I recently returned from a trip to Hawaii, where Oahu has implemented a new rule stopping shops from giving out bags with purchases.

You either have to pay 15c for a paper bag, or bring your own.

Although I make an effort at home to use less plastic, it was noticeable how much difference the rule made. Instead of amassing a mountain of plastic, we made good use of the handful of big paper bags we did buy, and remembered reusable bags at the supermarket.

More and more people are paying attention to the little ways they can make a difference to the environment. But while there's a lot of emphasis on what consumers can do, even more importantly there are roles for business, too.


Go paperless: It's time to stop paying lip service to the idea of a paperless office and make it happen. You can do this through better use of software, multiple screens and cloud storage. Get your clients to agree to receive all communications electronically.

Take a stance and plan: Talk to your team about the things you'd like to see change and commit to rules that everyone including your customers can see. Can you agree that you'll buy your coffee in bulk with reusable containers, or even grab that sushi takeout in a reusable container, and commit to a programme of recycling.

Look at your packaging: If you sell products, are they packaged in single-use plastics? Do you offer your customers means to recycle your products once they reach the end of their useful lives? If you run a food business, do you encourage your customers to bring in reusable containers for takeaway products? You may be able to create some loyalty and possibly save some cost for doing so.

Talk about it: If you're in a service business, explain to your customers why you're making changes. If they understand why, they are more likely to support you.

On my trip, I found even being asked whether I needed a bag was reminder enough. If you can make your staff and customers more conscious about their impact on the environment, you should start to see a lasting change.

Jeremy Tauri is an associate at Plus Chartered Accountants.