How small changes can have a big impact: 8 eco-friendly tips for buisnesses
Did you know that straws and cups and plastic cutlery and styrofoam container are found daily on beach clean ups around the world?
A lot of people don’t know or are not thinking about how or that their habits can influence the environment.
Most people are so used to straws and plastic cutlery because bars provide these even without asking for need. If we cant reach some of the customers, we need to reach the business owner or manager in shops, cafés, street food counters, markets, etc.
Besides using green energy, using organic produce, selling eco friendly-local.organic products you can do a lot more….
This is an invitation to all of the restaurant, coffee shop and food stall owner in the world! You can have a huge impact by making small changes, mostly these changes will save you money too. And I know what I am talking about, because a few years ago, I’ve been a coffee shop owner too!
And I know some of you might think: why should I be responsible for that people can’t recycle properly or that people leave their rubbish behind on the beach! You are not responsible for others behavior, but we are all responsible to treat our home/planet and resources right. We just don’t have a Planet B. And your choices can have a huge impact on our environment and life, so start today to become a hero for our ocean and our home.
The plastic crisis
It’s not a secret anymore that we got a huge plastic problem on our planet. Also our quick and easy fast food, take away culture is one of the reasons. Nowadays everything is in single use take away cups and single use containers. Single use spoons and forks. All used for a few minutes and then they last forever if they are not recycled properly.
And here is the biggest problem: most of these things can’t even get recycled in a municipal recycling facility! The coffee cups have a plastic line to make it water proof. In most countries it’s ending up and filling our landfills. I see plastic forks and spoons laying around on beaches and in parks because people just don’t care to clean up their own shit. Or straws and plastic bags taken by the wind, sounds so romantic but is a thread for all our wildlife.
Stop single use plastic
And even the so called biodegradable plastic is only biodegradable in perfect conditions. If biodegradable plastic ends up in landfill or in the ocean it won’t biodegrade quickly and still can harm wildlife and pollute. So as long as plastic gets into our environment that easy, the only way to help is to reduce as much as possible.
In case you haven’t heard about the numbers: 8 million tons of plastic trash end up every year, in our beloved ocean!
And I found so much of single use plastic items on beaches around the world: from toothpaste tubes, to cups, to unopened ketchup single portions packages, spoons, plastic bottles, straws!!
So besides we need new laws, and bins with lids in our cities and all the countries worldwide, we also need to make changes ourselves, because laws mostly don’t come quick enough.
So here is what you as a coffee shop, bar, restaurant, ice cream or smoothie shop, street food stall owner, can do:
Alternatives and tips for coffee shops and bars, street food venues and restaurants, shops and takeaway businesses:
1) Single use plastic straws:
Are normally made of fossile fuel plastic, used for maybe 3 Minutes and then they last forever because they are not biodegradable.
Even so called biodegradable/compostable straws made of natural materials won’t biodegrade quickly if littered or on landfill. They need perfect conditions like a compost facility!!
Mostly straws land in our landfills and end up in the ocean easily where they can harm animals and pollute our water! In the US 500 million straws are used each day!
Also the single use stirring rods in the cocktails are totally unnecessary! These can easily be swapped with wooden or reusable stainless steel sticks.
Here is what you can do:
- Straws should only be available when its requested by a customer (that saves you money(!) and plastic trash), so many people are complained that they ordered: no straw please, and then they get two!! Uncool and unnecessary! People actually mostly don’t miss a straw in the drink if they don’t get them in first place. I love to see more and more businesses doing this. Like bioOrganicos in Playa Del Carmen Mexico.
- Provide paper straws or reusable straws for your customers, rather than plastic straws! (I have seen this in so many restaurants on Bali). Just put up a sign saying something like: “We like to save our oceans, so we only serve straws an request. Thank you for your cooperation! “
- Or maybe just get rid of straws in general.
- Swap the plastic stirring sticks with wooden sticks or reusable stainless steel stirs, and also just provide if customers want them. (more tipps for alternative straws: http://thelastplasticstraw.org/resources/)
2) Single-use coffee cups, single-use plastic cups:
I see this all the time, people want to drink the iced coffee in the Café and they get the drink in a plastic cup. They want a glass of tab water and get the water in a single use cup (also in the biggest coffee shop chains)! Really? Even if you order to stay in you cant avoid plastic cups in many coffee shops (plus the plastic straw). In the UK up to 7 million coffee cups are thrown away daily! And because the single use coffee cups are plastic film lined, they are rarely recyclable in most countries. So they end up in landfills and often in the ocean.
