Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Eco-Conscious Business Owners Make A Difference

I like to think I think about the environment when I'm making every-day choices in the Dunitz & Company office. I confess, I do have plastic zip-lock bags in the office.  I also use them over and over and over again for storing and organizing jewelry. Anything and everything I receive in parcels is re-used when I package the ones I send. (I sure hope some of my clients aren't offended by our use of some nasty boxes.) Recently I was thinking there must be other simple things I might do in my office that would reduce the Dunitz & Company carbon footprint.

I emailed my colleagues at Fair Trade Federation and other trade show neighbors. I sent a blast out to the Museum Store Association membership. I posted on our Facebook and Instagram accounts.

I asked: Do you make eco-conscious choices when running your day to day business operations? Is there something you do, that others could easily incorporate? I'd love to share your simple ideas in a blog I'm going to write. How can we make small changes that help our environment and reduce our carbon footprint. You don't need to write a lengthy response. It could be as simple as not buying packing peanuts, but sourcing them on Craigslist so they don't go to landfill. Or you only use cloth napkins in your office instead of buying paper towels. I'd love to hear from you.

Here are the responses I received. Some are simple. Some are WOW, this company really goes the mile. And you'll see, how some behaviors (ie. recycling packing materials) seem to repeat themselves from office to office.

Jenn Roberge, dZi Handmade: "At dZi, one of the many things we try to do is print on both sides of paper. If we do have a paper that has only been printed on one side, we recycle that paper for our co-worker, Sean to use for internal projects." 


Seema Bawa, Trovelore: " 90% of the boxes and packing material that comes into my home and office in any shape of form are re-used for shipping out Trovelore orders.  I rarely ever buy new packing materials. I always make sure that boxes are the right size. I hate it when I receive a small little something in a large box filled with excessive amounts of paper, bubble wrap or foam, even when the contents are not breakable.  I print all of my shipping labels on the clean side of used sheets of paper. I reuse all the paper from my kid's school projects where only one side of the paper has printing. Everyone knows to put paper in the "reuse" drawer. We don't print anything except for packing lists. We haven't printed a catalog since 2018. Our clients can see everything online."


Dave Debikey, Global Gifts, Bloomington: "We recycle as much as we can here at Global Gifts. What the recycling service doesn't take, I take home and put in my household recycling. Seriously! All of that plastic wrap and little bags that product comes packaged with is no longer accepted by the city or the district (Bloomington, IN) for recycling, so I take it all to the local Krogers, the only place collecting that plastic for recycling and repurposing. We also compost our coffee grounds and food waste. Compost collects in sealed jars and then goes into my compost bin at home for my garden.  Some years ago, we switched all our lighting to LED. It was a big upfront investment, but we're not constantly replacing light bulbs now or consuming as much electricity. With Covid, we were doing a lot more surface cleaning, multiple times a day. We began collecting rags for cleaning to avoid using a lot of paper towels. We source sanitizer from our local distillery, Cardinal Spirits. Finally, we recently decided to change our store supply sourcing for toilet paper and tissues. We now purchase from Who Gives A Crap. Their products are made from 100% bamboo and come without plastic packaging. They also give proceeds to provide toilets for people who need them."


Nina Moukova, Seeds to Sew: "We always use plates, glasses and silverware that we wash and always refuse the plastic stuff. We us cloth towels by the sink and wash them. We accept donations of jewelry boxes and have our volunteers rebrand them with our logo. We offer them as free gift boxes and our customers love them. Oh, and we haven't bought a shipping box or envelope in over a year. We accept donations of used shipping boxes and padded envelopes from everyone. If there is a label to be covered, our volunteers glue a piece of brown paper over it and they're good as new. Nobody has ever complained, actually quite the opposite."

Krista Bermeo, Krista Bermeo Studio: "I get most all of my bubble wrap from local buyers (retail stores) as it comes in from other vendors. It sure makes me wonder how many times the wrap has criss-crossed the country (or globe.)"


Karen Sparacio, Project Have Hope: "One way that we try to reduce our environmental impact is to reuse all shipping material, including boxes, cardboard inserts, paper stuffing and peanuts."


Joan Rasch, Sevya: "We've made lots of the eco-conscious choices we've made in our US and India office/warehouse. We use biodegradable plastic bags for our product packaging. We recycle all the paper we can for packaging orders and printing. Each staff person brings their own hand towels from home and launders them, rather than using paper towels. Reusable glasses and mugs are used for drinking water and other beverages including lots of  Chai tea!  And like so many other people, we recycle all of the cardboard boxes from our shipments that come in from India."


 Kelsey Neale, Latitudes Fair Trade: "We recycle all of the packaging that come in with the orders we receive. Our local UPS store even recycles packing materials. Sometimes if we have too much, instead of taking it to the recycle center, we will drive it down the road to the UPS store for them to re-use. We re-use sturdy paper and bubble wrap we receive in our orders when we are packing up fragile items for our customers. We get much more than we need and probably drop off 10-20 bags of paper and plastic packaging at the recycle center twice a month."


Anne Kelly, Mayan Hands: "We're really passionate about this. We ship a lot, packages of all different sizes. We are always scrounging for boxes to reuse - and laugh at how excited we get about finding really good ones. Our cars have boxes of all sizes and shapes in them. I guess others have noticed, since now our friends and neighbors drop off boxes. We always go to the 'odd box table' first before using a new box. Our shipments from Guatemala arrive wrapped in plastic to protect the contents and we reuse every scrap, along with any paper that they include. When we do have to purchase packaging, we seek packing materials with recycled content. We're glad to see there are more options for purchasing packaging materials with recycled content than even a few years ago. We're equally concerned about eco-conscious choices in the office and are eager to learn new ideas from others that will share your your blog post."


Jennifer Webster, Mayamam Weavers: "We try our best to be eco-conscious in our packaging - and we leave the plastic behind. For wholesale orders, we reuse boxes and packaging and add a recycle sticker on it. For retail orders, we line our boxes with one sheet of red tissue and a sticker and ship in a cardboard box. We don't include packing lists or paper receipts unless someone requests that since all the pertinent information has already been shared digitally. We try to find a balance between beautiful and avoiding waste. We want our products to arrive looking like a gift even to the person who purchased it themselves. If anyone orders gift wrapping, we wrap the shipping box in red paper and a ribbon, then slip it into a compostable shipping sleeve."


 Cael Chappell, Baskets of Africa"We do lots of things. We switched to all LED lighting. We participate in a wind energy program at our power company. We only use brown recycled boxes for shipping. (We never use bleached white ones which are quite toxic to produce.) We pay extra for the UPS Carbon Neutral shipping program. We recycle all paper and cardboard that can't be reused. We reuse any packing materials that come to us that we can. Believe it or not, our of our 7200 square foot warehouse/store/office, we product less than a bag of garbage per week. We buy compostable corn plastic utensils for when we can't use metal. And we recently quadrupled our insulation in our warehouse ceiling to conserve heating/cooling electric and water use.


Recycling Tips
It was a delight to hear from so many of my colleagues about what they do in their offices to help make ours a better world. Did I learn a few things that I will adopt as new behaviors at Dunitz & Company? One thing I definitely could do a better job at is saving and printing on reverse sides of used paper. I'm going to work on that. What changes will you make? -ND