Sustainable Holiday Tips

Sustainable Holiday Tips

Holiday shopping can not only hurt the wallet, but the over-consumption of goods that tends to happen during the gift-giving season can also harm the environment. This is especially challenging if your business hosts a gift exchange for the holidays as employees may not know what to give someone, and end up gifting unwanted items. Fortunately, there are ways to limit your impact by creating unconventional gift exchanges, selecting eco-friendly products, or gifting an experience. Here are some tips to help keep your festivities sustainable:

  • Charitable gifts: One great way to have a sustainable holiday is to skip the physical gifts altogether and donate to a charity the recipient cares about in their name. If you plan on hosting a gift exchange, ask employees to list their favorite charities instead and facilitate ways to donate to them. You may also want to consider setting up an Employee Match Program where employees can donate to their favorite charity year-round and donations are matched by the employer. 

  • Homemade Gifts: Consider homemade gifts this year, like baked goods or a knitted scarf. Presents with a homemade touch are more sustainable, especially if you repurpose items that would normally be thrown away. But what if you are not the crafty or cooking type of person? Fortunately, online tutorials for ideas are endless with items that are easy to make with step-by-step instructions. You can search the internet for DIY sustainable gift tutorials, or try browsing the Sustainable Cook’s list of homemade items for some inspiration! 

  • Gift Experiences: Sometimes those hardest to shop for would love to create a memory over receiving something they might not want or even use. Gift a cooking class membership, tickets to a museum, or if they are adventurous, perhaps a gift certificate for bungee jumping or sky diving is more their speed. The options are endless and will be sure to be remembered. Need some inspiration? Check out this article!

  • Eco-friendly gifts: Many stores offer eco-friendly gifts that are either made from reused or recycled materials, and help you live more sustainably. Gifts can include things like upcycled jewelry or clothing, reusable water bottles, coffee mugs, and cutlery sets, or solar powered devices and chargers. There are tons of options available. Here’s a short list of options to help give you some ideas. 

  • Shop local (and green): We all know that shopping local helps keep small businesses in business. It is also the sustainable way to shop as it helps to reduce your carbon footprint, especially if you use alternative transportation and patronize Green Businesses. This year, why not support other Green Businesses in your community, and be sure to let them know you are also a Green Business! Find a Green Business

  • Wrap sustainably: If you do choose to give gifts, save money and the environment by taking the zero waste approach to wrapping them. Utilize old newspapers and paper bags as wrapping paper, styling with twine or plants for added flair. Another option is the ancient Japanese practice of Furoshiki, a way of wrapping gifts with cloth. This is an easy way to customize your gift using material that is likely already around the house, as well as keeping material out of the landfill.  Check out this article on how to utilize household items for zero waste gift wrapping. 

Happy Holidays! 


Single-use Plastic Reduction

Single-use Plastic

Plastic-free July is almost over, but we want to encourage you to keep the spirit alive all year! The switch from single-use plastics to reusable items not only saves you money but also shows your employees and patrons that you share a commitment to the environment. A recent “Attitudes towards single-use plastic” IPSOS poll, which reached more than 20,000 people in 28 different countries, showed that 82% of people preferred items and packaging with less plastic content. With consumer trends continuing to lean towards eliminating single-use plastic, there has never been a better time to make more eco-friendly choices for your business. Here are some tips and tricks for your business to reduce plastic waste: 

  • Find alternatives to plastic products that work for your business without sacrificing quality. Part of making plastic-free product changes is determining what works best for your business’s needs. For example, we all know the negative impacts that plastic straws have on the environment, but some paper alternatives fall apart quite easily, aggravating your customers. Fortunately, alternatives to plastic are evolving rapidly and compostable, biodegradable straws are now available that have structures similar to plastic straws without the waste. We recommend that you switch to BPI Certified alternatives to plastic straws and other foodware items. Your customers will love the switch!

  • Rethink packaging. Although we require our businesses to eliminate styrofoam altogether and reduce plastics as much as possible when shipping to customers or receiving from a supplier, your business can go above and beyond with innovative packaging. Plastic-free packaging options made from compostable and biodegradable materials such as recycled paper pulp are readily available from many manufacturers throughout the nation. Additional alternatives are also increasingly available, like the new packaging technology from Ecovative Design, that is creating an incredible alternative to plastic-based foam made from mushroom tissue. Many of these options are only available when ordered in large quantities, however, but there are many items available that are more appropriate for small businesses. Check out the Sustainable Packaging Guide for Small Businesses to find lots of packaging options available to purchase in small quantities. 