Here is what you can do:
- Go back to ask your customers if they want to have the drink/food for here or to go!!! If they order for here always serve in reusables!
- Make sure you have reusable glasses for cold drinks if people want to drink in house! If you are afraid they will break to easily, get reusable cups made of plastic… Not ideal but so much better than throw away cups right?
- Animate people to bring their own cup. Maybe even offer them a discount for 10 cents or so, like Starbucks do. Because if more people bring their own cup, you will actually save money because you need to buy less single use plastic cups.
- Offer rentable reusable cups. They pay you a deposit, and get the deposit back when they bring the cup back, or they like to just keep the cup to refill it with every visit.
- If you offer drinks to go, at least try to change to plastic made of natural materials, this is not perfect, but a better solution than plastic made of fossile fuel. If you use biodegradable or compostable ware it only makes sense if you actually have compost facilities in your city that accepts them. Many city composts don’t accept them because they decompose too slow. And then even a biodegradable cup doesn’t make a real difference because they don’t break down on a landfill. And make sure to have a separate compost bin where you can collect them!! In a normal bin they go to landfill.
- Put up a sign saying something like: Bring your own cup and help us keep plastic trash off of landfill!
- Why Biodegradable Plastic is not the solution.
When exposed to salt water, sun and waves, plastic corrodes, and breaks down into smaller pieces.
…in the end they will become micro plastics, so tiny we can’t even see them anymore…
3) Single-use plastic spoons, forks, knives, stirring rods, single use plates, styrofoam container, etc…
Again, those items are used for a couple minutes and last forever if made out of plastic. And I bet everyone of you has seen alternatives like reusable plates;), paper plates, bamboo plates or banana leaf plates, same with cutlery made of wood, or biodegradable natural material plastic (easily compostable if you recycle properly, quicker degradable if they land in landfills, and easily to get burnt into energy).
The only thing you need to do:
- Ask your guests: for here or to go! If people want to stay please provide reusable plates, cups and cutlery!
- Ask and invite people to bring their own take away container and reusable cutlery.
- Avoid packing the single use food container into a single use plastic bag.
- Provide biodegradable cutlery and paper plates if your city doesn’t accept them in the compost.
- And provide napkins only when customers want them. Too many napkins end up in the garbage bin unused. And how many times did I get 5 napkins if I don’t even need one..
- Stirring rods can easily be swapped with wooden sticks. I already see these in many coffee shops.
- More about Styrofoam Litter
4) Single portion packaged ketchups, mayonnaise, sugar, salad dressing:
I don’t know when this started, but more and more places offer small plastic wrapped sugar, salt or the tiny milk sachets for the coffee. In restaurants even sometimes the ketchup, dressings, butter etc. comes on the table in sealed in plastic container or plastic wrapped. Sometimes you get salsa/sauce in a small plastic bag. Some restaurants offer reusable dressing container already and then sometimes they put single use plastic spoons in there (instead of using reusable spoons). Thats not necessary.
To make a difference:
- Just stick to the old fashioned sugar, salt shaker, and have a reusable milk can.
- Have a ketchup and dressing dispenser. It’s not a huge challenge. And yes, you know that it is cheaper than all the wrapped stuff and it makes a huge difference on landfill and on beaches. You might not believe it but I found all of the above (ketchup sachets, ketchup bottles, plastic bags that still had the sauce in there) on beach clean ups already.
5) If you have an ice-cream shop:
- Ask for here or to go, and if people want to stay for their Ice Cream make sure to use reusables. Reusable ice cream cups, spoons and coffee cups.
- If people take a cone, don’t put a plastic spoon in the Ice Cream without a request.
- Put up signs saying: “feel free to bring your own reusable cup and spoon to prevent single-use trash”
- If you need a piece of paper for the cone don’t use plastic lined ones use a normal napkin or paper cones only.
- For samples use reusable spoons. Easy to collect and wash. How crazy to use a plastic spoon made of a non renewable resource (fossile fuel) to give out free samples, use for a second and lasting forever on landfill or in the ocean.
