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6 Ways to Go Green as a Startup

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The market for green brands is red hot. Nearly three-quarters of Millennials are willing to pay more for products or services from companies dedicated to environmental sustainability. Unless they want to give up ground to competitors, startups that sell to young adults need to buy in.

Making your company more sustainable isn’t just a marketing move, either. Ask your accountant: Reducing your resource consumption and reusing supplies when possible are also smart financial strategies.

Although some of these tactics tend more toward the marketing or money-saving side than others, all six will make your startup more sustainable:

1. Take alternative transportation. 

Online booking platform reports that travel alone accounts for 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. But to court investors and make sales, many startups need team members to travel. For high-stakes meetings, phone calls and videoconferencing don’t cut it.

If you can’t skip a trip, at least avoid short-distance air travel. If you’re flying fewer than 300 miles, consider taking a bus or train. If you must fly, opt for an airline that’s working to lower its environmental impact. Some carriers let you pay to offset your flight’s carbon footprint, while others operate more efficient fleets or use new-age fuel sources. 

Travel doesn’t just have to mean long-term trips. Workers’ daily commutes can add up to a hefty impact, so encourage carpooling groups in order to slash those emissions. Some companies even offer incentives for taking public transportation to and from the office. Research different options to see which plan works best for your business. 

2. Embrace remote work.

Chances are high that most of your workers commute both ways by car — and by themselves. Letting them work from home some (or all) of the time minimizes those twice-a-day tailpipe emissions. Best of all, studies show it might also make them happier and more productive. In the “Dell 2020 Legacy of Good Plan” report, which outlined various company initiatives, including remote work, Dell CEO Michael Dell said, “Our 10×20 Goal is about measuring not only the sustainable and social initiatives Dell can execute, but also the ripple effect of how our technology enables others to benefit the planet. We believe it will be dramatic.”

Remote work can cut your incidental costs, both environmental and financial. Do you purchase plastic cutlery so employees can eat lunch at the office? Do you buy disposable water bottles in case they get thirsty? Especially if you operate a knowledge-based business, develop a remote work policy that works for you.

3. Purchase carbon credits.

What do General Motors, Barclays, and PG&E have in common? They’re successful and established companies, yes, but they’re also the largest private purchasers of carbon credits in the world. As smaller companies see top-tier corporations offsetting their carbon contributions, they’re following along. 

You can buy carbon offsets from dozens of different organizations. Look for one that offsets carbon emissions in a way that’s important for your business: You could pay to plant trees, operate wind farms, or support methane capture. Credits currently sell for a budget-friendly $5 per ton of carbon.

4. Look for like-minded companies.

No startup truly goes it alone, so it’s critical to team up with companies that are also dedicated to sustainability. Organizations like Nu Skin, a cosmetics and skincare company, partner with green startups from seed to solution. Nu Skin’s latest acquisition, Groviv, delivers ingredients grown through controlled environment agriculture technology to minimize resources by using a fraction of the water and land required in traditional farming without the use of herbicides and pesticides. Said Ritch Wood, CEO, “This is a natural evolution in our commitment to innovate where we intend to infuse the best of nature, the latest in science and the most advanced technology into pure, safe and sustainable products.”

Where might you spot a similar partner? Green Business Network connects 3,000 businesses that service more than 200,000 customers. Check whether GBN members, which have to meet certain sustainability standards, might have the services or components you need. Reducing your company’s carbon footprint is only half the battle — you need to make your company’s network green as well if you want to minimize your environmental impact. 

 5. Minimize office waste.

Paper, pens, pencils, and staples are just the start: Literal tons of disposable office products wind up in landfills every year. Although you might never fully eliminate some of them, modern technology makes it easier to reduce your workplace’s material waste.

At service companies, in particular, workers might need only computers and desks to do their jobs. Applications like DocuSign can eliminate the need for paper contracts, while Evernote and other note-taking tools let you set aside the paper notebooks. Whatever physical supply you might need, check whether there’s an app or web service that can take its place. 

6. Reduce utility usage.

Believe it or not, building maintenance accounts for 39% of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. Heating, cooling, and lighting are likely nonnegotiables for your team, but there’s no reason to let old workspaces waste your operations budget. There are ways to save on utilities that don’t involve buying a new building or sweating the whole summer.

First, consider your HVAC setup: Is your insulation up-to-date? What about your air conditioning unit? Once they burn out, replace existing lights with LED bulbs. If your company rents its office, ask your property manager about installing smart thermostats or even larger upgrades, like rooftop solar panels. 

Going green is a no-lose decision. Sustainability can boost your brand, give you access to new customers, lower your overhead costs, and take a load off your conscience along the way. Small steps, including those taken by small companies, are how big changes happen.

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