In the past decade or so, we have seen an uptick in businesses and products that have marketed themselves as being environmentally friendly. But is it possible to build your whole brand on those green principles?
Some of the eco-friendly start-ups we have stumbled across seem to think so! But how can you figure out which companies are the real deal and which ones are just throwing a green veneer over their products?
What Makes a Business Eco-Friendly? How Can Companies Showcase Their Zero Waste Values
According to Business Insider, plastic-free and waste-conscious start-ups saw a surge in business in the past year or so. But is anyone surprised by that? After all, a whopping 80% of consumers report that they would support eco-friendly businesses and products if given the chance.
On top of that, committing to environmentally friendly practices benefits businesses in several ways. Mainly, building a green business may be more financially sustainable since many governments offer incentives to companies that make an effort to reduce their carbon footprint. But how would a company go about doing that?
Nurturing a Green Office
According to GetSmarter, the economic benefits of implementing sustainable business practices are vital. Their 2021 Global Sustainability Report found that 81% of people take an organization’s commitment to sustainability into consideration when deciding to buy from them.
Ultimately, there are many ways for a company to commit to eco-friendly practices no matter how small it is. For example, it could:
- Opt for second-hand office furniture and reusable supplies
- Reduce the use of single-use plastics
- Use energy-efficient swaps like LED lights and install automatic lights and faucets
- Supply employees with laptops instead of desktop computers (and get eco-friendly appliances and machines)
- Loosen dress code requirements, allowing employees to wear season-appropriate clothing in order to reduce AC and heating costs
- Place group lunch orders to prevent an accumulation of individual food containers
- Use green web hosting services (Google, Microsoft, and Amazon have already made that their top priority)
- Allow telecommuting in addition to flexible working hours (resulting in fewer cars on the road and fewer carbon emissions)
- Provide public transit passes to workers that have to be physically present
- Collaborate with other green businesses, whether those are food brands, apparel labels, or shipping companies
Companies that are especially committed to the cause might even schedule regular environmental audits. Of course, as consumers, we don’t have many ways of knowing if a business has committed to green practices internally. Besides, most people are more concerned with how the products they’re using are made.
Committing to Sustainable Production Cycles
If we want to be able to identify Zero Waste start-ups, we need to look for businesses that:
- Use locally-sourced, natural ingredients (preventing toxic materials and ozone-depleting substances from circulating)
- Reduce the amount of packaging they use and, on top of that, opt for eco-friendly packaging (like post-consumer paper and cardboard)
- Invest in renewable materials and energy sources
- Incorporate waste management in the process of production planning
- Reduce water and energy consumption during the production process
- Make products that last or that are at least recyclable or compostable
- Donate excess materials and products or organize community service events
- Fundraise for worthy causes (though that might be difficult for start-ups to do)
Ultimately, any eco-friendly company should make an effort to strengthen the circular economy by using recycled materials or at least renewable sources and making sure its products can also be recycled, composted, or reused. Those should be the guiding principles of any Zero Waste business.
So let’s see which start-ups fit the bill. And if you’re interested in knowing who started Zero Waste or how you can align yourself with the movement, you’ll find plenty of tips online!
Eco-Friendly Start-Ups That Are Changing the Game
Having seen how businesses can achieve an environmentally friendly reputation, let’s talk about the ones that got it right from the get-go.
Zero Waste Packaging Start-Ups
Businesses that specialize in creating packaging alternatives are sorely needed. As you may be aware, plastic and styrofoam packaging is notoriously difficult to recycle. Luckily, researchers across the world have been looking for a solution for decades.
For example, Indonesian company Avani has produced a cassava starch-based packaging you can eat! The product dissolves in warm water and also makes an excellent fertilizer. But as you can imagine, it’s not the best material for storing wet ingredients.
Other options include:
- US-based start-up PulpWorks, which makes compostable and biodegradable packaging out of post-consumer paper and agricultural products
- Loliware, which makes edible or compostable seaweed-based packaging that breaks down in two months or less
- Canadian company Evanescence Packaging Solutions, which has produced starch-based compostable packaging that decomposes in under 3 months
And these are only some of the possible alternatives we have found to plastic and styrofoam. Hopefully, as these technologies improve, we’ll see more manufacturers partnering with these kinds of start-ups.
As it happens, some retail start-ups have already begun transitioning to sustainable packaging. For example, Swiss start-up Lyfa has made its name selling groceries in reusable packaging. Instead of plastic bags, the company uses jute bags, glass containers, cotton bags, and reusable plastic packaging for certain household items. But if Switzerland is a bit far for you to go for your groceries, we’re sure you’ll find a similar business in your area if you try.
In fact, another start-up we found could help you with that! Mobile app Go Zero Waste allows users to identify plastic-free businesses in their area, helping them transition to the Zero Waste lifestyle.
Aside from that, a big part of the Zero Waste philosophy is finding ways to reduce food waste. Gander, a start-up working out of the Isle of Man, has been developing a mobile platform to connect consumers with food that’s on sale in their area. By buying it up, the consumers themselves would be stopping it from ending up in a landfill.
Similarly, the Parisian start-up Phenix aims to make sure all unsold goods find a purpose. In addition to selling food through a mobile app, the company also converts it into animal feed and donates it to various charities.
More Start-Ups to Keep Your Eyes On
As you have seen, the start-ups we have mentioned are working on the products and services we need the most. Of course, that’s not to say that others aren’t producing similarly important wares. For example:
- Danish company LastObject specializes in making reusable and washable tissues, makeup removal rounds, and even q-tips that can replace over a thousand single-use products
- British start-up Xampla is creating plant-derived alternatives to single-use plastic
- Algaeing is looking into creating innovative algae-based fibers and dyes
- Subscription service Grover allows users to rent tech devices for a month (at least) instead of having to buy new electronics
Ultimately, if we continued listing environmentally-friendly start-ups, you might be here for the rest of the week! That just goes to show that many companies are interested in coming up with innovative solutions to the problems that plague our planet. Knowing that, the least we can do is give them the support they need to succeed!