  • Reduce plastic liners. You can eliminate plastic liners in trash and recycling bins at employee desks and workstations by implementing a company policy to only allow food contaminated waste and recycling to be disposed of in designated areas in breakrooms, kitchens, and cafeterias. If your business must use liners in all bins, make sure to select the best option for your needs. Grainger has a great piece that provides data on plastic reduction by selecting the right liner. You can save 20% or more on costs by selecting the correct liner size for the bins you have, and reducing plastic by electing a lower gauge (thickness of bag). You can further reduce plastic waste by leaving unsoiled liners in bins for reuse. Simply consolidate waste in a larger container when collected, allowing liners to be reused multiple times. Final tip: Get liners made with recycled content plastic!

  • Reassess your waste stream. All Green Businesses complete a waste audit during certification or recertification to assess waste generated by the business in order to streamline operations. If your business has grown or changed, and you are in-between certification cycles, consider reassessing your waste stream by conducting another waste audit. Checking in on your business operations annually can help ensure your business is as efficient as possible as you grow, which will ultimately save you money. 

  • Make reusables easily accessible. Your business may already be reducing plastic waste by providing your employees with reusable dishware in the breakroom, but there’s more you can provide to encourage your employees to reduce the use of single-use plastic. By purchasing reusable to-go ware and making it available for your employees to take to restaurants to package up their leftovers, you will reduce the amount of single-use plastic being brought back to your business for disposal. Be sure to purchase containers that can be easily washed in a dishwasher or by hand, such as reusable plastic clam shells, containers made of glass, or metal (like tiffin tins).

  • Ecofriendly drinks. For water, install filtered water refill stations to reduce single-use plastic water bottles in the workplace (and avoid providing plastic bottled beverages). Make sure to have reusable cups at the stations rather than disposables. For coffee/tea, provide reusable mugs and utensils instead of disposable cups and single-use stirrers.

Sustainable 4th of July!

4th of July

The 4th of July is around the corner! While we love celebrating this festive holiday, it can be tricky to cultivate a fun yet eco-friendly event. Whether you are open for business as usual, throwing a company event for your employees and patrons, or just barbecuing with the family, here are some ideas for adding some green to the red, white, and blue!

  • Say no to single-use plastics. Invest in reusable plates, cups, and utensils for your celebrations. If you must use disposable foodware, opt for BPI Certified Compostable products. 
  • Save money and time by reusing! Rather than going out and purchasing all new decorations to make your business or home look festive, utilize decor you already have to liven things up. No need to purchase single-use plastic streamers and balloons. Those red Christmas bows? Colored lights from Halloween? Perfect! 
  • Grill smarter. If your business or family plans on grilling this year, opt to use an electric or propane grill rather than a charcoal grill to have a lesser environmental impact 
  • Avoid food waste. Plan for the number of attendees in order to purchase the right amount of (locally sourced if you can!) food for your event. For help gauging this, use a portion planner such as this one from Love Food Hate Waste
  • Mix things up. Fireworks contribute chemicals, smoke, and litter into the atmosphere (not to mention the fire risk!). Rather than trying to set off your own display, either find an alternative event like a parade or go to a professionally coordinated fireworks show. 
  • Don’t forget the trash! With everything happening, it can be easy to forget to set up proper waste stations at events and parties. Pre-plan and set up clear stations for landfill and recycling waste (and food waste if your jurisdiction accepts it separately) to set yourself up for success! 

Fire Safety in the Workplace

Fire Prep

We all know that due to the ongoing drought and hotter temperatures, California is experiencing longer and more intense fire seasons. Annual forecast models for 2022 indicate an above-normal wildfire season, especially over the Northwest and West. Even if your business is not directly impacted by a fire, you may experience indirect consequences such as increased air pollution due to smoke, potentially threatening the health of your employees and customers.

Now is the time to prepare and make sure your business is ready for all possible scenarios during this year’s fire season, ensuring everyone stays safe and healthy.

