In today’s economy, keeping a small business afloat can seem like an uphill battle. And while recycling is often thought of as a social responsibility rather than a cash-cow, the chasing arrows can often bolster your bottom-line just as much as crunching numbers and cutting back on overhead. Don’t believe us? Check out these six ways recycling can help your small business save money and increase neighborhood PR, and start making stewardship a part of your business plan.
1. Upcycle decor
Whether you own a small retail shop, restaurant or office – you’re bound to need furniture for staff and customers. If your office decor is looking a little drab, don’t waste cash on brand new items! Recycle chairs, desks and other pieces you already have to save on money and carbon emissions.
Businesses in the U.K. saved £14 million per year by reusing office chairs, desks and other furniture, according to a research study conducted by WRAP. To upcycle your old furniture, try giving wood pieces a fresh coat of stain or reupholstering seat cushions for a brand new look.
To save even more money (and resources), ask local upholstery stores if they have any leftover scrap pieces from previous jobs. Scraps will sell for a fraction of the price and most will be large enough to use on seat cushions.
2. Recycle for charity
Getting involved in charities and nonprofits in your community is a great way to boost PR for your small business. Sure, you could just write a check. But why not recycle to raise funds instead? Set up a charity recycling drive, and send out a press release to local news media to spread the word in your community.
If you live in an area that provides cash refunds for recyclables, try hauling your bottles and cans to a local recycling center once a week and donating the proceeds to the charity of your choice. For a project with a little less leg-work, partner with an existing organization like Recycling for Charities to set up a fundraising drive.
Recycling for Charities will help you organize a cell phone recycling drive at your small business and donate the profits to the charity of your choice. Your business will also be eligible for tax deductions for each fundraiser.
3. Make it accessible
If you’re paying for recycling at your small business, it can be frustrating to notice recyclables in the trash can. The best way to increase participation is to make recycling bins more accessible to staff and customers. Most will choose to recycle if given the opportunity.
Make sure there is a recycling bin next to every trash can, and concentrate on areas where your staff uses the most paper. Place bins for scrap paper next to copy machines and printers, and ask staff members to reuse paper whenever possible. Reusing scrap paper in-house will dramatically cut back on waste in your business, and you’ll likely find yourself ordering far less paper each month.
For added fun, divide your staff into teams and engage in weekly recycling competitions. Place different colored bins around the office to represent each team, and tally recycling volumes at the end of the week.
4. Reclaim hard-to-recycle waste
Recycling bottles, cans and paper is a no-brainer. But what about all those tricky-to-recycle items around the office? Take advantage of unconventional recyclers, like TerraCycle, to reclaim uncommon recyclables.
TerraCycle offers “brigades” to collect previously non-recyclable or hard-to-recycle waste items – from printer ink cartridges to calculators to Scotch tape. And they’ll even provide collection boxes to help your staff get in on the action.
Make a list of non-recyclable waste items from your office, and head to TerraCycle to recycle them. For uncommon recyclables you can’t send to TerraCycle, use Earth911 to find a solution in your area.
5. Sponsor a class
You probably collect loads of scrap paper, promotional materials and cardboard at your business. These materials are super-easy to recycle, but why miss out on an opportunity to get involved with a school or rec center in your community?
Talk to a local school or community center about donating your paper waste for arts and crafts projects. And volunteer to host a short presentation about recycling for students. You’ll soon be on the map as a local green business and recycling authority in your community.
6. Network, network, network
Networking functions are part of what makes your small business thrive. And since you’re upping the eco ante at your business, why not meet other entrepreneurs that are doing the same thing?
A simple Web search with your city or county name and the words “green business networking” should yield local green business associations and events in your area. Attend an upcoming event and swap recycling tips with like-minded business owners. Many may be able to provide contacts to further upcoming eco initiatives. Eco groups also typically sponsor a local green business directory, and getting your business on the list will help attract Earth-friendly customers in your neighborhood.
And don’t forget Twitter! The social media giant provides a treasure-trove of free PR. Update regularly on upcoming green initiatives at your small business, and follow local civic associations and community groups to help spread the word.