How to Make Your Design Business More Eco-Friendly

Posted on October 22, 2019 | Updated on October 28, 2022

Sustainable branding matters as more people get on board with reducing their carbon footprint in any small way they can. Preserving the Earth for future generations requires forethought and forward-thinking. Going green also gives you an edge and helps attract people who want to do business with companies that care about the environment. As such, it’s important to learn how to make your design business more eco-friendly.

Over the last five years, around 28 percent more companies set goals for carbon emissions and water conservation. If you want to keep up with the competition and join the cause, now is the time to ensure your business is eco-friendly.

There are many ways of minimizing your carbon footprint for your design business. Here are eight simple changes you can make today that will ensure your design business make your design business more eco-friendly.

1. Limit Office Supplies

In the United States, the transportation of goods from one location to the next has as much of an environmental impact as the cause of carbon emissions. What if you bought local instead and reduced the damage by limiting the distance things had to travel? You likely purchase supplies for your office, such as hand soap. What if you bought it from a local goat farm instead of from a superstore?

Not only does buying local support your local economy, but it also prevents the transportation issues that increase carbon emissions and makes your business more eco-friendly.

 3. Recycle Packages

Do you design models and mail them out to your clients? Instead of purchasing a new shipping box every time, look at the ones that come into your home and business and think about how you can repurpose them for outer packaging. Pull off old labels and replace them with new ones. You’ll save on the amount of paper used and cut down on pollution caused by manufacturing new boxes. You’ll also prevent the loss of trees, which can negatively impact forest areas.

4. Conserve Water

Look for ways of conserving water around the office, such as fixing any leaky faucets. Americans use about 88 gallons of water each day while at home and more while in offices. Fortunately, there are ways of reducing this usage by using water-conserving toilets and faucets. Products with a WaterSense label use 20% less water but perform the same as traditional fixtures. Install low-flow toilets and automatic fauces to reduce usage automatically.

5. Install New Lights

An LED bulb lasts longer than a traditional one and uses less energy, which can add up over time. If you work in a large office building, install automated lights in the bathrooms that only turn on when someone is present. If you’re in a small office or work from home, be conscientious about turning off lights and equipment when not in use or when you’re done working for the day.

6. Invest in ENERGY STAR

Depending upon your office setup, you might have a kitchen with appliances or simply have a heating and cooling system. Buying items with an ENERGY STAR rating helps you reduce your carbon footprint and the energy used to keep machines running. Another thing you can do is install smart thermostats that turn the temperature up and down and can be scheduled to drop usage when no one’s in the office.

7. Add a Garden

Whether you work alone or with a group of other people, adding a garden area outside your building helps put oxygen back into the environment and support local wildlife. You can also grow vegetables and fruits and reduce your need for these foods to be transported to you. Make sure you use organic gardening methods that don’t pollute the environment.

8. Add Remote Workers

Let your workers do their task from home at least a few days a week. Remote workers don’t use gasoline driving to and from work, which reduces carbon in the environment. Remote work is becoming more popular and is attractive to employees looking for more flexible positions.

Not only do you save on energy usage in the form of not commuting to and from work, but you’ll also use fewer resources to run equipment and keep a larger building at a comfortable temperature. Offering the option to work remotely is just another way your brand can go green.

9. Reuse Water

In addition to conserving water in the first place, many companies now adopt a water reuse policy. Think about the last time you had your car washed. More than likely, they filtered the water back through and reused it for the cars behind you. That is an example of water reuse, but nearly any industry uses water and can purify and reuse it over and over again.

Water is a limited resource on our planet, just as trees are. Conserving H2O is not only good for our environment, but saves companies money in the long run. The more we use a resource, the more the price of it goes up, so reusing keeps costs low for everyone, consumer and business owner alike. You’ll be a good neighbor to your community while doing something positive for the environment and toward keeping business costs low.

10. Dispose of Ink Cartridges Properly

If your business does a lot of printing to show mockups and samples to clients, think about the ways you use ink to create these samples and consider how you use and dispose of spent cartridges. First, are you using refillable cartridges? Refilling ink will not only save you money on printing costs, but will also keep plastic cartridges out of landfills. However, there are some drawbacks to refilling tanks, such as leakage and possible damage to your equipment. You must invest in a printer and cartridges made for refilling.

When you finish with a cartridge, how do you dispose of it? If you toss it in the trash receptacle, you’re missing an opportunity to preserve the earth. Instead, save them up and take them to a local office equipment store, such as Staples, Office Depot or Best Buy. You can place the spent cartridges in a recycle bin, or turn them in for credits if they are of a specific type. Talk to your local stores and figure out which option is best for your business.

11. Request an Energy Audit

To figure out where you’re wasting the most energy, having an outside company come in and conduct an audit is a must. Some local electric companies will do this for you for free to help reduce strain on their grids, especially during peak energy usage times. However, some companies will look at every aspect of your business and come up with an eco-friendly plan to help you reduce any negative impact on the world around you.

You could even start with an audit from your local power company, then have an environmental expert come in and offer tips for additional environment-saving practices you can adopt. You might not take all the advice from an audit, but you’ll have armed yourself with the knowledge needed to improve your brand’s carbon footprint.

Small Changes Have a Big Impact

If every small design firm and company made little changes, it would make each business a little more eco-friendly. Look for ways to reduce your carbon footprint, such as using real silverware in the break room or keeping paper recycling bins in a handy location. Encourage employees to carpool and provide incentives for those who do.

Think of the many different things the typical designer does in a day that uses energy and look for ways of combating that impact. As a bonus, you’ll attract like-minded clients who also care about going green.

This article was originally published on 7/22/2019 and updated on 10/22/2019.

About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at

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