There are several reasons for companies to invest in green production. According to the National Retail Federation, 78% of consumers want to buy from environmentally friendly companies and would pay five percent more for products with sustainable packaging. Not only do sustainable business practices attract buyers, but they can often save the company money, further growing overall profitability.

Product sustainability involves the entire lifecycle of an item. For example, a banana has naturally sustainable packaging, but the growth, harvest and transportation of that product to store shelves aren’t always environmentally sound.

Having a big-picture view of your products’ lifecycle is good for business because it allows you to evaluate the sustainability of your product on multiple levels. Here are some of the ways that you can do so, starting with the materials that your products are made of.

Choose biodegradable materials

Consider what happens to your product after it gets thrown away. It can take up to 500 years for plastic to decompose, and that waste has to go somewhere. Switching to biodegradable options speeds up the decomposition process while keeping plastic out of our parks, waterways and other natural wonders.

Consider your physical products, the packaging and other elements that consumers engage with. For example, a sweater might be biodegradable, but the plastic bag it comes in is not. Even if you can’t switch to fully sustainable options right now, there might be better materials in the future for your company to use.

You might need to change your manufacturing processes to accommodate new materials, such as alternative bioplastics. However, this short-term challenge can pay off in the long-run with better products, diversified vendors and a positive environmental impact.

Choose recycled or reclaimed materials

Another way to make your products greener is to actively invest in recycled or reclaimed materials. For example, one brand has reclaimed 27,000 unwanted wetsuits to create comfortable yoga mats. Another has turned more than 220,000 plastic bottles into swimwear.

While these products can be difficult to source, consumers love hearing stories of companies reclaiming unwanted materials. You may be able to highlight your sustainable sourcing in marketing campaigns and thus increase sales. Even if a small part of your product keeps items out of landfills, you can win buyers over and stand out in a competitive market.

Minimize energy use in production

Sustainability doesn’t just cover the materials used to make your products, but also the energy used in the manufacturing process. Nearly 80% of the energy in the United States comes from fossil fuels. When you open your offices and run your factories, you are likely burning coal and natural gas. You can reduce your overall impact on the environment by lowering your energy usage.

A limitation to this strategy is that you will require some energy to create your products, no matter what. But by switching to clean energy, you can greatly reduce your company’s carbon footprint. For instance, you can install rooftop solar panels or a ground-mounted solar array at a factory or office to reduce your reliance on fossil fuels while increasing the energy independence of your facility.

Don’t rely on scarce resources

Limited resources are materials and other items that cannot be easily found or created on Earth. One of the best examples of this is natural diamonds. These precious gems are incredibly expensive to mine and harm the planet and the miners who harvest them. According to one report, mining a one-carat diamond “removes 250 tons of earth/soil, requires 120 gallons of water and emits 140 lbs. of carbon dioxide.”

Look for alternatives to limited resources. In the case of diamonds, lab-grown diamonds are much more sustainable, renewable and have significantly less impact on the environment.

Do not disrupt ecosystems

The average ecosystem is more delicate than you think. Even small changes in salinity, water temperature, soil composition and bacteria can drastically change how a habitat functions. For instance, pollution and changes to water quality have led to harmful algal blooms in coastal states, resulting in mass fish kills and poor air quality for humans.

You should always look for ways to produce your goods without disrupting local ecosystems either directly or indirectly. You may not always have complete control over your environmental impact — for instance, you may be committed to sustainability but your vendors may not have the same environmental standards. This is why emphasizing sustainability throughout your supply chain is essential — and one way to do so is to work with local vendors.

Source locally

Sourcing locally helps support your community, but it can also have a significant environmental impact. By choosing local vendors when you can, you cut down on your transportation emissions significantly. This is especially apparent if you switch to a local supplier from an overseas one, as ships release 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide annually — more than the total carbon output of California and Texas combined.

You may not be able to find a vendor within your zip code for all of your needs. However, you can opt to look regionally and even statewide for vendors so you are not dependent on international suppliers.

Embrace minimalist packaging

You can also opt for minimalist packaging as a solution. Consider a water bottle as an example. This product doesn’t need to be sealed away in a plastic bag or have a plastic hanging tag. Instead, it just requires a stick-on label with a product description and price to be ready for sale.

Minimizing your package can help your company save money while also lowering your shipping costs. Consider ways to ship the same number of items using less space and lower weight, which can produce financial and environmental benefits. You will want to make sure your items are still protected and insulated if need be, which is a challenge that may need to be solved with internal research and testing.

Consider natural fillers

Along with your packaging, look at the materials you use to protect your items during shipping. Styrofoam, for example, takes thousands of years to decompose. One journalist says that if Shakespeare used a polystyrene foam cup, it would still be sitting in a landfill today. Instead, look for packaging that breaks down easily and takes up less space in a landfill.

Keep in mind you will need to find a balance between effective packaging and eco-friendly investments. One way to do so would be to test different packaging solutions to see which meet your durability and sustainability needs.

Keep your supply chain short

If you can’t source everything locally, do your best to minimize your supply chain. Consider where you get your materials from and how much processing they need before they reach your warehouse or factory. Look for regional resources that also support local communities. Consider processing raw materials yourself so you control the environmental impact of these steps. You can also commit to work with vendors who are committed to sustainability.

Even if you struggle to find regional vendors now, keep an eye out. A new company might cross your path in the future that meets your needs.

Choose transportation carefully

You might not be able to control how materials get to your business, but you can update your distribution methods to make sure they are sustainable. Evaluate whether ground or air transportation is best for your business and the environment. If you manage a fleet of vehicles, take steps to reduce their carbon emissions.

This doesn’t mean you need to buy a fleet of electric vehicles immediately if your business cannot afford them. You can see an impact on your emissions just by implementing speed policies, keeping tires inflated and training your team members to limit idling.

It’s also a good idea to set long-term goals for transportation improvement. For instance, you could implement maintenance guidelines this year and work towards an all-electric supply chain within the next decade.

Encourage consumer engagement and participation

Finally, you can highlight your green initiatives in your marketing materials to excite customers about your sustainable practices. This also allows you to engage buyers in green activities and encourage them to take steps to protect the Earth as well. For example, you can encourage consumers to recycle the packaging and the products when they are no longer needed — and encourage them to be part of a wider-scale sustainability movement.

Your environmental responsibility as a company starts when the raw materials used to make your products are pulled from the ground. It continues through the shipping, manufacturing, distributing and sales processes until your consumers take home your products. Reviewing each step of your operations will allow you to find areas that you can make more sustainable.

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