Sustainability in New or Remodeled Spaces
As small business owners, we jump at the chance to open up a second location or refurb an existing space. Given the opportunity to build in sustainable activities from the ground up is a great opportunity to keep moving along to your sustainability goals and make your new space even greener.
Working with a construction team, setting goals and doing what you can control are all ways to make sure your new space is green and made for you. Don’t feel pressured to take every sustainable option that’s thrown at you, take the ones that will benefit you and your goals. And of course, share your actions with your stakeholders. Follow the below guidelines to bring your green sensibilities to a new space.
Work with your landlord/construction crew/designers
If you aren’t doing these upgrades yourself, typically you will be working with your landlord, a construction firm or an interior designer. Sometimes all three! In early discussions ask them what environmentally-friendly options there are. The list is endless: lightbulbs, low-VOC paints, sustainable wood. Make your intentions clear and ask that they guide you or direct you to someone that can help you. These experts have (hopefully) completed a large amount of successful projects. Use their expertise and direct it toward your needs.
Doing minimal research yourself can help set the tone and give more guidance on what you are looking for. Using ENERGY STAR appliances can come with tax rebates and low-flow sinks will save you money later on. There are lots of calculators online that will help you see the savings from efficient appliances.
Finally, track and write down the environmental changes, upgrades and decisions you made in the space. These should be shared and often you’ll need to share them to show proof for tax purposes.
Set goals and focus
What’s most important to you in this new space? That people feel welcome and encouraged to buy? That the food tastes delicious? Use that to guide your sustainability action. That can be low-VOC paint and an organic clothing section to meet customer needs or purchasing all food from a local farm to meet your delicious meter. See how you can link your goal with a complementary sustainability action.
You can also set a separate “green goal” to focus your refurb or if you’re interested in taking small steps. This can be using exclusively LED lights, removing paper towels from the bathroom. Work with your team to figure out what’s important to you and feasible in the space.
It can be overwhelming (and exciting!) to see all of the environmental options available when building out a new space from scratch. If you have the willpower and the time and want to do as much as you can, go for it. If you’re the other 99% and trying to balance the desire for sustainability alongside your budget, timeline and other constraints, pick an option that supports your above goal.
Green what you can control
In a rented or existing space, you can be limited in your ability to select appliances, HVAC or other significant changes. In that case, green what you can. Lightbulbs, hand dryers, and waste placement all make a significant difference and are changes you can easily make.
Another often overlooked sustainable option is finding something secondhand. Secondhand items reduce landfill space and can often be cost savers as well. Think of items like new barstools or lighting fixtures. Search Craigslist, second hand stores, restaurant sales and ask friends if they have any items.
Share, Share and Share Some More
Sharing the actions you took gives you a competitive advantage, a way to connect with customers, and employee retention. Does the pizza place across the street use exclusively LED bulbs? You know who also gets their kale from the same farm you do, your Tuesday night regular. And your favorite waitress who is also interested in compost is now running your food waste program.
Sustainability connects anxieties you already worry about with solutions. Share what your goals are and changes made on social media. During your grand opening speech, talk about your secondhand chairs and low-VOC paints. The selling point and talking point is worth it. Continue to share how the changes you made in refurbishing help your business as it grows.
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