Many people think of organic as inherently eco-friendly. That's far from true though. While organic practices and products do hold some significantly beneficial eco-qualities, organic and green are not one and the same.
Still, as an organic business, environmentally-friendly practices should be a goal. Recent surveys show that 84% of consumers are willing to pay a considerable premium 27% to 80% more on average for services and products that are clearly eco-friendly. Businesses in the same study missed this point. When asked about their green policies, only 43% of businesses had clear green practices in place or they have failed to communicate to consumers that they have a green policy in place to consumer.
Consumers want organics and they want green business practices, so why not offer both? Some eco-friendly practices are specific to farms, a retailer or other business, but below are some ways that any organic business can go green.
1. Reduce Energy Use
Your local utility company can complete an energy audit for your business, and often for free. A basic energy audit will tell you how much energy your business is using and give you ideas about how to cut back on that energy use.
Other good ways to reduce energy costs including unplugging machines, like computers when they're not in use. A power strip or surge protector with an off switch makes it a snap to turn off computers and peripherals when you leave. Turn heaters and air conditioners off when they're not needed - see if open windows can cool your office. Use energy saving bulbs and fixtures too.
2. Use Green Packaging
You may have the most awesome organics on the planet, but if you're packaging them in harmful materials, you've taken their quality down a notch. Make sure you use recycled and easy to recycle green packing materials, such as cardboard over Styrofoam, recycled content filler over new peanut filler and recycled peat pots over plastic.
When packaging organic goods, such as essential oils, shampoo or jam, use recycled plastic or glass, not virgin plastic. Be leery of biodegradable packaging, as it sounds good, but overall is not as as eco-friendly as you may think. There are even classes you can take about green supply chains.
3. Reduce, Reuse & Recycle
At the very least, all organic businesses should have a policy in place regarding their ability to reduce, reuse and recycle. Consumers want to hear that your company is doing all it can to reduce the amount of trash ending up in our landfills.
A waste reduction policy may include practices such as recycling all goods, switching to recycled printer cartridges, reusing packaging materials, setting up a better recycling center, using both sides of paper, composting unusable food materials, using recycled content envelopes, driving less to reduce fuel use and so on. Your three Rs policy can be as simple or as extravagant as you like, but you need something in place.
4. Explore Water Use Practices
Water use is a significant issue in most businesses, more so for organic farms, but also an issue in organic restaurants. While organic production already does help conserve water, it's wise to consider ways you can cut back on your water use even more.
Rain barrels are low-cost and can be used to gather water for cleaning or watering crops. Use water conservation techniques like smart irrigation, buffers, and only giving out water to restaurant customers who ask for it.
5. Switch to a Paperless Office
A good paperless office is hard to implement, but offers many rewards. A paperless office is an office that is phasing out paper or that has stopped using paper. This is a huge step as Reduce.org notes that the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year (insane). Also, a good paperless office will save you space - no more miles of file cabinets.
To implement a paperless office means your records need to be electronic, so you'll need to find a reliable system that's easy to use and more importantly, easy to back-up. See tools for a paperless office and how to switch to a paperless office for more tips.
6. Institute a Car-free Workplace Policy
Mountain Rose Herbs is an organic company with an excellent carpool and bike program in place. The company pays substantial cash incentives to all employees who either carpool or bicycle to work, plus they offer a $500.00 bonus at the end of each year to the employee who has logged the most passenger miles. Consider a program like this to motivate employees and to reduce greenhouse gases.
7. Tell Customers You're Green
Implementing green practices earns you karma points for sure, but it won't earn you customers unless you shout it out. A key point organic companies miss is communicating their green practices to consumers.
Make sure your green policy information is included in all company press materials, such as on your company website, in your catalog, in packaging inserts and so on. Examples of organic companies with excellent eco-friendly policies in place on their websites include the following: