce your impact.
We’ve covered some of the more traditional ways for businesses to make their operations more environmentally friendly, as well as how individuals can shrink their carbon footprint. You can also push to make industrial composting more accessible in your community.
But, there are plenty of other ways that small businesses have thrown their support behind sustainability initiatives and sustainability projects that make a difference.
So, let’s get into it.
9 sustainable business ideas to reduce impact
1. Support 1% for the Planet
Finding it hard to integrate sustainable business ideas into your small business? Try 1% for the planet! Created by the founder of Patagonia and the founder of Blue Ribbon Flies, 1% for the Planet helps fund a host of environmental organizations through donations from member companies. Each member gives 1% of their sales to give back to the environment.
Brands both large and small have aligned themselves with this cause and 1% for the Planet now has more than 3,000 members. Everyone has 1% to give, which makes it a powerful tool for sustainable small businesses to help support the planet.
Some of the larger companies that count themselves as members are Patagonia, New Belgium Brewing, and Honest Teas. To see if some of your favorites are members, you can check the directory or look at the footers of their websites for the logo.
2. Follow the One Tree Planted strategy
This nonprofit organization explains itself fairly well by its name, but let me try to describe it in more detail. They make it extremely easy “for anyone to help the environment by planting trees”, be they individuals or businesses.
Their one-for-one model for businesses means that you can decide to plant a tree for every sale or donate a percentage of sales. One dollar is one tree planted. The organization plants trees all over the world and was able to plant 23 million trees in 2021 alone.
Since we have yet to find a more effective carbon capture machine, trees are the most powerful means we have to save the planet from manmade devastation. This is just one of the many simple yet sustainable business strategies to show that you really care about the future of the planet.
Another organization that does this well is Ecologi, which creates a page for each partner with their burgeoning forest of impact.
3. Donating to environmental programs
Along the same lines of the two above organizations, sustainable small businesses can always make their own direct donations to environmental groups of their choosing.
There are plenty of sustainable business ideas to invest in! While it may take a little more work to find your right organization to donate to, having the ability to choose something close to your team’s heart can go a long way toward showing off your brand values.
At Sendle, we have our small business community vote every year for the carbon offset projects that make every one of our shipments 100% carbon neutral.
For individuals looking for sustainable living ideas, the sustainable personal care brand by Humankind has created a subscription program for people who want to offset their plastic footprint in partnership with Plastic Bank.
4. Engage in sustainability workshops & mentoring
Given how there isn’t just one way to be sustainable, those in the know can do their part by bestowing their individual wisdom. Sometimes, the best sustainable business ideas come from employees who live sustainable lifestyles.
Sustainable small business owners can also individually mentor other business owners on ways to reduce their environmental impact. Drafting more small businesses into the cause of sustainability is powerful work.
There are also sustainability consultants, like Moji Igun of Blue Daisi Consulting. With a focus on Zero Waste, Moji runs sustainability workshops and sessions to help organizations initiate real changes in how they execute sustainable business ideas.
We had the pleasure of having Moji on an episode of Hey Sendler, wherein she detailed the ways that businesses can practice self-care (a precious thing during the pandemic).
5. Take your worn down things to repair & recycle programs
The goods we buy have a tendency to experience the inevitable wear and tear that comes with time and use (socks, we’re looking at you).
While the concept of repair has gone out of fashion in a world of planned obsolescence and cheap wares, it is still one of the most sustainable things consumers can do in their day-to-day lives. Furthermore, sustainable living is much more cost effective and fulfilling!
Consumers may not have the time to learn how to repair their own stuff though. Which is where intrepid retailers come in.
Offering services for repairing or recycling old stuff can help stretch the life of those dear objects (like those darned socks you love so much) and keep them out of the landfill when they are no longer viable.
Patagonia has a section of their site dedicated to repair, with tutorials for DIY jobs, a repair service, and the option to trade in old Patagonia clothing and gear for new pieces.
Recycle2Riches, a sustainable marketplace and eco-education brand, offers a similar service for that precious article in your closet that needs a little TLC.
If your warehouse has a stock of damaged goods that can still be repaired or recycled, keep this in your list of sustainable business ideas!
6. Opt for sustainable packaging
With the dramatic increase in eCommerce sales over the last year, packaging has become an ever-larger presence in the lives of consumers and businesses alike.
That’s why sustainable packaging options are more important than ever before. As air-filled pillows of plastic pile up in our landfills (and waste away into harmful methane and CO2), it’s obvious that we need to be more aware of how we package goods. Thus, packaging has become a main factor in sustainable business strategies.
Unboxing is such a delightful experience and it can be done sustainably!
Sustainable companies that sell consumables can make their packaging more sustainable by choosing a supplier that focuses on sustainable packaging.
Sendler Yayyy manufactures sustainable food packaging for sustainable small businesses and offers a fully compostable bag for coffee (or whatever you want). Talk about sustainable business ideas!
7. Source eco friendly materials
Just as it matters what happens to the things we buy after they’ve fallen into disrepair, it also matters where the raw materials come from before those things come into being.
No matter what goods you make, the materials you use have a history and origin. What are they made of? How far do they have to travel? What are the more eco-friendly alternatives?
While this may be a difficult task, the end result of your efforts will have a built-in market of sustainability-focused shoppers. After all, consumers nowadays are pushing for sustainable business ideas and changes.
Clothing companies can do a lot to source in a sustainable way to end fast fashion. The Source has cut all petroleum-based fabrics from their production and regularly uses deadstock and reclaimed fabric for their clothing.
The now super popular shoe brand Allbirds also takes sourcing very seriously. Their comfy footwear is made up of natural materials like wool and castor bean oil as well as recycled bottles and cardboard.
Offsetting business operations
These days, it’s so easy to find a service that will help you calculate and offset your carbon footprint and come up with more sustainable business ideas.
Not only does auditing the carbon footprint of your business allow you to become carbon neutral via offsets, but it also serves to illustrate where you can make changes.
Jewelry brand (and Sendler) For Good & Mad has gone entirely carbon neutral by offsetting her studio’s footprint through a local Montana recycling outfit and shipping with Sendle.
Another Sendler doing their part to be sustainable is White Buffalo Land Trust, which offsets its transportation emissions through organizations like Nori and Regen Network.
Finally, you can ship with Sendle. We are a 100% carbon neutral shipping company and we’ve done it since day one.
We calculate the carbon emissions from every single package sent and buy carbon offsets with incredible environmental projects all over the world. And as a Sendler, you get to vote on what projects we support.
One of the easiest sustainable business ideas, packing and shipping sustainably makes all the difference. By using Sendle and further offsetting your own operations, you can become a totally carbon neutral business. That’s pretty cool. Read all about Sendle's journey to reducing environmental impact from our whitepaper.
There are so many ways to be sustainable
This list is by no means complete. There is an abundance of creative ways that sustainable small businesses can reduce their environmental impact and make the world a better place.
Every business can find its own sustainable strategies. It’s a journey.
We’d love to see yours! Just tag @sendle on Instagram with your sustainability story to get featured.