Plastic Free July: take steps towards a greener business

September 4, 2020

Are you looking to create a greener, more sustainable business? Participating in Plastic Free July is a great way to get started!

Many businesses are getting on board with the green movement because they’ve recognised people are actively seeking eco-friendly products and services.

By creating a green business you’ll not only be helping to fight climate change, but also improving your business’s reputation and your bottom line at the same time.

Plastic Free July encourages small businesses to start taking steps to reduce single use plastic. But this initiative is just a small part of a much bigger green movement that’s taking place across the UK and the world.

What is Plastic Free July?

Plastic Free July was created in 2011 by the Plastic Free Foundation, and is now a global movement that millions of people take part in every year. The Plastic Free Foundation aims to reduce plastic pollution so we can all live in a cleaner world now and in the future.

Single use plastic is one of the biggest contributors to plastic pollution. It makes up 40% of the plastic produced globally and infiltrates our lives and work places on a daily basis. Common single use plastics you may be using in your business right now include: packaging, food wrappers, bags, bottles, coffee cups, cutlery, straws, stirrers and more.

Quitting these is easier than you might think, and Plastic Free July is a good time to take up the challenge. Below we’ve outlined a few steps your business can take to be more sustainable.

Use sustainable packaging

Many plastics like polystyrene aren’t recyclable and take years to break down in a landfill. Other non-recyclable plastic packaging can reach the ocean where it pollutes beaches, harms marine life and threatens food safety.

Unfortunately, you can’t always count on consumers to recycle packaging. That’s why it can make a big difference to offer sustainable packaging from the start.

This could be something simple such as offering cardboard boxes and paper bags for customers who forget their own. Or you could provide biodegradable packing peanuts or shredded paper instead of bubble wrap.

If products are delivered to your business wrapped in plastic, have a chat to your suppliers and request reusable, returnable or sustainable packaging. If this isn’t possible then consider looking for alternatives who offer more sustainable solutions.

Consider plastic alternatives

In order to reduce your plastic, you’ll need to look for reusable alternatives. Although many plastic items may seem too complicated to replace right now, start slowly and focus on the ones that can give you some quick wins.

As a cafe, you might encourage customers to bring in their own reusable coffee mug to reduce takeaway coffee cups, or compostable food containers to reduce single use plastic bags. Some further options, using the cafe as an example, could include:

  • Large refillable bottles for tomato sauce, soy sauce, mayonnaise etc.
  • Metal or compostable cutlery
  • Paper straws instead of plastic ones
  • Glasses for filtered water instead of plastic bottles
  • Ceramic plates instead of plastic
  • Asking customers to bring their own container when ordering takeaway
  • Encouraging the use of reusable shopping bags

Once everyone is on board with one change, pick another item from the list and slowly make your way towards a plastic-free business!

Raise awareness

One of the main objectives of Plastic Free July is to raise awareness. By participating in the challenge, you are effectively raising awareness of the impact of plastic on the environment. To help raise awareness, communicate clearly with customers so they know you care about being sustainable and participate in Plastic Free July.

You could display signs in your shop or simply publish some posts on social media or on your website. Some important areas to display signage so people can’t miss it include:

  • Your business entrance and/or website home page
  • Checkout counters and/or carts
  • Facebook business page
  • Email footer in your newsletter

The Plastic Free July website has a range of posters and media assets you can use to promote the ‘choose to refuse’ plastic message.

If you plan to continue sustainable practices beyond July, a brief email newsletter or social media post will let customers know what changes to expect.

You can also explain how they can support your business’ sustainable practices, such as using the hashtag #PlasticFreeJuly on social platforms. Many people are already on board with reducing plastic waste and will be keen to help you spread the word.

Conduct a stocktake

Are you aware of how much plastic your business actually uses? Conduct a stocktake and take note of all the disposable plastic items currently entering your business. You might be surprised at the amount of plastic when you start including things like bin liners, biscuit packets and takeaway boxes.

Use this list as a reference in the coming weeks and months so you can measure your progress. Consider publishing and promoting it on social media to encourage other small businesses to complete a similar challenge.

Create a green space

If Plastic Free July is a success you might want to think about creating a ‘green space’ for your small business. As a cafe or coffee shop you can start thinking bigger and introducing even more eco friendly practises in the coming months, such as:

  • Using a sustainable brand of coffee
  • Offering more vegan or vegetarian food options
  • Rewarding customers for bringing reusable mugs
  • Not printing off paper receipts
  • Switching to green cleaning products
  • Reducing, reusing and only then recycling
  • Switching to energy efficient light bulbs
  • Turning out all lights at the end of the day
  • Using sustainable heating and cooling methods

Go cashless

Did you know that switching away from cash can have a pretty large impact on the environment? The mining and transporting of coins releases thousands of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. In addition, new polymer banknotes are made of polymer plastics and are worse than traditional paper notes for CO2 emissions!

Moving to a cashless system not only benefits the planet but also your business. With a payment app like Pomelo Pay you can start accepting payments with just your phone.

With QR code technology, your phone turns into a Point of Sale and all your customer needs to do is scan the QR code and complete the payment from their smartphone.

Just taking one step towards sustainability this July is a good start. Whether you switch to paper bags or decide to go cashless, you can reach hundreds of people by increasing awareness and encouraging others to participate too.

The UK aims to be entirely carbon neutral by 2050 so why not take a stand now and become part of the solution for a cleaner, greener future?