Firstly, there’s no doubt that single use plastics are an environmental threat. Apart from Stormzy grabbing headlines last week, Sir David Attenborough was feted for his speech at Glastonbury.
This year the festival banned single use plastics. Instead, they installed numerous public water fountains and apparently saved 1 million bottles from going to waste. Organisers also asked attendees to not dump their tents and this seems to have worked too.
The figures globally are staggering. In the 50s, plastic was produced at 5 million tonnes per annum, now it’s 100 million tonnes.
75% of post consumer plastic, across the world, is sent to landfill.
Every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of plastic.
If you’re in the hospitality, catering or restaurant business though, how do you fund attempts to go green?
One way, used by so many companies, is to install water coolers, with large recyclable bottles that are replenished on contract. They also chill the water or provide ambient temperature if preferred.
Aluminium or glass?
Another way, if you sell water, is to go for aluminium cans or glass bottles, which are easier to recycle.
You may have noticed when dining in France, Italy, Spain or Germany, that glass bottles of Perrier, Evian, San Pellegrino are the norm. In Berlin, and other cities in Europe, for example, you get paid to return plastic bottles to shops to discourage irresponsible disposal.
Could changing to glass work for your business?
Inevitably, there’s greater expense entailed in making the switch, but your customers will spot your green credentials and probably pay a premium for it.
It’s the same with fast food and chain coffee. For instance, we are all aware of the phasing out of plastic straws. But what about creating reusable cups that won’t end in landfill with a discount on these? You could even brand these, and it becomes “stealth marketing.”
Being eco-friendly means you have to embed a culture of sustainability.
This doesn’t just mean banning plastic, like Glastonbury, there’s other ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your business:
- Make sure there are no water leaks in toilets, sinks or appliances.
- Heat water to 50 degrees not 65.
- Install water savers in toilet cisterns.
- Buy produce locally.
- Have a robust recycling strategy for paper, glass, plastic and metal and food waste.
- Create an efficient stock management tally to reduce water.
- Use energy efficient lighting,
- Use biodegradable products for cleaning.
- Install a living wall or vertical garden to reduce heat loss in winter.
- Grow your own herbs and use these for cooking.
However, there’s other practical tips too for coffee shops: for instance, you could choose coffee that is organic, shade grown and Fairtrade. Shade grown coffee, for instance, doesn’t lead to deforestation. Finally, if you want all three – look out for Triple Certified labelling.
Avoid overuse of styrofoam cups and lids, but pick paper coffee cups and wooden stirrers, for example.
Put used ground coffee to good use. It’s perfect as a compost for acid loving plants and can be scattered as a mulch or in pots or given away to customers or local allotments.
Make sure your refrigerator and dishwasher are energy efficient. Consequently, it will save the planet and money for you.
Create a sustainable dining experience
Buy furniture and chairs from local suppliers. You may find a local carpenter who will produce these for you cost-effectively. Reduce the dependence on cloth napkins and table cloths, which are wasteful when washed.
Just as with coffee, you can compost fresh uncooked food, like salad leaves, potato peelings, fruit and vegetables rather than adding to general waste.
The cost of going green
Now you may think the green measures we’ve outlined will cost money. Most business advisors would point this out. It is true, it is a longer term investment but one that will reap rewards.
Firstly, there’s the costs of conversion to green – if your business is large, you may need to factor in consultancy costs. The adopted practices will need re-education for staff and customers. This is not a free exercise.
New green equipment
Switching to LED light bulbs, motion sensor lighting, energy efficient coffee machines, refrigerators and cookers will need investment.
Marketing your green credentials
Moreover, customers appreciate eco efforts, but they are unlikely to know unless you tell them. This needs to be made clear on your digital marketing (via a website and social media) and through paid campaigns to emphasise your commitment. You may even invest in sustainable signs, showcasing your green ways.
A sound investment
What you need to know however is that 55% of consumers actively seek and buy eco-friendly brands. Similarly, something as simple as paperless accounting software, automated paperless receipts that act as data trawlers, an indoor wall garden or green rooftop, for example, will mark you out as different.
That is to say, you will save money too on utility bills.
Go without plastic.
Finally why not bite the Glastonbury bullet and ditch plastic water bottles? Many chain restaurants like Pret a Manger and Cote Brasserie provide free filtered water and this will attract customers to your business longer term. It will save you money on buying packs of bottled water, reduce water and help the environment.
Most of all there’s the question of finance if you run any business and want to make it green. Cash flow might be critical, so you always need to feel sure that you have things covered. One option is to use merchant cash advance companies like PDQ Funding. This is a capital advance which is then paid off through a proportion of your future earnings. It’s a great way to get over a quiet period, a temporary cashflow crisis or to invest in sustainability which can take your business to the next level.