How to Be an Eco-Friendly Business

Consult this guide if your business is looking for tips to become more sustainable.

Find out how to be an eco-friendly business with advice from our 15 years of experience doing it.

When we launched EZ Office Products in 2006, we pledged to run a sustainable business, from the products we sell to how we operate. Fifteen years later, we remain committed to environmental responsibility and sustainability, including earning a Green Masters certification through the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council.

Here, we share our thoughts on running an eco-friendly business, including tips from Vice President and Owner Gary Molz for other organizations looking to get started on their own sustainability journeys.

For a business owner who’s never really thought about their environmental impact before, where would you suggest they start on their path to becoming eco-friendly?

This is a challenging time to run a sustainable business. The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated a lot of efforts, and there isn’t much of a market for items like aluminum that EZ Office Products would typically recycle.

But you can always start with the basics, according to Molz.

What does your building look like? Are you using outdated technology, or have you updated to LED lights? After that, the most important thing we all have is our purchasing power,” he says. “Who are you buying from? Is it a local company, or do products have to travel around the world to get to your location? Does [your product] come in a box that’s ten times bigger than it needs to be — and does it even need a box?”

What are some of the easiest ways businesses can lessen their environmental impact?

There are several simple modifications businesses can make that don’t cost anything, such as recycling toner cartridges and looking for local recycling options so cartridges don’t have to be shipped across the country or overseas.

“One thing we were able to do at EZOP is significantly reduce our solid waste. Our trash is someone else’s input product; everything can be used by someone,” explains Molz. “’Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ is very good. But ‘Refuse’ is also important. If you don’t need to use something, don’t bother! It’s just common sense. Ask yourself, ‘Do I need a bag? Do I need this thing shipped? Do we really need something we’re going to use once and throw out?'”

What is EZ Office Product’s approach to recycling and waste reduction?

EZ Office Products keeps a close eye on recycling news and opportunities. The landscape has dramatically changed over the last few years and continues to evolve rapidly. As opportunities exist, we include other items in the recycling mix, including office supply products and packaging materials such as pens and pencils, straps that hold paper cartons together, and more.

As for waste, we work closely with customers to help them recycle and reduce the amount of material that goes into a landfill. We attempt to deliver items in a tote bag with no packaging and no boxes and bring the tote back to our warehouse to reuse. And we search for ways to recycle things that many don’t even know can be recycled and educate about the wide variety of recyclable items.

Over the past year, we’ve seen COVID-related products contributing to trash issues — such as nitrile gloves and masks — and recognize this is a huge problem. We’re researching what can be done to better manage a challenge that will be with us for a while.

What about transportation and deliveries?

Our team carefully plans truck routes and is selective when partnering with new customers from a routing standpoint. We won’t add customers just for the sake of growing our business. We look to ensure we can service all customers in an environmentally friendly way.

COVID caused us to completely pivot our transportation strategy, as many employees stopped working from corporate offices. We knew it wouldn’t be efficient or beneficial to the environment to stick to our policy of primarily only delivering to business locations, so we had to shift to meet our customers’ needs. We eliminated extra transportation legs by delivering directly to customers at their home offices, pre-planning routes to maximize fuel efficiency.

Are there ways to improve supply chain sustainability?

We are making efforts to find suppliers who offer more sustainable products and then educating and offering these products to our customers. For example, customers looking for plastic straws will be informed about paper straw alternatives. Our purchasing experience reflects this: when customers search for a product, if another more sustainable option is available, that will appear on-screen to give customers a greener choice.

In our new COVID environment, there has been an increased demand for certain types of products. We are taking great efforts to ensure products are as environmentally safe as possible and are made locally or in the U.S.

What are the most important things you’ve learned about running an eco-friendly business over the past 15 years?

According to Molz, the most important thing he’s learned since launching EZ Office Products is how cost-effective prioritizing sustainability really is.

“It’s a heck of a lot easier than people think. Out of necessity, a small business always wants to figure out how they can reduce their costs,” he says. “If you’ve never given sustainability much thought, you might worry it’s going to cost money, but that’s not the case. If you are really sustainable, you’re reducing costs because you’re reusing things or just not using things you didn’t need in the first place.”

While your sustainability journey might take time, Molz encourages business owners to preserve for the benefit for their community and their environment.

“Everyone’s waste is someone else’s raw material at the end of the day, and we need to connect to that. You have to be consistent, and you have to be persistent. Don’t give up.”

Our team of experts can help your business select office supplies and products that will reduce waste and your carbon footprint. Shop our online catalog for sustainable products right now or connect with our local customer concierge to set up your business account at (608) 310-4300.