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Green Certification: Focus Area 6 -- Buying Practices for Waste Reduction

December 3, 2010

by Kit Cassingham

Do your consumer buying patterns cost you more money than you think? Go green by reducing how much you buy, and how much packaging that stuff has. Resource conservation is probably the bottom line for what greener purchasing habits are aiming for, but those resources take on many shapes. Recycling is the last-ditch effort in waste management, but reducing your purchases is a better sustainability habit. Cutting back on your purchases is a great first step to being a sustainable bed and breakfast.

Consumption Patterns
To simplify the question of how one greens their life and business, maybe it can be reduced to the simple concept of how you buy -- your buying patterns. The less you buy the fewer resources you consume, or throw away. But what does that really mean, and how can you do that throughout the B&B?

Let me start by sharing a fact I gleaned from Green Seal years ago: the average hotel (150 guestrooms) purchases more products/resources in one week than 100 families do in one year. I'm not sure how to translate that into consumption for a B&B because of the economy of scale, but for a conservative argument -- favoring B&B consumption over hotels -- let's translate that to the average B&B (8 guestrooms) making purchases in one week equaling what 5 families do in one year.



Reducing your purchases is a valuable way to cut waste from your B&B and to save money.

Changing Your Buying Habits Greens Your Inn


As with all other aspects of greening your inn, greening your buying habits is also an easy step toward your green certification. The problem with many of the steps necessary for greening your inn, and getting certified, is that so many people don't take those steps. I often hear people comment that it feels like a sacrifice to make the necessary changes. Modifying your way of thinking about those changes is going to be important for you to be successful.

Change can indeed be challenging. It feels like it takes a lot of effort to find the vendor who will work with you on reducing waste and finding the greenest products. Doing your own research for what green and low-waste products to replace the products you presently use is also time consuming, and what innkeeper has extra time for one more task?

Here's an example of one thought process you might go through. If you decide to go with bulk soap and shampoo dispensers as a way a of reducing waste, where can you find a product you like (it looks good and is built well so will last for years to come) at a price you are willing/able to pay? And then, will you be able to find a quality soap and shampoo to fill the new dispensers with? That's just one example of the kind of buying decisions you need to pay attention to green your inn and your buying habits.


Changing Patterns
Notice the order the 3Rs are in: reduce, reuse, recycle. Reducing is the first step in going green, while recycling is the last step. Avoid being lulled into thinking that since you recycle you don't need to reduce your consumption. While recycling indeed conserves resources, it's conserving resources that could be conserved even better by not using them in the first place. It still takes more energy to buy things you don't need and recycle them than to never buy them in the first place.

Let's try this analogy: Choosing to recycle over reducing your buying is like choosing to be on a permanent diet over cutting back your eating. It's not healthy for you to be overeating then dieting; being more careful with your eating habits is the healthier approach. Overeating costs more money than sensible eating. And dieting is stressful to the brain and the body. Exchange the phrase "sensible eating" with "reducing your purchases", and "dieting" with "recycling" and you get the analogy I'm making here.



Let me help you start your list of things you can do to change your buying habits that will start having an impact on how much waste your inn generates.

  • Buy Locally to support your community and to reduce air pollution and energy consumption; it tastes better, too
    • food: eggs, produce, meats, and honey are some easy ones to start with that apply to B&B consumption patterns
    • bathroom amenities: shampoo and soap are commonly made by local artisans
    • artists: decorations, quilts, throw pillows, gift shop items
  • Organic Food supports small businesses and reduces air, land, and water pollution, and is more delicious and nutritious
  • Buy Environmentally Friendly Products because they reduce pollution, increase viability of the land, reduce irritation to guests, and improve indoor air quality
  • Buy Green Energy
    • energy credits from your utility company is an easy and low impact way of doing that
    • install your own renewable energy "plant", like solar, wind, or geothermal
  • Buy Products With Minimal Packaging
    • bulk buying reduces packaging over individual items
    • arrange to have your vendor take back excess packaging of delivered items when they can't find low-packaged goods
  • Use "Green" Vendors
    • seek environmentally friendly products of recycled content, natural ingredients, and locally made when possible
    • change vendors if they can't or won't find environmentally friendly sources for supplies you buy with minimal packaging
  • Buy Durable Goods Over Disposable Goods
    • plates and cups
    • placemats, napkins, and table clothes
    • bulk toiletries, condiments, cleaning supplies, garden supplies, and kitchen staples like flour and sugar
    • batteries
    • electronic equipment
    • tools


Take a long, honest look at your buying practices. Start a buying reduction program and watch how it ultimately impacts your bottom line with the savings you reap. Waste management starts at the purchasing stage. Cut waste and improve your green certification efforts -- and results. Cut purchasing and improve your sustainability and bottom line.




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