Small Business Magazine recently profiled five entrepreneurs who are running successful green businesses
Part 2: Linda Burnside - The styro-slayer
Every year, more than 147,000 tonnes of packaging from fast-food joints ends up in Canadian landfills. Much of that waste is Styrofoam, a petroleum-based plastic that takes hundreds of years to break down and can be so hazardous to your health that it's been banned in several U.S. cities.
But it's cheap-which is why major restaurant chains and thousands of independent businesses across the country still use the stuff.
Alternative Grounds was one of them, until a year ago. The Toronto coffee shop poured about 1,000 servings of its fair-trade java into Styrofoam cups each month. Then, owner Linda Burnside, a fervent composter, decided to go green by switching to cups made from sugar cane and corn-at nine cents each, more than double the price of the ones she used to stock. "You have to try," says Burnside, who opened Alternative Grounds 12 years ago. "If everybody does their thing, we can change the world."
Green Your Business Parts 1 - 5
Alternative Grounds settled on cups made from bagasse-sugar-cane fibre that's the natural byproduct of the sugar-refining process. Manufactured by Toronto's Bhumi Products, they feel almost like a regular paper cup, but are lined with a vegetable-based material instead of plastic. For cold drinks, the shop uses cups made from cornstarch, produced by Core Sales of Toronto. Burnside also switched to bags made from biodegradable poly film.
Going green did have an impact on that other green. Burnside's new cups cost her an extra $840 a year, forcing her to raise coffee prices by a nickel-the first increase in a decade. Though that's not what has generated the most complaints: While most customers are happy their local café has gone green, some say the sugar-cane cups "sweat" more than paper ones and don't retain the heat as well.
Burnside figures the kinks will work themselves out soon enough. In the meantime, she remains committed to reducing her shop's footprint. Bigger players are catching on: New Brunswick giant Irving Oil recently bought half a million green coffee cups.
"It gets people talking," says Burnside. "Even if people don't like it, at least they'll ponder it. And that's a good thing."-Charles Mandel
Free and easy
To help cut down on the amount of toxin-filled waste that ends up in landfills, major computer makers will take back and recycle old electronic gear-for a fee. But there are dozens of non-profits that will pick up your used (but working) computers, refurbish them and donate them to people and organizations in need-and most will give you a tax receipt, too.