Sustainability isn’t just a buzzword, it's becoming the path forward for people and businesses to have an active, effective role in protecting the planet. For small businesses, adopting a greener approach to everyday practices is not only essential to doing your part to help the environment, it is critical to staying relevant to your clients and customers.

Research shows that 79% of consumers are changing their buying preferences based on social responsibility, environmental impact and inclusivity. Small yet consequential steps toward greater sustainability are easier than one may think. Going paperless, sourcing biodegradable supplies, buying secondhand office furniture, reusing packaging and encouraging remote work to reduce carbon emissions are all great places to start. Here is how five small business owners have found their way to improved sustainability, both attracting and inspiring others to join their effort.

 Bowling Alley with vibrant colors
Located in Lawrenceville, NJ, Colonial Bowling & Entertainment is proof that you can create a cool and fun environment while being good to the environment. — Colonial Bowling

Peter Sheft, owner, Colonial Bowling & Entertainment

Who we are: Family entertainment center in Lawrenceville, NJ, featuring 24 lanes of bowling, a 3500-square-foot video arcade, glow laser tag, mini bowling and a full-service restaurant and bar.

As we all know, the key to profitability and staying in business is staying one step ahead of the competition. At Colonial Bowling & Entertainment, we evaluate and update environmentally friendly sustainability practices just as frequently as we would any of our major profit centers. Whether it's installing the most advanced laser tag system on the market, purchasing the "next big thing" in the arcade or changing all our lighting to energy-efficient LEDs, we're constantly looking into ways to stay ahead of the curve.

Recently we completed our second full energy audit in the past eight years with the NJ Clean Energy Program. We were eligible to participate in the Direct Install Program, which helped us fund three new energy-efficient HVAC rooftop units as well as the aforementioned LED lighting changeover. This change alone is projected to save us over 101,000 kWh and 3600 therms every year. On top of that, we recycle paper, glass, plastic, cooking oil and even used bowling pins!

To us, sustainability is also about the community we serve, which is why we recently sold a large portion of paved land at a discount to the local township for them to turn it into a park and further extend the green footprint around our business. Individually these actions may not seem like much, but put them together and you'll see why going green isn't just good for the environment, it's good for your bottom line. Follow Colonial Bowling & Entertainment on Facebook & Instagram.

 Interior photo of a shop with items on display
The Green Corner Store in Little Rock is Arkansas' first eco-lifestyle store, offering environmentally friendly products and processes that are greener, safer and healthier. — The Green Corner Store

Shelley Green, owner, The Green Corner Store

Who we are: An independent and certified woman-owned business offering healthy, organic and sustainable goods for personal and home use in Little Rock, AR.

At our core, we are a purpose-driven company using the 3 P’s of sustainability — people, planet and profit — in all phases of our business. Our decisions are not based solely on making money, rather on acting responsibly in all areas of our business for the benefit of all of our stakeholders. We source environmentally friendly goods from companies that align with our values and consider the environment in every phase of our internal operations, taking steps every day to tread more lightly on the Earth.

Our products are thoughtfully curated; they are sourced and manufactured responsibly from companies that share our commitment to sustainable, ethical practices. We look for the ways our vendors demonstrate they care as much about community and the well-being of future generations as we do, by seeking third-party certifications like the Oregon Tilth Certified Organic, Made in USA, Women-Owned, Leaping Bunny Cruelty-Free, PETA, Made with Solar Energy, Environmental Working Group, Certified “B” Corporation, and 1% for the Planet.

We sell package-free and bulk cleaning products to reduce unnecessary packaging and help customers move towards zero-waste and plastic-free lifestyles. We believe in closing the loop to keep items out of the landfill. We reuse the packing materials from shipments and give our surplus to other businesses to use. After brewing beverages at our tea bar, we compost the tea leaves at a nearby community garden. We showcase a plethora of Arkansas artisans and companies and have always been buying Made in America products to help reduce greenhouse gases caused by long-distance shipping from overseas markets.

We incorporate respected guideposts in our sustainability model that have measurable, quantifiable efforts. For that, we obtained Gold Certification with The Green Business Network, a program of Green America. We are proud to be part of a national movement to build a more just and sustainable world. Follow The Green Corner Store on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter.

 A person wearing black boots with tan soles and red laces stands on a tile floor
Recycled polyester, sustainably harvested wood spools and recycled cardboard packaging are some of the ways Whiskers is taking an active role in eco-responsible practices. — Whiskers

Kyle Groth, co-founder and CEO, Whiskers

Who we are: Located in Delray Beach, Fl., Whiskers is a premium shoelace company transforming an overlooked yet essential part of the wardrobe into a playful, stylish form of self-expression.

Since our founding, we’ve strived to carry our values as people into what we do as a business, putting ethics and sustainability first in every decision. We were excited to announce last year that we moved all of our production here to the United States, securing partnerships in North Carolina to make all of our laces and socks. We were also able to evolve our materials and offerings with our move to the USA.

Now, everything we make, from the little things to our main offerings, is made from recycled and sustainable products. Our spools come from an old American sustainable birch farm in Maine, all polyester in our laces and socks comes from recycled plastic bottles and all of our boxes are made from recycled cardboard. We also encourage customers to recycle them through our Spool Recycling Program, going as far as enticing them to trade unused spools for cash credit on our site. Follow Whiskers on Instagram & Facebook.

 Men stand in front of a facility, outdoors
GrandyOats' sustainability practices are a priority. The only source organic ingredients, for example, and even moved its Hiram, ME production facility to an old elementary school. — Grandy Oats

Aaron Anker, chief granola officer, GrandyOats

Who we are: GrandyOats of Hiram, ME is committed to creating delicious organic products in a sustainable and environmentally conscious way.

As a company, GrandyOats has been committed to operating sustainably and in an environmentally conscious manner from day one. We started by committing to only using organic certified ingredients that have been produced without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides or genetically modified seeds.

We took it a step further when we moved production to a disused elementary school in Hiram, Maine. By modifying and restoring this building, we were able to both increase our production capabilities and also lessen the impact of our company. We were able to outfit our bakery with solar panels, ensuring we only use renewable energy on-site.

We have also been able to get a number of products Fair Trade Certified in the past year. We know there are still many things we can do better and believe that only through reflection and achievable, incremental change, will we be able to become more sustainable and better stewards of the environment. Follow GrandyOats on Instagram, Facebook & LinkedIn.

 Art gallery with spotlights highlighting art
MAS Art, named for sister andowners Malu and Sandra Bender, serves the Las Cruces, NM community with a shop and gallery that is optimized for enhanced energy efficiency. — MAS Art

Sandra and Malu Bender, co-owners, MAS Art

Who we are: A full-service framing and art supplies company located in Las Cruces, NM.

We are sisters who have been in business together for eight years now, and are both very committed to our community. We have a gallery where local artists can show their work; and our art supplies area is specifically dedicated to the New Mexico State University, other local schools and students. Our mission is to serve our community and provide clean, honest shopping of the highest quality possible for all our customers.

We like to think that we are very environmentally conscientious. At MAS Art, we treat environmental activities seriously and we donate to local causes. We are members of the Green Chamber of Commerce. Recently, we purchased a building and, though we could not afford a solar panel system, we converted all light bulbs to LED. Our air conditioning is generated by mini-splits. We made a point to reduce the use of electricity in the most efficient and environmentally friendly way possible. Our daily activities are also environmentally conscious in that we recycle all paper and frames. Follow MAS Art on Facebook & Instagram.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published June 04, 2021