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How to incorporate environmental sustainability across your brand

In order to incorporate sustainability throughout your brand, it is essential to do it from the get-go, if you can.

decrease your carbon footprint

HOWEVER, you can choose to implement eco-friendly changes after you start your business, it is just easier if it is at inception.


The best thing to do is map out all the eco-friendly changes or initiatives needed to incorporate sustainability into your brand strategy.


You want to make sure that anything you choose to add, take away, or change, is in line with the brand you have set out to create.


It important to note that

  1. you might not be able to afford all these changes at the same time

  2. because of innovations in technology, you cannot expect the same bulk price discounts you would get from conventional suppliers.

So together let's make this list.


For those of you reading this, note that this list is in no way a standard in sustainability to rely on. Depending on what your business is, you will incur different costs, different types of materials or ingredients, deal with shipping decisions, deal with energy usage, and whether you want to invest in a brick and mortar.


If you are looking for a more customized guide for your business to incorporate sustainability across all facets, or you require a specific plan of action for your brand, contact us today. If you are just dipping your toes into the pool and want to see what general options are out there, keep reading.


incorporate eco friendly from the get go

Incorporate Sustainability into your Brick and Mortar


We will do one that sells products and another that sells food as a service.


PRODUCT RELATED QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF:


1) How can you decrease the amount of packaging on the product you are selling on the shelf?


2) Can you work with suppliers that do not provide any packaging on their products and who can send you a of box unpackaged product?


Speaking of shipping, more than likely, you will have some sort of e-commerce business.


Shipping has a large carbon footprint due to the materials involved in the packaging, but also the resources involved in delivering that item to wherever it is going.


You also have to keep in mind that if you are using some sort of packaging that is compostable or recyclable in your area, it might not be compostable or recyclable in your customer's location. Try to go the route of biodegradable as well as minimal packaging to help with this notion.


Other things that can lead to waste might be a product that breaks or a product that is shipped by accident. Depending on the break, you could still sell the product at a very low rate, or maybe donate it if necessary. If the wrong product is shipped, the customer should be credited on their account, but due to the carbon footprint of shipping, you should tell them that they have the option to still keep the product and can find another use for it or resell it locally. It's not only better for the planet, but it's a proclamation of your values if you explain your reasoning.


Any contracts that you get that involve suppliers should always be accompanied by a list of rules that must be followed pertaining to shipping an order so that you can keep your total carbon footprint in check and minimal. Every person involved in the chain of operations needs to be aware of your environmental priorities and be on the same page for a harmonious outcome!


119 billion pounds of food is wasted in the US each year

Food sourcing, production and waste are important considerations


Food waste is a major problem, there is no denial here. It's wasted at grocery stores, it's wasted where it is imported, it's wasted at home, and naturally, it is wasted in restaurants. So how do you decrease food waste in restaurants? It's tricky right because you could order lesser amounts, but then the price might be higher per unit, and maybe you run out?


However, what is wrong with running out of ingredients? Many of the nicer restaurants always order limited quantities to make sure they use up all of their product and there is no waste. It creates frenzy and the need to get there quickly. "Let me check with the kitchen to see if we have any more!" - this establishes the idea that customers should come early, call ahead, make a reservation. This is what you want. If you were known as the place that had infinite food, and thus continuous waste, you are not desirable and you blend in with the crowd. You are also causing a major disservice to the planet, and ultimately the people on it.


As for the cost- if it cost a little more, maybe you charge a little more and you explain that cost to your customers so they understand? While you're at it with decreasing food waste, you can also decrease the food you order that is out of season. You could prioritize local ingredients across your menu and have specials when things are in season rather than offering all things at all times to our customers. This does require more planning, more creativity, and more experienced workers, but it the norm most places in the world.


It is a very American notion to have infinite stuff at their disposal. The more you travel, the more you see that the rest of the world is not this way. There is less waste, there is less importing, there is less choice, there is more often dishes that sell out at restaurants. Another environmental impact is related to packaging. The more food you import, the more packaging comes along with that food, and thus packaging waste.


As for transport emissions- the more food that is not local, the farther it has to travel. Non seasonal food that is imported is picked prematurely, but still due to conditions on boats and in docks, it has been reported by multiple sources that roughly 1/3 of food that is shipped spoils during the journey and becomes food waste.


food waste from shipping

A big one to think about in a restaurant of any sort is your service ware. Now, many communities across the globe have began to phase out single-use plastic and Styrofoam items, but they are still replacing it with single use items that are only composted in a select amount of communities that have industrial compost, or "reusable" thicker plastic items that are still often discarded. The best option you can give is the option of for here or to go. Bring back the days when everything was on plates and in cups, where a dishwasher was actually a common job. Providing a for here option also often leads to customers ordering more items and building a connection with that place, because they spend more time there. There is a chance to build a connection with other community members and feel a sense of loyalty or gratitude, which often leads to more Instagram tagged photos of your food and your location.


While on the topic of better service ware options, are you able to offer refill or container return options so that you can reuse containers? Our client Protea Zero Waste Store offers refills and our client Koko Kai Coconut Yogurt offers container return options, which they reuse!


Other cool things we have seen to decrease waste from brands we love....


- Some subscription/ delivery services take back the box, ice packs, and any glass upon next delivery such as Farm Link - this a great option for decreasing waste. For any bags that are needed, they either use plant-based plastic bags or paper bags- never plastic.


- When making products to sell, source local ingredients. This is what our client Koko Kai does with their spices, and client Oahu Organics does with much of their skin care ingredients.



OK now for some things that all brick and mortar's will essentially have in common- energy use.


Every moment your store is operating and things are plugged in, you are using energy. You're using energy to power the lights, to control the temperature, maybe to keep your computer on, your cash register running, your kitchen going. In order to sort out how to help yourself with your energy usage, you need to get a good idea of how much energy you're using and what sources are consuming the most energy.


Did you know that when items are plugged in and not turned on, they are still using energy?


Check out this tool to help you with your energy monitoring.


Some things to consider off hand...


  1. Perhaps you have big windows in your space and you get breeze, couple that breeze with a fan on hot days and eliminate the need for AC.

  2. If you have enough windows, consider not turning any lights on except for on rainy days or when the sun is no longer out.

  3. Maybe those windows backfire on hot days and it's just too much sun during certain hours, put up some sort of sunshade.

  4. Maybe that sunshade is actually made up of plants and it is permanent to keep the space always cool.

  5. Are you in a building with other tenants and together with your landlord could invest in solar

  6. Can you switch out all your bulbs to be high-efficiency?

  7. How about the efficiency of any kitchen appliances you have? This is a huge one. Don't chuck something that isn't broken, but if replacements are on the horizon, invest in something that will decrease your overall energy bills as well as your carbon footprint.

  8. If you live somewhere cold, think of some better options for heating your space, such as space heaters, heat lamps, good, insulating windows, and nice carpet if you have a boutique.


To learn more about specific ways that you can cut your waste and energy usage, contact us today.


thanks for reading!


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