Five Ways to GreenYour Store

by : 

Maggie Feeney

February 1, 2014
Five ways to green your store.

You don’t have to specialize in eco-merchandise to have an eco-minded store. A few simple adjustments can result in a healthier environment for your staff and your customers, and actually save you money in the process. Some communities even have “green certification” programs, which offer businesses incentives for reducing their carbon footprint and marketing materials to promote their “green-ification.” Here are a few ideas you can implement right now to help you make every day Earth Day!

Green your lights

If you’re using incandescent lighting, your energy consumption is about five times higher than fluorescent or LED lighting. But, while fluorescent lighting has a cheaper initial cost than LEDs, fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, a toxic substance requiring proper hazardous-waste disposal. The price of LEDs is continually dropping, and they last 25 times longer than incandescents and about twice as long as fluorescents. Plus, they emit one-fifth the heat of incandescents, which means you will need less energy to keep your store cool as summer weather sets in. And, if the cool tone of LED light stopped you from investing in it before, give it a second look—LEDs now come in warm white.

Green your checkout

Many people already shop with their own reusable bags, and some communities—mine included—have banned single-use plastic bags altogether. Promote a green habit in your store by asking customers, “Will you be using your own bag today?” If you want to incentivize the use of reusable bags, offer a small discount to shoppers who bring their own. If they don’t have their own, offer a post-consumer-waste recycled paper bag instead. Better yet, why not sell attractive, reusable shopping bags featuring your logo that you prominently display at your cash-wrap? If a person shopping once a week for a year were to replace just one single-use plastic bag with a reusable bag, they would prevent 52 plastic bags from ending up in a landfill. And, over the course of its “lifetime,” a reusable bag could easily eliminate the need for a thousand plastic bags.

Green your clean

Everyone wants a clean store, but at what cost to your health? Harsh chemicals in most cleaning supplies—chorine and ammonia topping the list—are very effective germ-busters, but they can wreak havoc on the health of those doing the cleaning, especially if your store lacks sufficient ventilation. Plenty of eco-alternatives are on the market, or you can make your own with just a few ingredients. Make an easy all-purpose cleaner from equal parts white vinegar and water with a few drops of liquid castile soap. For an effective, inexpensive cleaner for windows, mirrors, and glass cases, add a quarter-cup white vinegar to two cups water and use newspaper to wipe to a fine shine.

Green your inventory

Examine the carbon footprint of the products you carry. How far do those products travel to reach you? Are there alternatives produced closer to home? (Bonus: You’ll help support your local economy.) If you carry imported merchandise that you and your customers love, are they manufactured in an eco-friendly and socially responsible way? Do the people making the products receive fair wages? What about packaging? Is your merchandise shipped in packaging that is easily recycled and made from recycled materials themselves? Is it possible for your suppliers to skip the excess packaging altogether?

Green your displays

Repurposing vintage pieces adds a special display touch to your unique merchandise. Upcycling gently used fixtures is another way to reduce your store’s carbon footprint—just be sure they are nontoxic and blend well with your décor (or make them over with a coat of low-VOC paint). You can also dial up your eco-factor with indoor plants. Not only do they give an instant décor facelift, but certain plants such as the long-leafed snake plant, English ivy, and aloe vera filter noxious chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylenexylene, and toluene. Aloe vera’s added benefit: its built-in cut and burn-soothing gel. If you want to get really creative and you don’t mind the upkeep, why not install a living plant wall for maximum eco-impact!

Maggie Feeney is Editor in Chief of Retailing Insight.