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Consumers, especially millennials and Gen Z, are increasingly concerned about protecting the environment. They have good reasons to worry. Recently, 15,000 scientists published a warning that basically every major environmental health indicator continues to worsen. They cautioned that “a great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided.”
Smart businesses are adopting environmentally friendly strategies when they design, manufacture, and package products. Their environmental sensitivity is also in evidence when they build and organize their office spaces, and when they plan their marketing campaigns. This “triple bottom line approach” has social, environmental and financial benefits. It particularly impacts a company’s reputation with consumers. Fully 92% of consumers have a more positive image of a company when that company supports environmental causes.
While there are many ways to reduce your company’s footprint, here are three easy steps you can take as a marketer to make a positive impact on the planet and your customers.
- Make product packaging eco-friendly
Young consumers strongly prefer sustainable packaging. According to a recent Nielsen study, 3 out of every 4 Millennials and 72 percent of Gen Z’ers polled would pay more for a product with sustainable packaging. How can you “go green” in this area?
- Choose green materials. One of Apple’s recent product announcements wasn’t new tech. It was that the new MacBook Air and Mac Mini are made with 100% recycled aluminum. Apple said, “Using this custom aluminum alloy helps reduce MacBook Air’s carbon footprint by nearly 50 percent, making it the greenest Mac ever.” Packaging that uses green materials like recycled aluminum saves energy, reduces landfill waste, and appeals to modern consumers.
- Make it biodegradable or recyclable. Choose biodegradable or recyclable materials for your packaging, whenever possible, such as:
- PCW Recycled Paper and cardboard. Post-Consumer Waste (PCW) paper is paper that comes from recycling bins and is remanufactured. It is greener than paper made from virgin sources, and those simply marked “recycled”;
- Cornstarch. Packaging made from cornstarch is biodegradable and commonly used to hold food and other limited use items. Packing “peanuts” made from corn starch are also available; they are compostable and biodegradable.
- Bubble wrap. Everyone’s favorite stress reliever is generally made from plastic, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad for the environment. If you need to use bubble wrap, use biodegradable types now available.
- Biodegradable plastic. They may not be 100% as eco-friendly as other options like cardboard, but if you need plastic in your packaging, a biodegradable version might do the trick.
- Repurpose your packaging Adopting packaging that can be repurposed later, such as packaging you can eat, is an excellent strategy for increasing your green factor. Shoe company Puma eliminated the ubiquitous shoebox and created a “clever little bag” that can be reused many times after its life as a shoe container is over. Puma says that making this single change save 8,500 tons of paper, 20 million megajoules of electricity, and 1 million liters of water annually.
Sustainability isn’t important only for product packaging. To learn more about sustainable product design, check out Product Design Strategies for a Sustainable Future.
- Invest in eco-friendly business cards and brochures
Your brand identity showcases who you are, what values you bring to your interactions with customers, and what sets you apart from everyone else. You can make a great impression with your business cards, brochures and other marketing materials, and at the same time, ensure that they have a minimal environmental impact. For example:
- Use recycled and eco-friendly print materials. Many companies offer recycled and eco-friendly business cards and brochures. Some companies use paper from trees harvested under the Sustainable Forest Initiative. Such paper is processed without environmentally harmful bleach and chlorine agents.
- Some companies use waterless printing that doesn’t use toxic chemicals and doesn’t consume tens of thousands of gallons of water as part of the printing process.
- You can find creative business card solutions that include plantable seed business cards.
- If you have a choice of paper or material options, consider recycled cotton for high-end letterpress work and PCW paper for everyday cards and flyers.
- Create sustainable web design
One place you might not expect to find energy savings is your website. However, according to a Greenpeace study, if the Internet were a country, it would rank sixth in the world for energy usage!
Serving web pages requires computers to run 24/7, and all of that power usage and computing requires large amounts of energy. A number of web hosting companies are trying to reduce the impact websites have on the planet. Choosing a green web host is a simple way to make sure your site is not contributing to global warming. Some of these companies purchase carbon offsets to make up for the energy they use, while others tap into renewable energy sources such as wind and solar to power their servers.
Because these “lighter” pages also load faster, they have lower abandonment rates. Studies show that 20% of people will not wait even five seconds for a page to load.
Amanda Bowman, who works in customer service at crowdspring, a popular marketplace for crowdsourced web design, suggests giving your website a thorough audit to remove excess images and videos, or run them through optimizers like Kraken.io or ImageOptim to shrink their size and speed up their utility.
When it comes to creating a sustainable, healthy business, even small actions matter. 2019 is a great year for your small business to focus on going green.
January 29, 2019 at 11:34AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs