Outdoor Industries Association Blog

10 low-cost ways to decrease your eco-footprint

Sustainability, What are you doing?

If you’ve been to the Alps recently you will have seen evidence of climate change in action. The glaciers have been receding since the last ice age, but the last 30 years have seen a dramatic acceleration of this. You may or may not believe that this is due to human action, but as custodians of our world, we have a responsibility to look after it. As lovers and users of the outdoors, we should have a particular interest in preserving it. We are currently in Britain using resources at a rate that require 3 earths’ worth of resources. We are behind the US who are using over 7 earths’ worth of resources, but there is still lots that we could do to reduce our impact in the UK.

As small and medium size enterprises, you probably don’t have the same impact as larger firms, but you can still make a significant contribution to reducing your eco-footprint. Here are my top 10 tips for quick, easy, low-cost things you can do in your organisation:

1. Reducing

Every time we make or produce anything it uses up some of the world’s resources. The best way to not use any resources is to not produce something in the first place. This is a difficult concept when you are business trying to sell goods. Why not encourage your customers to go for the quality products? These should last longer whilst giving you a better return.

2. Recycling

Think of all the packaging coming into your business. Hopefully you are already recycling some of it, but try to think of decreasing the amount of stuff you are sending to landfill. Try to avoid evils like polystyrene and low quality plastics (the stuff that everything seems to be wrapped in these days). In the UK they are difficult, if not impossible, to recycle and they can take many hundreds of years to decompose. Put pressure on your suppliers to deliver goods to you in packaging which is having less of an impact on the environment.

3. Re-using

Simple things like printing on paper that has already been printed on one side will reduce your paper use by half. This may not always be appropriate when you are printing for your customers, but can be used extensively internally.

4. Plastic bags

Supermarkets are the biggest users of plastic bags with over 12 billion being used every year! You’re probably not running a supermarket, but do you give your customers plastic bags as standard? Why not ask them if they need a bag? Bags are a good form of advertising, but think about the fact that bags can take up to 500 years to decompose and are made from our ever reducing supplies of oil.

5. Travel audit

How do you and other staff get to work? As outdoor people we have no excuses not to cycle, walk or run to work.  Why not ask all staff how they get to work and what would make them change to a more sustainable transport option. Sell the benefits to your employees or work mates, by pointing out how much they can save by getting to work without a car or have a fun competition ‘Sustainable transport employee of the month’ or maybe a catchier title.

6. Energy audit

Look into the energy used in your buildings or shops. Find out about the heating and lighting systems. Are there things that could be done to reduce the amount of energy you are using, whilst saving your organisation money? Thinking about roof insulation, reducing draughts, double glazing, turning off lights when not needed and so on, will all have an impact on the bills (and will reduce the cost to the environment).

7. Clean and brighten up your back yard

If there is some spare unused land near you, why not clean it up, plant some trees or even some edible plants. You may not see this as essential business, but how the environment looks has an effect on how we feel, so improving your local environment has got to be good for business.

 8. Check out the green credentials of your suppliers and products

We live in a very global world now with most of our consumables being produced abroad and shipped or flown to the UK. As well as supporting UK businesses by buying British, we are reducing the impact our consuming is having. Check out with your suppliers where the goods are coming from and if there is a closer to home alternative. Also find out about their practices. Are they doing anything to reduce their global footprint?

9. Encourage your customers to go green

You are, so why shouldn’t they? As users of the outdoors, your customers also have a responsibility. Encourage them to car-share or take a train to get out to their favourite crag or walking spot, encourage them to take litter home with them, encourage them to think about what they are buying and where it has come from. “Leave no trace” outings means not even leaving a cigarette butt on the floor so why not sell or give out pocket ash-trays for example?

10. Being green looks good!

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but many people in increasing numbers look for organisations that are seen to be doing their bit. Use your new green credentials in your advertising to keep your customers satisfied. If you are proud of the steps you are taking to ensure a green workplace, you can promote your organisation as adhering to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). (See the CSR section of http://www.businesslink.gov.uk for more details on this).

Happy sustainability!

Kate Wels works for Action for Sustainable Living, a Manchester based sustainability charity (for more details see: www.afsl.org.uk). The AfSL Green Champions Programme works with businesses, enabling them improve their sustainability and reduce their impact on the environment. You can contact Kate at: kate.wels@afsl.org.uk or 0161 237 3357.

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