We know that it is a very difficult time for businesses and perhaps the budget for their sustainability agenda has been put on hold.

As part of our Boost My Business initiative Fiona Alston asked sustainability expert and owner of Reuzi, Pat Kane, for some tips on how to implement small changes in your business that won't break the bank, and may even save you money.

Kane sells through her retail store of 'good looking sustainable swaps' in Foxrock village, Dublin 18 and her website. She also delivers workshops and events to educate businesses on what eco-friendly really means.

Here are some of her simple tips for a more sustainable business:

Start with a realistic goal - if you're a small business, don't try and overwhelm yourself with 25 areas that you need to improve all at once. Choose three to five areas that you can master. I think the more you add to the list of 'to dos' at first, the more overwhelmed you will feel - that is very demotivating for businesses.

Never over promise when communicating to your customers - Think about your wording, think of what you are trying to achieve. What is your strategy? Don’t just say you are eco-friendly because everyone else is doing it. Educate yourself on what sustainability really means before you communicate it to your customers.

Encourage your staff to have a personal set of dishware - during times of Covid, people are going for disposables more than ever because they are afraid of contamination. Instead I would highly encourage you and your staff to have a little set that is personal to you. Be it cutlery, a water bottle, a coffee mug, or whatever it is – avoid buying disposables and it will also save the business money.

Go digital with your marketing – try to go digital. Focus on telling your story online whether it be in a nice newsletter, or very nice presentation or even paper less cards. Go paperless with your marketing – no fliers.

When it comes to freebies, try sustainable options – look at Reuzi for example, we can brand any sort of product you can imagine, from bamboo sunglasses to rulers to backpacks and water bottles, and everything in between. Sustainable freebies exist, and they are affordable.

If you are going give away cards find plant-able cards. Some cards come with wildflower seeds in them and you can print anything from business cards to brochures on them.

Stop printing invoices – go paperless here and use online billing. Text or email receipts.

Learn the rules of recycling – help your customers by telling them how to correctly dispose of any packaging you send them. Be transparent, if you have to use a material which cannot be recycled in Ireland tell them, be open and honest about it - explain to the customer that you know it’s not perfect yet but that you are taking steps towards it.

Swap plastic tape for paper tape – it works just as well and is compostable

Print smarter - only print if you need to. Always use both sides of the paper and print in draft mode.

Certain types of font use more ink than others, for example, if you switch from Arial to Century Gothic you are saving approximately 30% in ink when printing.

Use refillable ink cartridges.

Lower your energy consumption – change to florescent bulbs and use light sensors for areas especially in the bathroom.

Learn how to use the thermostat properly, and make sure you are using the correct lighting level for the task or the space it’s used for.

Encourage everyone to switch off equipment when they leave the area – on average a laptop will still consume 30% of its energy when put in idle mode.

Regular maintenance – Make sure that all electrical appliances are working as they should. Have a schedule for maintenance and encourage your team to report any faults straight away.

Encourage an eco-friendly commute from your staff – encourage your staff to cycle to work and offer them incentives to do so. If they must drive to work, offer them a flexible work schedule so they can avoid sitting in traffic.

Recycle your electrical goods - Check out WEEE Ireland, they have collection points throughout the country.

Make good use of outdoor spaces - We usually see a lot of beautiful flowers but can we replace beautiful with useful? Use pollinator plants to help the bees. You can also plant herb gardens to give the staff something to interact with and maintain.  It’s so easy to replace the beautiful with the useful.

And finally shop local and source local!

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