  • Have an emergency action plan. Update your evacuation plan periodically, make education part of the onboarding process for staff,  and ensure all staff gets periodic refresher training. 
  • Train your employees and practice fire drills. Run through your evacuation plan with your employees and schedule fire drills periodically throughout the year. That way if an emergency does occur, your team can feel more comfortable with the evacuation process while under pressure. 
  • Maintain your equipment for fire safety. Check your equipment regularly, such as fire extinguishers, fire alarms, and sprinkler systems. Make this more streamlined by having a checklist you go through each quarter. 
  • Practice electrical safety. Electrical fires can be devastating. If relevant for your business type, review OSHA’s tips for Preventing Electrical Hazards in the workplace. 
  • Keep your employees and patrons healthy. Fire season’s air pollution can find its way indoors, compromising the health of your employees and patrons. While we recommend servicing your HVAC system and replacing filters at least twice per year, consider doing this more frequently if there has been a lot of smoke pollution in your area.
  • Landscape with fire safety in mind. If your business has landscaping on site, select native plants that are drought and more fire-resistant. This will also save you money on water! Check out the California Native Plant Society’s piece on Fire-Resistant Landscaping for more ideas! If your business is located in a rural area, be sure to have a defensible space around your building just as you would around your home.
  • Stay informed. Sign up to receive public safety alerts and access emergency checklists and other resources from your local utility. If you are curious about California’s ongoing situation, click here to read about past incidents and other information provided by The Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. 

Water Saving Tips for Businesses

Water Saving


Conservation tips to save water (and money) at your facility.


  • Install low-flow faucet aerators. Swap out your original faucet aerators with affordable, low-flow aerators on existing fixtures to reduce water use by up 30% or more. We recommend 0.5 gallons per minute (GPM) aerators for bathroom sinks and 1.5 GPM aerators for kitchen sinks. You should also clean your aerator regularly to make sure it’s operating correctly. If you notice a change in performance even with cleaning, it’s time to replace your aerator.
  • Install low-flow toilets and urinals. While we require our Certified Green Businesses to have at least 1.6 gallons per flush (GPF) toilets, there are many available that flush 1.28 GPF. These save 20% more water than the 1.6 GPF models. Read more about the EPA’s resource on commercial toilets. Likewise, a typical office building could reduce its water use from old, inefficient urinals by 26,000 gallons per year or more. Read more about water-efficient urinals.
  • Install low-flow showerheads. If your business has shower facilities for your employees or customers, be sure you have low-flow showerheads installed to not only save water but also to save on your water heating costs. Conventional showerheads use 2.5 GPM of water, while low-flow in CA should use no more than 1.5 GPM. 
  • Use water-efficient pre-rinse spray valves. Pre-rinse spray valves can account for nearly one-third of the water used in a typical commercial kitchen. Switching to a high-efficiency pre-rinse spray valve can save you more than 7,000 gallons of water per year.



  • Switch to a drip irrigation system. Sprinkler systems can be extremely inefficient, often watering sidewalks and losing water to evaporation loss before it touches the ground. Drip irrigation can reduce water use by 30 to 70 percent compared to conventional sprinkler irrigation while increasing soil and plant health and reducing maintenance costs. Learn more about the benefits of installing drip irrigation at your business. 
  • Select water-smart plants. Switch your water-guzzling turf and landscaping to water-smart plants that are native to California. The CA Department of Water Resources has a water-efficient landscaping website to help you and your landscaping team select water-efficient plants appropriate for your region.
  • Use smart sensors to monitor irrigation. Consider investing in smart sensors that connect to your irrigation system. Simple versions can be soil moisture sensors that make sure you are not overwatering your landscaping. “Smarter” versions can do all kinds of tricks, such as connecting to weather forecasting to avoid overwatering depending on approaching weather. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has information and maintains a list of WaterSense approved irrigation controllers that will help you monitor and reduce water use in your landscaping. 
  • Not the one who cares for the landscaping? Get in touch with your groundskeeper, or talk to your landlord about theirs. This is a great opportunity to discuss watering times, irrigation, and complying with local ordinances. 
  • Make the most of available resources. Check with your local water utility for potential commercial opportunities. Many may have rebates or incentives for low-flow toilets, smart sensors, turf replacement, and more! They may also have free assessments available where they can come to your facility, give tips and check for leaks. Also, check out regional programs (such as SoCal Water Smart or Cal Water) for similar options. 


Check for water leaks inside and outside:

Water leaks can waste thousands of gallons of water per year, in addition to increasing your utility bills. Add leak checks to your regular maintenance schedule to be sure that you or your maintenance staff are continually checking, reporting, and fixing leaks. You can also enlist employees to report any leaks they notice. The EPA has a handy checklist for businesses to add to their ongoing facility maintenance. Download the checklist now!