biz ladies: simple ways to green your business

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Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from Tess Lloyd and Maja Rose of Polli, a design-based business that creates sustainable jewelry and home accessories. This Sydney company prides itself on its sustainable product lines, and today Tess and Maja share some of their quick and easy secrets to making your business green. From ordering eco-friendly office supplies to signing up for paperless billing, Tess and Maja offer simple steps to getting your business thinking green in no time! Thanks, ladies, for such a helpful post! — Stephanie

CLICK HERE for the full post after the jump!

Going Green

Tess and Maja originally started working together on a project making folded baskets from polypropylene, which is where the name Polli came from. They began selling their wares in local weekend markets and had a sustainable sensibility from the start. When making the baskets, Tess and Maja would carefully save all of the off-cuts and cut-outs, hoping to reuse them in some way. Combining their love for recycling and fashion, the off-cuts were twisted, knotted and looped together to make a range of brightly colored earrings to sell alongside the baskets. The earrings quickly began to outsell the Polli baskets, so Tess and Maja began making eco-jewelry locally using their training as industrial designers and commitment to working with recycled materials. Now Polli’s personal and home accessories are made using stainless steel (75% recycled), brass (100% recycled) and salvaged materials like recycled timber and 100% cardboard.

All of our products are designed and made in Australia, and each of our team members is committed to going green in the workplace and at home. Polli has been certified as Low CO2 by the Carbon Reduction Institute in an effort to keep track of and further reduce our carbon footprint. We are also proud to provide a supportive workplace for young families, and our Sydney studio has been home to many Polli babies over the past few years. We would encourage all businesses to consider going green, as it is a positive change that can really make a difference to the world we share! We hope you find our tips helpful.

1. Going the distance.
How you travel can have a big impact on the environment. Polli team members who live close to the studio walk to work, which is a great way to squeeze some exercise into your work day. Two of our members ride their bikes to work in bright vests and helmets, complete with kids’ seats that are either used to transport babies or stock to and from the studio. Check out your local bike lane maps — NY has great ones at www.nycbikemaps.com. Our remaining team members catch public transport from the outer regions of Sydney. Grab yourself a local train and bus timetable, and enjoy the extra time you have to finish your book or listen to an interesting podcast like TED talks or a This American Life. It is lovely arriving at work after a walk or bike ride or having someone else do the bus or train driving for you — much better than the stress of bad traffic.

When we travel to other Australian states or internationally for trade shows, we choose to offset our flights through the Carbon Reduction Institute. Airlines like United Airlines and British Airways offer flyers the option to offset their flight for a small fee, and there are many reputable companies like Green Flight who now sell carbon credits. For more information on carbon emission and credits, see the Carbon Offset Guide.

We use public post services like Australia Post and USPS instead of couriers, which is a great way of reducing carbon emissions in freight. Visit your local post office or jump online to see the types of services they offer. You might even find that your postal worker collects mail from your area daily and will most likely be happy to pick up your orders on his or her way!

Think about the way you communicate with team members or stockists. You can reduce travel miles by using instant messenger services like Skype, Microsoft Messenger and iChat.

Finally, we manufacture our products locally, which also reduces travel emissions. This is a great way to support your community, and a great way to think global but act local. You can keep abreast of available resources by being actively involved in the design-blog community and reaching out to other artists you meet at trade shows, events or selling trips.

2. Reduce, reuse, recycle.
When you are designing products, think about the longevity of their use and the types of materials you can use to make them last. Our products are designed to last in terms of the durability of the materials used and the process and also in their independent-design aesthetic. Good design should never be disposable.

Encourage your customers to refurbish their goods so they can continue being used. We print small care instruction cards on 100% recycled cards and include them with each Polli piece. The cards detail how to take care of Polli pieces and also things to avoid. For example, our stainless-steel pieces come with the directions, “Stainless steel doesn’t tarnish, but if required, clean metal with a tiny amount of warm soapy water and a silver cloth. To ensure the longevity of these pieces, please avoid excessive exposure to water, perfume or makeup. We design our products to last, but please treat your Polli products with care, as with all things you love.” By taking the time to include care instructions, you can help reduce waste while at the same time creating a relationship with your brand.

With environmental awareness and support increasing, it is becoming easier to choose materials that are either 100% recycled or have a recycled element to them. We make our jewelry from stainless steel, which is made up of 75% recycled material, and brass, which is 100% recycled material. Our new leather collection uses local kangaroo leather, which has less impact on our earth than hoofed animals. We also have a jewelry stand, which we chose to make from locally salvaged timber rather than new timber, and a clock that we made from the off-cuts of a holiday wreath we produced. Using materials that are restricted by the size and type of off-cuts available also poses a great creative challenge for designers.

All of our packaging is made from 100% recycled card — from our business cards and catalogues to our gift boxes and our shipping materials. Check out your local environmental stores or do some research online to find competitively priced recycled packaging.

ULINE is quick, offers delivery to almost everywhere, and has an extensive range of recycled packaging here. Most cities also have at least one local Staples, which has a new EcoEasy product line.

We store all of the packaging we receive from suppliers and try to either return it to them for reuse or reuse it ourselves. Where this isn’t possible, we take the materials to our local reuse centre in Sydney or donate the materials to local children’s schools for craft projects or recycling. For ideas on recycling waste for kids’ crafts, see Makedo.

Set up an extensive office-based recycling system. For a quick guide on an item’s recyclability, see Recycle Now. Start by recycling your paper, plastics and metals, and then think about the packaging you receive from manufacturers that you can either reuse or return for reuse. We donate off-cuts and excess materials to local schools and artists, which means our in-house production creates minimal landfill waste. Contact your local school to set up a program that will also benefit local children.

When we moved in to our office space, the complex didn’t separate paper from landfill waste. It only took raising the issue at a strata meeting and suggesting some recycling contractors to change the waste culture in the complex to create a recycling program for paper. Our complex still doesn’t recycle plastic and glass, so our team members take these products home to their personal recycling bins.

3. Life in the studio
When choosing your workspace, consider finding a place that has natural light and cooling. Our studio is in a converted ginger-beer factory, which we made sure had cross ventilation, skylights and lots of glass windows and doors. You can also choose energy-efficient light bulbs. You can read more about the benefits of these and installing ceiling fans instead of air conditioning units on eartheasy. When shopping for supplies, buy non-toxic cleaning products, which are better for the environment and your health.

As a team, we share a communal lunch that is cooked in-house from locally sourced organic ingredients. Designate a food-loving team member as your team cook, and have them visit a local food co-op where local organic food items are sold by weight (so you take your own reusable containers). This reduces packaging and waste and keeps our team healthy and happy. See below for a great lunch-time recipe!

Think about investing in a good coffee machine, as most people enjoy this vice at least once a day. This means that staff members will reduce consumption of take-away cups from local coffee shops.

Work computers suck up a lot of energy, since most of us are on them for most of the way. Look for an Energy Star label when purchasing new computers and printers. Think about the small things you can do to reduce energy when you’re not using your computer, such as putting your monitors to sleep after extensive periods of non-use; turning off your hard drive when it’s not plugged in to your computer; not using a screen saver; and turning off your computer at the end of the day. If you’re in the market for a new computer, think about purchasing a refurbished one from the special deals part of a store.

Try to minimize what is printed in the office. Switch from printing in color to grayscale, adjust your settings to print double-sided or two screen pages per printed page, and ask your ink/toner cartridge supplier if they have a recycling program. When you’re setting up or need new equipment, think about getting a machine that can print, copy and scan so you consume less energy and create less landfill waste in the long run.

4. Pass it on.
Once you have started going green, aim for the sky! Encourage your customers to recycle your packaging and return it for reuse, and let them know your eco-story so they can pass it on to their customers.

Set up a page on your company website that tracks your efforts.

Look for carbon offset companies that advertise low carbon or green economies. You should be able to advertise your products and services on their websites and also search for other products and services with a similar eco ethos. Click here for an example.

Go paperless. This small eco-practice saves the environment by reducing paper use and freight emissions. Set up paperless billing for your customers — it will not only save the environment, but it will also save you time and stationery costs. Similarly, consider using an online or digital catalogue instead of shipping printed ones to your customers. This should be something your IT contact can do quite quickly for you. Online ordering is also a fast and convenient way for your customers to purchase your wares.

If you work at a company and are not the business owner, here is a short list of the next steps you can take to help your business go green:

1. Pass these tips on to your work mates, or even set up an office meeting about going green.

2. Ask your boss if they would be open to purchasing carbon offsets for work travel by car and airplane.

3. If you live near other work mates and you travel to work separately, set up an office carpool or bike group to get to and from work.

4. Ask your boss to set up recycling bins around the office with directions on what can be recycled.

5. Switch to using reusable or recycled kitchen utensils.

Bright Fritters Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 carrots and 2 beetroots, grated
  • 3 ears of corn (a cob with its jacket on), sliced
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • splash of tamari (wheat-free soy sauce)
  • 1 bunch coriander, chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • fresh-ground pepper
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • millet flour or rice flour, enough to hold the fritters together

Combine all ingredients in the order listed. Cook in a sandwich press (if you’re at Polli) or in a fry pan (if you have a real kitchen). Serve with watercress salad and chutney. Eat with friends.

Watercress Salad

Mix the following together in a bowl so they can marinate while you prepare the watercress:

  • 1 tin of mixed beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2–3 pieces of stone fruit, diced (we had yellow peaches and plumcots — the cross between a plum and an apricot!)
  • 1 Lebanese cucumber, diced with seeds removed
  • 1 packet of goats feta, crumbled
  • 1 handful of fresh mint, torn
  • fresh peach juice
  • fresh diced ginger
  • sherry vinegar
  • generous drizzle of olive oil

Add 1 bunch of watercress and serve.

Hazel

Very interesting post. I’ve been trying to limit the damage my work does to the earth – I built my site with an ‘eco-host’ that tries to offset the resources used in hosting sites, use re-useable packaging etc. – but I often get disillusioned with how little we’re able to do. It’s a bit of a delicate balance; we could take ourselves out of the business world and stop adding to the drain on the world, but then that wouldn’t stop big business who cause a lot of harm without thinking about the world – so maybe the eco-aware people should stay and lead by example, even if it means having some negative effect on the environment.

The conclusion I have to live with – we just have to struggle on and do our best.

Jo Chopra

I LOVE these ideas!!! I also love the nice friendly (non-preachy) style in which they are written.

I’m taking this post to work tomorrow and will plan a meeting with my team to see how many of them we can adopt in our Foundation. Thanks so much!

Taylor Browning

Another great green business I stumbled across recently is Fat Cow web hosting and domain names…they are powered by 100% wind energy. Great, affordable choice for a small business wishing to set up a new website while remaining green!

Melinda @ Memory Lane Photography

We started taking steps toward a “greener” way of being last year and it is amazing how much less waste (both physical and financial) we are creating! We switched from plastic sleeves to recycled kraft and black paper ones for our small prints and started using portrait boxes with multiple sized prints enclosed instead of individual portrait folders (big saver!). We recycle all cardboard and paper from our lab and give the foam inserts to a local antique shop to wrap their small breakables in for their customers (double saver;) ) It’s amazing how little changes have such an impact! Great Share:)

Katie @ Making This Home

Awesome addition to the Biz ladies series. I think the green issues were addressed perfectly here – the first is to start with looking at how you can reduce. Then reuse. And last – recycling.

My little business just won a green business award from my governor. There’s certainly a growing awareness and appreciation for people choosing this direction.

Thanks for this!
Katie

Peony and Thistle

Hi,
Thanks so much for discussing this issue at such length. I have just set up a business. The whole ethos behind it is about re-using and up-cycling. But I have found it very time-consuming and frustrating trying to find out how I can package and ship our items in an environmentally friendly way. Even I have felt like just giving up the search at times and going for an easier option – and I REALLY do care about the environment and have been environmentally aware for a LONG time. So I think it’s really helpful that you have put all of this together in a nice article with helpful links. It’s so important to make it easy for people to know what they can do otherwise they will take the same old environmentally damaging routes. Thank you!

Bitter o'Clock

Great article! I have been trying to include more green practices in my business. I love the concept of upcycling instead of buying new materials (like beads, buttons, fabric). Recently, I’ve ordered new business cards; rather than throwing out the old, unused ones, I’m turning them into tags.

I have a question, though: what do you think about the use of acrylic yarn (as opposed to either cotton or an animal-produced yarn like wool)? I’ve been debating whether to switch, but I’m not sure if one is more eco-friendly than the other. Anyone have an opinion on this?

Xmittens

Wonderful article! As someone who works in fashion, I sometimes have to struggle to find ways to use leftover scraps, source eco-friendly fabrics and materials, etc…however, awareness and resources are becoming more available all the time. For instance, I recently found a local organization called Creative Reuse that accepts donations of re-useable art supplies. They’ve said my fabric scraps are some of the most popular items people purchase, plus I now teach classes on how to use fabric scraps leftover from my production line to make wearable art ( and the fabric is made from recycled soda bottles) …it’s a pretty good cycle if you consider I also design my items to create the least amount of scraps possible when cutting the patterns out.

Anyhow, I wanted to respond to Bitter o’Clock and share a great book that can give you information about various fabrics and yarns, so you can make an informed decision on whether, or not to switch yarns:

Sustainable Fashion and Textiles by Kate Fletcher: http://www.amazon.com/Sustainable-Fashion-Textiles-Design-Journeys/dp/1844074811

Best book on incorporating sustainable practices in fashion, textile (and most other design businesses) that I have ever found. I highly recommend it!

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