Sustainability has become an increasingly important aspect of a business’s operations. When it comes to improving your enterprise’s eco-footprint, small changes can add up and create a large-scale impact
1. Conduct a preliminary waste audit
It will be difficult to say how much progress your franchise makes towards sustainability without first understanding your baseline. Take the time to conduct an initial waste audit to understand the different volumes of your waste streams. In doing so, this will help determine what is habitually being thrown away.
Having a better understanding of what is being tossed away will help you educate employees and encourage your company to recycle or compost the materials. It will also identify potential areas of waste reduction for your organization. For example, you might be throwing out much more cardboard material than you realize, when your company could be recycling the material and diverting it from the landfill.
2. Educate staff on disposal practices
After collecting initial benchmark information, your staff will need to understand why your company is making these changes and what new policies are in place. Employees are far more likely to comply with new sustainable practices if they understand the potential for financial and environmental benefits. Working towards sustainability requires a commitment from all staff members and a dedicated strategy for waste reduction.
3. Eliminate single-use plastics
The U.N. Environment reports only nine per cent of the world’s nine billion tons of plastic has been recycled. Whether it’s disposable cutlery, plastic bags, plastic straws, or other items, your franchise is likely contributing to this global plastic problem. In addition to their environmental detriments, these items are also costing your business a good amount of money.
According to the Clean Water Fund, foodservice businesses spend between $0.25 and $0.85 per meal on disposable foodware. Businesses that have participated in ReThink Disposable, Clean Water Fund’s voluntary waste prevention program, saved between $1,000 and $22,000 annually by minimizing single-use disposables.
“Within the franchising world, sustainability often equals profitability”
4. Replace paper towels with hand dryers
In the United States alone, 13 billion pounds of paper towels are used each year. Imagine how much everyone could be saving by switching to energy-efficient hand dryers. According to Restroom Direct, hand dryers are more cost-efficient as well; costing .02 cents and .18 cents in electricity per dry compared to paper towels, which cost 1 cent on average. For franchises, these dollars and cents can add up. This simple switch will allow you to reduce costs and cut down on waste generation.
5. Audit waste hauling schedule
Do you know how often your containers are being picked up? If not, there is a chance that waste haulers are doing pickups when your containers are not full. This wastes time for the haulers, gas to power the waste hauling trucks, and money for your business. Monitor how often your containers need to be serviced and revisit your contract with your waste hauler.
Another potential way to decrease the amount of hauling that takes place is to use smart bin sensors. This innovative image-based technology can detect when the container is getting full and alert the waste hauler that your container needs to be emptied. All of this information is documented and available for your franchise to see as well.
6. Recycle properly
Recycling is one of the easiest ways to make a franchise business more sustainable. If a program is not currently in place, multi-unit franchisees are actually in a good position to implement one as they can leverage their high number of stores to secure a better hauling contract. Look for a hauler that can recycle different types of waste streams, like cardboard, glass, and plastic. Set up bins in each facility, and invest in training time with staff to educate them on the new changes. Participation and proper recycling techniques are imperative, as it is easy to contaminate an entire batch of recycling with nonrecyclable substances. Once a bin is contaminated, it must go to the landfill instead of being recycled as intended.
7. Collect data and tweak plans to achieve desired results
Data will become your best friend in these campaigns to increase your franchise’s sustainability. Not every initiative you put forward may have the same results, so it is important to monitor changes in your waste generation and tweak plans to achieve the desired outcome.
When it comes to implementing sustainable initiatives at your franchise, consider the implications not just for your franchise, but also for the environment. Within the franchising world, sustainability often equals profitability. Exploring all avenues to reclaim value is an integral step for all businesses to take.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matthew S. Hollis is the founder and president of Elytus, a waste management solutions firm.