This first Earth Day inspired 20 million Americans (10% of the total U.S. population at the time) to voice their concern about the impacts of 150 years of industrial development that was causing serious human health impacts and environmental degradation.
Earth Day also achieved a rare alignment across political, social, and economic sectors, leading to the modern environmental movement. By the end of 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was created, and various environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Education Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, were passed.
The importance of Earth Day stands in testament to the continued relevance of environmental issues for a sustainable future for our economy and society. Over the past several decades, we have gained an increased insight into the impact of nature on livelihoods. According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, the U.S. has sustained 376 weather and climate disasters in which overall damages exceeded $1 billion since 1980. These events are increasing in frequency, with more than two dozen in 2023 alone, including the deadliest wildfire in the U.S. in more than a century in Hawaii, and the Category 3 Hurricane Idalia in Florida.
While the official Earth Day event is April 22 every year and features initiatives such as the Great Global Cleanup, businesses can recognize the importance of Earth Day year-round. As climate change affects communities and the economy, businesses and consumers are becoming more sustainability-minded. There are plenty of ways to celebrate Earth Day when you promote sustainability, the importance of environmental protection, and the benefits of going green every day in business.
Sustainable business practices have been proven to drive sales and improve customer sentiment. According to a study by McKinsey and NielsenIQ:
Yet, while Forbes reports 90% of executives state that sustainability is important, only 60% of companies have sustainability strategies in place. Small businesses that make sustainability a focus have the potential to gain a competitive advantage. The following are a few foundational areas and small changes to be more sustainable to consider.
This is especially relevant to restaurants, cafés, coffee shops, and food trucks, as well as any business that buys food for their employees. Local, seasonal produce gets you the freshest fruits, veggies, and meats. Buying local also supports your community. It helps you avoid excess packaging and carbon emissions due to transportation.
According to the Maryland Commission on Climate Change, some benefits of sustainable business practices and buying local include:
You can work with your local community supported agriculture (CSA) groups or use websites such as Local Harvest to find providers near you. Small businesses can also buy locally from a lot of non-food product and service providers, from furniture to auto repair.
The Nature Conservancy states a carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases, which include methane and carbon dioxide, that a party’s actions generate. For large corporations that require more transportation and bigger facilities, their carbon footprint will typically be much higher compared to a single locally owned business with minimal facilities and production needs. For those interested in how to reduce a carbon footprint for small businesses, online calculators such as Carbonfootprint.com can help you determine yours.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) represents the majority of greenhouse gas emissions. There are also other greenhouse gases that are even more potent and deadly: methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) are 84 and 264 times more dangerous than CO2, respectively. A number of solutions have been proposed to manage the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, including carbon sequestration and carbon offsets.
There’s also a strategy known as CCUS—carbon capture, utilization, and storage. With CCUS, CO2 is either captured or removed from the atmosphere and then stored deep underground or used in business applications. For example, CO2 makes the bubbles in beer or soda, hence the term “carbonated beverage.” It can be used in cement and fuel production. Companies like Climeworks are building direct air capture facilities, while others, like Carbon Craft Design, are finding innovative ways to use black carbon, the particulate matter polluting India’s skies. Cutting-edge collectives, such as Tomorrow’s Air, are engaging tourists and travelers to do their part to remove carbon, as well.
Businesses that sell a product or service that uses, or could help mitigate, CO2 or any other greenhouse gas or pollutant might look into CCUS strategies. Other ways to reduce a business carbon footprint include:
The way you power your business makes a big difference, both for your bottom line and for the environment. Retail residential electricity rates have increased around 27% in the past 10 years across the country.
Conversely, if your business uses solar energy, you can earn tax credits. Tax credits for solar energy systems include:
If you have the option, consider installing solar panels on your building, or talk to your electricity provider to see if they offer wind, solar, or other renewable energy options.
Besides the question of source, there are numerous ways to save energy in your shop, restaurant, or home-based business. These include:
You can also make your entire building energy-neutral. Clover’s Sunnyvale HQ is a “net zero energy building,” for example. In addition to reduced energy consumption and costs, a net zero energy building can also help a business hedge against future energy price increases. When the Hampton Inn Bakersfield went solar, it received a 30% federal tax credit and decreased its energy bills by 35%-45%. This guide on net zero buildings provides more information on how to execute such projects.
Whether you’re a restaurant offering curbside pickup or a retailer selling home goods, most product-selling businesses require packaging. Unfortunately, packaging materials such as plastic, paper, polystyrene foam, and cardboard typically go to waste once customers unpack their purchases. Populations in the U.S. and the UK produce more plastic waste per person than any other large nation, The Guardian reports.
There are many ways small businesses can reduce their packaging carbon footprint. These include:
According to research from McKinsey & Company, 60% to 70% of consumers would pay more for sustainable packaging. By using eco-friendly packaging, you can reduce waste, improve customer sentiment, and attract more eco-conscious customers.
Many businesses use paper for operations functions, including receipts, invoices, notepads, and forms. Going paperless is an immediate, simple, and easy money-saver. Some ways small businesses can reduce paper usage include:
When you do buy paper, make sure it’s made of as much recycled wood pulp as possible. By implementing these small changes, you can reap the benefits of reducing paper use, including fewer expenses and more convenience for your company.
Instead of stocking plastic water bottles, install a water filter on the premises. Not only will that save money and prevent empty bottles from ending up in a landfill, but filtered water can also protect the health of employees. That’s because nanoparticles of plastic have been showing up in bottled water.
If you operate a restaurant in a drought-prone area, such as California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico, you can opt to serve water at the table only on request. Also, choose raw ingredients carefully. Some, especially meat and dairy, take more water to produce than others.
Waste management is a critical piece of sustainability efforts. One of the most immediately visible forms of waste is food that’s thrown out. According to RTS:
For restaurant owners, there are several ways to decrease food waste costs. These include:
Incorporating sustainable practices provides a powerful new way to promote your business. According to the National Retail Federation, today’s consumers are increasingly interested in shopping with a sustainability focus. About one-third of customers say they consider the environment nearly all of the time when shopping. The younger the shopper, the more likely they are to be sustainability-minded, with 80% of consumers ages 18 to 34 willing to pay more for sustainable products, compared to two-thirds of all consumers.
Some ways to share your ESG efforts with current and target consumers include:
When you make efforts like these, your business can promote initiatives in marketing materials like social media, email marketing, and in press releases. Share your efforts in person with customers and on your website, as well, so consumers can spread the word about the progress your business is making.
Another strong reason to make a business green is that customers are increasingly choosing companies that are committed to the environment. Research confirms sustainability matters to consumers, as illustrated below.
The time, money, and effort it takes to make a business more sustainable can result in many benefits, not just in costs saved and profits gained, but also in brand awareness, goodwill, and customer loyalty. For businesses wondering how to celebrate Earth Day, a 24/7 green business helps protect the environment year-round.
Clover point-of-sale solutions can help businesses become more sustainable. With Clover:
Why wait? Get started with a Clover POS System today to elevate your business.
Sign up and learn more about Clover.