Sustainability Day: A day to stop and think about how you can improve your sustainability. Each year, Sustainability Day falls on the fourth Wednesday of October – which makes it today. As a small business owner, what can you do on this day to improve your sustainability? It doesn't have to be difficult – the best way to start is small, and build from there. Here are three easy ways to make your business more sustainable.
Disposable foodservice packaging is a major source of plastic pollution. Think about the waste if each of us had one coffee a day - and then think about the average coffee intake of Australians. Coffee cups, plastic straws, sandwich boxes – all of these and many more, come in disposable forms. Disposable foodservice packaging is incredibly convenient for cafes and customers, but it is contributing to a waste crisis in landfills and oceans.
So what can you do? The first step is to charge extra for disposable packaging. Encourage customers to bring their own cups and boxes by making that the 'regular' price – don't market it as a discount. Research has shown that customers are more motivated by not paying extra than by receiving a discount. The next step is to swap your traditional plastic-lined cups and plastic containers for biodegradable and compostable versions. Swap them, provide an organics bin for responsible disposal, and advertise that you've done so.
Not only will advertising your sustainability bring more customers to your store – it will also let them know what they can do with the single-service packaging they have had to use. But still charge extra for this disposable packaging. There will always be some people who don't realise they can be composted, or can't find an organics bin, and, until composting is more widespread, some compostable cups and containers will end up in landfill, where they are no better than traditional packaging. See our compostable packaging options here.
Don't waste food - put it into an organics bin where it can do some good. This is one more reason to have an organics bin at your premises – it is good for regular food waste, as well as compostable packaging. As food waste degrades in landfill, it emits methane – a greenhouse gas about 70 times more potent than carbon dioxide (One Green Planet). This includes uneaten eggs benny, any fruit that's too old to be served, and coffee grounds. All of these can be composted instead, where they feed nutrients back into the ground for future crops. With a compost bin, you can dispose of your food waste – which every cafe or restaurant has – in a way that will do good, not harm.
Just because climate change is harder to see, doesn't mean we should focus solely on plastic pollution and forget about our air emissions. This is a longer-term goal than the other two, and might take more than Sustainability Day to put into practice. But it's just as important. Plastic packaging is in the spotlight because it is tangible – people can visualise the problem, they can see the source all around them. Climate change is harder to see directly, and it occurs on a longer time scale. That doesn't mean we can't all do something about it. Whether you switch to 100% renewables immediately, or take your time by becoming carbon neutral first, any little step will help. But don't leave it at that. One little step begets another, until you have a fully sustainable, environmentally conscious business.
Read about why sustainability is good business, and the obstacles food processors face in finding a plastic swap, on our blog.
Planet Friendly Packaging acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land on which we work. Our thoughts go out to everyone affected by COVID-19. Stay safe.