It Is Easy Bein’ Green

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Making simple changes can reduce your store’s environmental footprint and reduce your costs, too

green leaf with sustainability theme

The first Earth Day was nearly 50 years ago and today, virtually everyone participates to some extent in the three Rs — reduce, reuse, recycle. Doing so helps cut the amount of stuff we send to landfills, decreases our energy use and cuts pollution. Good for bottom lines. Good for the planet.

Sustainability advocates emphasize the first two Rs — reduce and reuse. For instance, it’s better to cut your office paper use than to recycle used paper. Similarly, using washable glassware (cleaned with biodegradable soap) is better than single-use plastic cups, even if those cups eventually would be made into new plastics.

Some environmentally friendly changes, like installing energy-efficient plumbing fixtures or HVAC systems, have upfront costs but will save you money in the long run. The U.S. Small Business Administration estimates retailers spend $20 billion on energy costs each year. By reducing those expenses just 10% annually, large retailers can increase profit margins by $25 per square foot. Retailers with smaller stores can increase sales by $17 per square foot, according to the SBA.

We have several ideas for how you can reduce your environmental footprint, all from Entrepreneur magazine, Rubicon Global, SBA and Vend. Pick two or three changes you can make in your stores in the next six months and then challenge yourself to make two more changes after that.

  • Replace traditional light fixtures with compact fluorescent lights or, for even more energy savings, LEDs.
  • Install sensors that turn lights on when someone enters the room and off when the room is empty. For retailers, these are good for bathrooms and breakrooms.
  • Encourage customers to receive receipts, warranty details and other information via email instead of printing them out.
  • Switch to natural, biodegradable cleaning products, including hand soap.
  • Request an energy audit. Many utility companies will perform them at no charge.
  • If you rent your retail space, push your landlord to make energy-efficient upgrades to HVAC systems, plumbing and other systems. Include environmentally friendly renovations as part of your regular lease negotiations.
  • Install programmable thermostats and have HVAC systems regularly serviced to ensure efficient operation.
  • Switch to office paper, paper towels and toilet tissue made from post-consumer waste.
  • Eliminate single-use plastics. For instance, if you offer shoppers refreshments, switch to glassware instead of plastic cups. Replace all the single-use items in your breakroom with longer-lasting options.
  • Ramp up your efforts to recycle all the plastic, metal, paper and glass that leave your store. Many mattress manufacturers are striving to be zero-waste facilities. Join them.
  • Push vendors to go green. Encourage manufacturers of mattresses and sleep accessories to reduce packaging and incorporate sustainable materials into their products.
  • Enlist your employees. Hold contests to see who can come up with the most efficient, cost-effective ways to reduce waste.

“Sharing your eco-friendly values isn’t only about communicating with your store’s team. Share these values with your customers, too,” writes Amy Koonin in a July 2018 article for Rubicon Global, an Atlanta-based waste and recycling company focused on sustainability. “Conveying your retail store’s green initiatives via social media, newsletters, signs and more will bolster your brand identity.”

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