- Make the switch to wooden spoons or at least provide both so people can choose the spoon they want to use. Don’t put any spoon straight into the ice cream. Let people chose for themselves wich one they want. A lot of people would like to chose the eco friendly option, but if there is none, how can they make one… If you have a shop close to the ocean or river you could put up a sign saying saying something like: “choose the wooden spoon to help us keep plastic out of the ocean”
- Provide at least one or two vegan ice cream options.
6) Markets (shops)
- Provide paper bags instead of plastic bags. Animate your customers to bring their own reusable bags, or to reuse the paper bags!
- If you sell berries in Plastic Container. Try to switch to paper made container. Again: ask people to bring them back so you can reuse them. Good and loyal customer are coming every week right? So its not even an extra tour for them to bring them back, because they will shop at your place all the time.
- Animate your customer to bring their own reusable container (for cheese, meat, olives, nuts) or jars (for honey, jam, etc.). Maybe even start to offer refill stations for oil, or milk, or soap (whatever you can offer to refill).
- Start a reusable option if you sell jam, honey, or other liquids. Animate your customers to bring back the jars so you can reuse them! This way you will also save some money too because you don’t need to buy new jars all the time. You can also put a deposit fee on reusable container to make sure they’ll come back.
- If you are selling grains, oats, nuts, candies you could start to sell in bulk. Offer paper bags or ask your customers to bring their own reusable bags and they just buy the amount they need!
7) Try and avoid to sell single use plastic bottles of water and soda:
- You are the boss, so you decide what you want to offer. If you want to make a change, sell water or soda in of glass bottles. Thats how we used to buy and sell water for years and years before the industry switched to mainly plastic. But they are still out there.
- Or ask your drink delivery. If they don’t have some, ask again and let them know, you are going to find another delivery where they offer glass bottles if they wont change what they offer.
- You could even set up a refill station where people can refill their reusable water bottles with tap water/filter water. Very important in countries without save tap water, and will make some great advertising too. Just make sure to tell your local newspaper, get your location on the refills apps or websites and put a sign on your door saying: Refill your water bottle here to avoid single use plastic! You will see, eco conscious people will come, and also stay for food/ice cream/coffee or whatever… 🙂 and I guarantee they come back or recommend you because you are doing good things for our planet!
8) Other shops:
- If you sell beauty products, try to work together with private recycling facilities. (Like Terra Cycle) You can then put up collection points/bins, where your customers can bring back the empty container and bottles or toothpaste tubes to make sure the empty container will actually get recycled. (Make sure to contact the recycling facilities to know what they accept and what they can recycle.
- Depending on what you are selling you can also try to provide refill stations for soap, shampoo, olive oil, vinegar, beer, coconut oil, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, etc. People can then bring their own bottles to refill.
- If you sell clothes, try to get more and more natural materials in stock, or if you sell swimwear, try to connect with brands that use recycled fish gear, or beach clean up plastics to make their swim wear fabrics.
- Don’t provide plastic bags. Use paper instead or sell reusables. If you have a supermarket you can sell reusable mesh produce bags so that people can bring and use their own bags instead of using throw away bags.
- If you need any other specific inspirations feel free to write me!
You see: if you invite people to bring reusable cups and containers, if your staff is not providing every cold drink with a straw or a plastic stirring rod without a customer request, if you provide glasses to have a in house drink, etc…. you will not only make a positive impact on our environment, you will reduce trash and you will also save some money on long term sight.
Let´s do the math with straws and single use coffee cups:
Let´s say you are a small coffee shop and you use 33 straws and 33 coffee to go per day. And lets say 100 straws cost you $7 and 100 cups will cost you $30.
- That´s approx. 1.000 straws a month = $70/month = $840/year.
- And approx. 1.000 to go coffee cups = $300/month= $3600/year
That´s a total of: $4.440 per year which you invest in trash.
We both agree that there IS a much better use of your money, right?
If you just save half of your straws and to go cups – you can enjoy $2.220 in YOUR pockets!
What would you do with all that free money? Enjoying a holiday on a plastic thrash free beach?
Now these numbers are just an example. Feel free to do the math with your REAL numbers!
Reusing is the big winner.
Thank you for making a difference!
If you start to do changes in your store or coffee shop and you like to share your story, feel free to write me, send pictures on Instagram or Facebook! I would love to hear some success stories and see pictures and support your shop!
Did I forget something? Please write in the comment or write me a mail if you know anything else that can be replaced easily!