7 Ways Your outdoor brand can reduce plastics
Updated: Jun 10
This is a modified version of the article, “7 Ways To Reduce Plastic Consumption in Your Workplace,” originally published by 3P Insights.
Plastics are everywhere – in our landfills, our streets, our waterways, our foods and in our bodies. They are nearly universal materials in our economy, businesses, and social practices. Plastics production and consumption marks a cultural revolution that has had both positive and negative impacts. On the one hand, the lightness, durability, versatility, and cost-effectiveness of plastics democratized consumption, allowing people of modest means to become consumers of what are now considered to be everyday products, like combs and toothbrushes. According to Scientific American’s historical account, plastics held the promise of a new material that enabled and oriented the middle class.
On the other hand, excessive use of plastics in production and packaging has presented environmental and health challenges unlike anything else in consumption history. Particularly alarming is the amount of plastics that end up in our oceans and waterways. Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastics enter our ocean. This is on top of the 150 million metric tons of plastics estimated already to be circulating in marine waters. Whether it’s water bottles, plastic bags, straws, fishing nets, or mismanaged plastic waste, that’s the equivalent of dumping a full garbage truck of plastics into the ocean every minute every day for an entire year!
Plastics have been found in 100% of sea turtles and more than 60% of sea birds, which often mistake plastics for food. Since plastics never fully decompose – they just break down into smaller and smaller pieces – they have also been found in the fish we consume. In the last decade alone, the proportion of fish consuming plastics more than doubled across all species. Plastics in the fish we eat has been linked to health problems in humans.
It's no wonder that we’ve seen growing awareness and so many #PlasticFree campaigns over the last several years.
So, what can you do about it?
As an outdoor business, you have an unmatched opportunity to step up, commit to doing better for the planet, and help protect the outdoor spaces that are so important to your purpose. Here are a few ideas:
1. Educate About the Issue.
Businesses have an unmatched platform to connect plastic-free choices with the values and aspirations of their employees and customers. By helping educate employees and customers about the problem, and then to further provide solutions, business leaders and managers can engage and inspire others to reduce their plastics consumption. Sharing about the problem and incorporating signage into your workplace or service center are two great ways to communicate the issues with employees and customers while reinforcing your organization’s values. The Plastic Free July campaign has a number of posters to get you started.
2. Find Some Easy Wins.
The truth is, the plastics problem is larger than any individual person or business. Plastics are woven into our systems and structures, and going completely plastic-free is nearly impossible for most people. A great way to get people engaged is to ask them what single-use plastics they could eliminate. Staff often enjoy challenging each other, so incorporating an employee challenge like “BYO Bottle to Work” can make plastics reduction fun.
Consider providing your employees with a reusable water container or coffee tumbler to take with them to work and on their outdoor adventures – it’s a great advertising opportunity also! Just be mindful of the businesses that you’re purchasing these containers from. Here’s one eco-conscious company that offers an affordable option to customize drink containers – they support sustainability research and ocean conservation too!
3. Make Some Changes In The Workplace.
Easy wins are fantastic for motivation, but some workplace changes are also necessary to support plastics reduction. If your business has a physical office space, consider eliminating plastics straws or coffee K-cups in the office. Provide reusable utensils and dishware in break rooms and take-out containers when going out to lunch. Replace plastic water bottles with water coolers. Or better yet, install a hydration station!
If your “workplace” is the great outdoors, be sure to bring your reusable water container and pack your food or snacks in reusable silicone bags or glass jars. Many stores now offer options to fill up reusable containers when stocking up on snacks like trail mix, eliminating the need for the plastic packaging it often comes in. For longer outdoor adventures, try reusable beeswax foods wraps. They’re lightweight and have natural oils that may help keep your food fresh.
4. Reconsider Your Supplier Relationships.
Ask your suppliers about plastic-free or reduced plastics options for items you purchase for the office or for your outdoor adventures. If your supplier doesn’t offer them, consider switching to one that does. Earth Hero and Dolphin Blue offer two affordable options for office supplies. Buy in bulk whenever possible to reduce packaging for your business supplies. Buying in bulk will usually allow you to purchase supplies at a discount as well!
5. Modify Your Packaging.
Product packaging plays a major role in plastics consumption. Instead of Styrofoam beads or plastic bubble wrap, try using a thicker paper alternative to package items when shipping products. Use recycled mailers or try these 100% compostable mailers when shipping non-fragile items! Many outdoor brands have found alternatives to polybags in packaging as well, such as Vela’s paper bags.
If you’re selling products in the store, encourage customers to bring a reusable bag by offering a discount for those who bring their own bag. If you really want to make an impact, eliminate plastic bags altogether in your store. Just be sure to have some reusable bags for sale (or giveaway, if you can afford it) for customers who forget their own bag – this is another great advertising tool if you include your brand on the bag!
6. Organize a Beach Cleanup.
Sponsoring a beach cleanup can be a great way to help clean up trash in your local environment, but it can also help show your constituents just how much plastic pollution ends up in our waterways. In this way, organizing a cleanup helps raise awareness for the cause and helps tackle the problem right in your own community. Volunteer opportunities are also an impactful way to build a shared sense of purpose and belonging among your employees. Get your customers involved for an even better brand building experience!
7. Be Realistic. And Be Positive.
It can be challenging to make the plastics-free switch. Changes won’t happen overnight and it’s important to recognize that everyone is on their own sustainability journey. The good news is that research suggests more and more people are interested in reducing their plastics consumption. Tackle plastics problems one at a time and celebrate your wins. Reducing any amount of single-use plastics consumption is something to be proud of. Small changes do make an IMPACT!
Jennifer Kuklenski founded 3P Insights, LLC to help entrepreneurs and businesses grow their income and impact through affordable training, coaching, and consulting services focused on the Triple Bottom Line: People, Planet, Profit. Learn how to grow your business responsibly through free Impact Articles or by subscribing to the 3P Insights Learning Library!