Given just how dire the state of our planet's health seems lately, most entrepreneurs want to do right by the environment. They also want to stay in business (and in the black). Historically those two aims have often been in conflict. 

Take plastic for example. Is it convenient? Yes. Is it cheap? Sure. But it also takes centuries to decompose and literally a garbage truck and a half worth of the stuff ends up in the ocean every minute of every day, which besides killing sea life and looking gross, doesn't bode well for the health of ecosystems we depend on to absorb huge amounts of carbon. 

In response, many well-intentioned entrepreneurs and corporate leaders have embarked on projects to jettison plastic from their supply chains and packaging. As I've highlighted here before, many have discovered just how hard it can be to find an affordable replacement for many key plastic products (though I am happy to report that Lego may have finally found a recycled alternative to the virgin plastic it has long used for its bricks). 

Maybe getting rid of plastic isn't as hard as you think.  

And if Ikea and Coca-Cola are struggling, that has to be bad news for environmentally minded small business owners too, right? Actually not always, replies an optimistic new article from Quartz's Clarisa Diaz

She reports that thanks to the efforts of a program called ReThink Disposable as well as advances in packaging tech, companies are increasingly finding they can make more money by ditching single-use plastics and doing right by the earth. (As a side note, surveys show young employees in particular really care about this sort of thing when choosing where to work.) 

If you're interested in the topic, the whole article is jam-packed with striking visuals and well worth a read in full, but here are a few eye-catching case studies Diaz presents that business owners might want to consider. 

  • San Francisco Bay-area restaurant Oren's Hummus is saving $1,720 per year and eliminating 530 lbs (240 kg) of disposable waste by replacing plastic sauce cups with reusable ones.

  • Alameda Theatre & Cineplex is saving $9,880 per year and eliminating 6,910 lbs. of disposable waste through small changes like swapping ketchup packets for condiment stations. 

  • Comforts cafe is saving $14,000 per year and eliminating 2.4 tons of disposable waste by giving customers ceramic mugs and real silverware. 

Diaz also reports that upfront costs aren't even a huge hurdle for most businesses. "Typically with $300 to $500 we can set up a business to be 100 percent reuse," Grace Lee, program director of ReThink Disposable, tells her. "The payback period is within a few months, then [the businesses] are reducing their disposable packaging."

Interested in trying something similar yourself? Check out Diaz's article and the ReThink Disposable website.