How to make your small business more sustainable – on a budget

How to make your small business more sustainable – on a budget

Posted: Tue 14th Feb 2023

Today, more small businesses than ever are looking to become more sustainable. They're doing this not only to have a better environmental impact, but also to stay competitive in their market.

If your competitors are taking steps to demonstrate their green credentials and have a positive impact, isn't it time you did too?

For business owners, however, limited budgets and resources can make putting sustainable practices in place a real challenge. You might want your small business to be more eco-friendly, but lack the money to do anything about it.

Becoming a sustainable business on a budget isn't as hard as you might think. Here are some tips for making your enterprise more eco-friendly and reducing carbon emissions – and operating costs – in the process.

Start by assessing your carbon footprint

Before you can transform your venture into an eco-friendly business, you need to understand your current environmental impact.

Begin by assessing how much energy and resources your business uses and what materials you generate as waste.

This will give you a clear picture of where you're at so you know where to focus your efforts and investments when it comes to creating a budget-friendly sustainability plan.

Low-cost sustainable business practices to try

Small business sustainability doesn't have to be costly. Luckily, there are plenty of green habits you can adopt to make your business more sustainable, without breaking the bank.

Switch equipment off when not in use

One of the easiest ways to become a green business is by switching off equipment like computers and air conditioning systems when not in use.

Ask employees to turn off any devices – whether home appliances or office equipment – they aren't actively using. And rather than have electrical lights blazing, try to take advantage of natural light wherever you can. Doing so will help you make those all-important cost savings.

Introduce recycling programmes across all levels of the business

If you're looking for a low-cost approach to sustainability, setting up separate bins for paper, plastic and glass can encourage staff to adopt effective recycling practices – reducing the amount of waste going to landfill in the process.

A female office worker's hand places a plastic water bottle into a plastics recycling bin

Replace disposable materials with reusable ones

It may seem an expensive tactic at first, but think about replacing disposable materials with reusable water bottles or straws made of glass or stainless steel.

In the long run, it will save you money since you won’t have to buy new supplies every time you need them. Furthermore, it's much better for the environment as you'll produce much less plastic waste.

Repurpose items to give them a new life

Making use of materials that you would otherwise throw away can bring down costs.

Instead of tossing out your cardboard boxes or plastic bottles, try finding ways to reuse or repurpose them into something new – like furniture, equipment or sustainable packaging. This will help you reduce waste and stop you having to buy new items for the office.

Go paperless

Reducing your paper usage can save your business time and money and help you generate less paper waste. Swapping out traditional filing cabinets for digital filing systems such as cloud storage, and encouraging employees to use digital devices, is an easy way to declutter office spaces and create a paper-free environment.

And less printing means less money spent on ink cartridges. All in all, it's a great step towards building green thinking into your company culture.

Sustainable food goods and personal hygiene products on display in a zero-waste shop

Choose sustainable materials for your products

When sourcing materials for your products or packaging, consider sustainable alternatives such as recycled paper, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified wood, and compostable packaging.

You can also investigate renewable energy suppliers and green energy providers for your energy bills. Not only will this help reduce your company’s carbon footprint, but it will also demonstrate your commitment to sustainability and renewable energy.

Upgrade your lighting with LED bulbs

Make your small business more energy-efficient by upgrading your lighting system. Replace all of your standard light bulbs with LED bulbs, which produce the same light quality and last up to 25 times longer.

LED lights can reduce your energy usage by up to 75%, making it one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce your potential impact on the environment.

Invest in energy-efficient appliances and green technology

Another great way to support environmental sustainability is by using energy-saving technology. For example, buying new desktop computers instead of laptops can have a positive impact on energy usage, reducing energy costs over time.

There are also energy subsidies available which provide financial assistance for businesses who want to take advantage of advances in technology and upgrade their equipment with greener alternatives.

Smart appliances are becoming increasingly affordable, enabling businesses to switch from manual operation to automatic control. Appliances such as smart thermostats allow you to track how much electricity you're using and monitor your appliances' energy consumption at any given time.

Educate yourself and look for free resources online

Finally, make sure you're up to date on all of the latest developments regarding green initiatives for small businesses. You can educate yourself using the online resources provided through the Plan it with Purpose programme of blogs, webinars and other content.


Plan it with Purpose Ireland: Helping businesses develop a better understanding of environmental and social issues

Plan it with Purpose: Sustainability discovery tool

Answer a series of questions about your business and get a tailored action plan that tells you where to find the support, resources and advice you need to be more sustainable. Take me to the tool


Relevant resources

Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder, Emma Jones CBE, Enterprise Nation connects you to the resources and expertise to help you succeed.

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