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You’re listening to The Plan Podcast episode number 038. Creating a business that is eco-conscious, sustainable, or environmentally friendly has become sort of a buzzwordy trend. For small business owners, it can be scary because you’re convinced that becoming more eco-friendly will be expensive or time-consuming.
If you are a business owner who wants to align your business with your personal values, or you’re someone who has hesitated on starting a business out of environmental concerns today’s episode is for you. We’ll talk about what greenwashing means and how to make sure you avoid it, I’ll share the 7 shifts I’ve made in my business to make it eco-conscious and sustainable, and why it’s important to not only focus on your environmental impact but also your community impact.
It’s been over a decade since I first started my own business, and over the years my business has changed, pivoted, and transformed just as much as I have. Being able to start my business was literally a dream come true — it was like all of my childhood dreams came to life. I always dreamed of having a creative career where I got to play with paper, pens, stickers, pretty tape. I assume that is every 6th-grade girl’s dream. But at the same time, I was learning about how to start my own business, I was also learning about environmentalism and the huge impact that businesses and corporations have on our planet. For a long time, this stopped me from pursuing my dream and launching my business — I felt like it was impossible to start a product-based business that wasn’t also adding to the problem of waste and pollution.
My prior experience was in the publishing world — so I saw firsthand all the waste produced by the planner and calendar industry. We’d have products launch in September, October, November — and when the clock struck midnight on January 1 the products would start to expire and lose value. By late February they were discounted, and by March we were literally boxing up leftover inventory and taking products to the recycling center or trash.
At first, I felt intimidated by the idea of trying to make my business eco-conscious. I thought it would be complex (lots of paperwork and red tape) and maybe expensive (would I need to pay more for “green” shipping supplies?). Thankfully I was able to lean on my 6+ years of experience working with brands in the green beauty and eco-friendly sphere to figure out simple shifts I could make to build a brand that is better for the planet.
One hurdle to overcome when you want to build an eco-conscious business is greenwashing. This is a term used to describe brands who use buzzy terms like “green”, “clean”, “nontoxic”, “Earth Friendly” to sell their products, but haven’t actually made substantial changes to their production level to have a positive environmental impact. It’s really important to root your changes in action.
7 Shifts in My Business
Here are some of the simple adjustments I’ve made to my brand structure, products, production, and policies in order to build a business that minimizes its environmental impact and supports communities and initiatives I care about. I hope it gives you some ideas for changes you can make in your own business:
So those 7 different ways I’ve made my business more eco-conscious and sustainable, but there’s one more point I want to make in this episode, and it’s an important one. When you are building an eco-conscious brand, you should not stop at just addressing your environmental impact. You also need to look at the way your business impacts or supports marginalized communities.
Environmentalism is so closely tied to social justice issues — it’s impossible to separate them. That’s why a better term for it is actually Environmental Justice. We’re not just seeking to improve the environment, we want to ensure that we are equally distributing both environmental benefits and burdens. Currently, communities of color get less access to environmental benefits but bear the brunt of environmental burdens.
So for your business to truly be built on a foundation of Environmental Justice, you need to also have initiatives that support these communities and causes. Currently, I have two initiatives that I think fall under this category:
I hope that this has been helpful — and that no matter what type of business you own, whether it is a paper product business or something else — that this episode will help give you a place to start with thinking about both the negative and positive impact your business can have.
I’ll be back in two weeks with a new episode of The Plan Podcast. In the meantime, you can find show notes along with all past episodes over at PlanPodcast.com
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