Zero waste isn’t just a quirky shopping option. It’s the new direction for product-based businesses. Packaging design has always been a critical aspect of the customer experience, and doing away with that packaging entirely means removing a huge number of opportunities to sell the product itself.
The good news for businesses is, of course, zero-waste doesn’t always mean zero-packaging. It simply means removing non-recyclable packaging materials. By relying on metals, glass, or cardboard when packaging is necessary, you can cut down on your product’s footprint, appeal to the eco-conscious consumer, and help the planet.
While plastic can be recycled, the system is so broken that it rarely gets properly treated or reused. The market for recycled plastic has grown, yes, but it’s still far smaller than it needs to be to warrant the effort and cost. Cardboard, if it’s not recycled, naturally decomposes quite quickly. Aluminum can be recycled an infinite number of times without losing its integrity. Glass similarly can either be recycled again and again or ground down into sand.
The best approach for zero-waste is, of course, through bulk. A zero-waste store buys supplies in bulk and allows customers to fill up their own containers and buy their products by weight. This does mean that new containers need to be weighed in advance, so that the weight of the box, bag, or jar doesn’t get included in the overall price.
There has been a lot of pressure on grocery stores and big shops to reduce their packaging, but unfortunately, with the pandemic and health concerns, those efforts were either scrapped or packaging even increased. Fresh produce comes wrapped in non-recyclable plastic in abundance, for example, when it’s not needed.
This disaster that has become the packaging industry is why zero-waste is such an innovative business idea. It’s how companies of all shapes and sizes can differentiate themselves from the competition, and how small businesses in particular can attract customers to their stores.
While packaging design must be done with the environment in mind, it’s these zero-waste stores that offer the biggest opportunity for new entrepreneurs. Not only can you create a shop that attracts eco and environmentally-conscious customers, but you can also appeal to those interested in getting a good price. The very nature of zero-waste breaks away from the large brands as well, so your store can become a beacon for small designers and companies looking to disrupt the status quo.
Many different business models can adopt a zero-waste mentality, or use zero-waste as their driving principle. If you are interested in either starting or revamping your business with the environment in line, these are the top business models to use:
Top Unique Zero Waste Business Ideas
Every business can adopt at least a partial zero-waste mindset. If not, they can certainly look into circular efforts to minimize their waste or send their waste on to a second life that isn’t just the landfill.
Zero-Waste Essentials Store
Zero-waste essential stores partner with independent brands and offer everything from clothes to cutlery and beyond. They act as a hybrid between a general store and a gift shop, which makes them an exciting business model that not only attracts the eco-conscious, but is also a great destination for those just starting their eco-friendly journey.
There has been a big push from consumers and governments alike to remove unnecessary packaging from grocery stores. While the results are a mixed bag, this has given independent grocers time to shine and set themselves apart from the big box chains. Not only can independent grocers offer to produce practice-free, but they can also offer dry goods in bulk, including cleaning supplies.
Independent grocery stores today also act more like community hubs, meaning they may have a café section as well, to invite people in.
Bulk stores were the original zero-waste masters, but then many of them began to offer cheap plastic bags as free options to carry your bulk load home. The good news for existing bulk stores is that switching back is incredibly easy. Simply remove the plastic bag system, and offer free reuseable containers that have been washed, or to-buy containers that are aesthetically pleasing. If a customer comes in with their own product, you can then weigh the container in advance, so you can subtract that weight and price properly.
Zero-waste bulk stores are becoming increasingly popular, and it’s all thanks to a rise in green consciousness, and thanks to bulk wholefood suppliers, like Olam Spices. Not only can you buy a range of spices from regular to organic in 50lbs boxes, but you can also even buy crates, making them ideal for bulk-food chain stores.
It’s so easy for boutique stores to go zero-waste and use that initiative to capitalize on the green movement. Simply switching from plastic bags and packaging to paper bags or even totes is a great way to do this. Rather than use plastic bags, use paper ones that you take off after you make the sale for reuse.
There are so many ways that you can cut packaging waste entirely from your boutique store’s footprint, and have a more beautiful, high-end look as a result.
Not every store can easily transition into a zero-waste model, but they can add zero-waste elements. Take hardware stores, for example. While it can be hard to sell zero-waste products, since brand names are so important, you can set up a rental service and boost your revenue with an eco-friendly view that way.
Recycling is already a big business, but it’s also an incredibly flawed one. The good news for the planet, however, is that innovative and circular technologies are rising left, right, and center. This means that vegan leather can be made out of food scraps, and that unused waste is being transformed into containers and other materials. Starting such an enterprise can be difficult, but with many companies looking to lower their footprint, you may be surprised at just how successful your venture can be. Keep in mind that, unlike other options in this list, this is primarily a B2B opportunity.