Global warming is an urgent problem facing our planet, but retailers are in a unique position to contribute to climate change prevention efforts. Dealing with large volumes of goods and having control over large spaces and employee culture means that a simple switch can have a noticeable impact when adopted by a retailer. Corporations such as Starbucks, Safeway, Tesco and Kingfisher have already pledged to make green changes to their stores, and many other retailers are following their lead.
In addition to helping save the planet, there are a variety of reasons for retailers to help prevent climate change. As consumers’ perspectives shift increasingly away from the idea that “going green” is just a trend to the understanding that sustainable practices are a necessity, retailers who follow suit are likely to see substantial spikes in business from environmentally minded shoppers. Add that to the fact that climate change prevention measures often save businesses money, and even non-environmentally minded retailers will want to start thinking about ways to go green.
Following are 27 ways you can work to prevent climate change in your retail store or stores, what you can encourage your employees to do, and how you can get customers in on it too.
What you as a retailer can do:
1. Get an energy audit. Your utility company can perform an energy audit to determine where you’re overusing energy. Many will do this for free, and the recommendations they give you will help you save money for years.
2. Recycle everything you can. Find out how you can start recycling paper, plastic, glass, aluminum, ink cartridges and cardboard.
3. Reuse whatever you can. Cardboard boxes and other packing materials are a great place to start.
4. Reduce paper use. Print double-sided, reuse printed paper for scrap paper, and think before you print.
5. Buy local. When possible, source your products from local distributors or producers to reduce fossil fuel use.
6. Go digital. Switch to digital bill payment, invoicing, banking and ordering. You can also send email rather than printed memos or offer downloadable employee handbooks. Use an eFax service instead of a paper machine.
7. Get rid of Styrofoam. Styrofoam is one of the least environmentally friendly products you can use. Find alternatives to Styrofoam for everything from cups to packing peanuts, both in what you sell and in what you use in the warehouse.
8. Eliminate disposables in the break room. Reusable cups, plates and utensils may come at a small up-front investment, but they pay for themselves quickly — the average employee uses 500 disposable cups per year!
9. Reduce energy use in the restrooms. Install low-flow toilets and urinals, and fix leaky sinks or toilets promptly. Install air dryers rather than offering paper towels. And lower the thermostat on hot water heaters to 115 degrees.
11. Xeriscape. Reduce water usage by replacing grass outside your store with native plants that use little water, and engage in other xeriscaping techniques.
12. Buy EnergyStar-certified equipment and maintain it properly. Read up on your options at www.energystar.gov.
13. Adjust your thermostat. Keep the thermostat on 68 in the winter, and 78 in the summer, and program it to automatically reduce energy use overnight.
14. Insulate the building(s). Use weather stripping and caulking to reduce energy consumption. Insulate hot water pipes to reduce heat loss.
15. Recycle or donate the old equipment. Not all electronics recyclers are created equal, though — choose an R2 certified recycler to ensure that your equipment will be recycled in earth-friendly ways. Start here: http://www.r2solutions.org/certified/electronic-recyclers-with-r2-certified-facilities/
16. Use natural lighting when possible, and switch to compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. CFLs can save up to $40 per year per bulb in energy costs over incandescents, and can last 13 times longer! Also, make sure all lights are turned out when everyone’s gone for the day.
17. Use Green Packaging. Educate yourself on the impact that your green packaging choices may have on the environment. In fact, your packaging can have a huge impact on sales too, not just the environment.
How to get employees involved:
18. Give recognition to employees who use green practices. People like being recognized for their efforts, and you’ll begin to create a company culture that values sustainability.
19. Offer incentives for walking, biking, bus riding or carpooling to work. These may be financial rewards, or allowing employees to leave early on days they don’t drive.
20. Put a compost bin in the break room. Believe it or not, throwing break room food matter such as fruit peels, old bread and eggshells into the trash contributes more to global warming than does material that can’t be broken down. This is because the anaerobic decomposition in landfills produces significant quantities of methane, whereas composting food — an aerobic process — produces no methane.
21. Encourage employees to turn off and/or unplug appliances when not in use. Unplugging appliances is one of the easiest ways your store or stores can drastically reduce energy consumption. This goes for everything from the coffee maker in the break room to computers being turned off and unplugged overnight. Using power strips makes it easy to unplug several appliances at once.
22. Let employees work remotely if possible. Although this is not always feasible in retail stores, it’s possible that certain employees — such as upper management — can work from home on occasion, reducing their carbon footprint.
How to get customers involved in climate change prevention:
23. Offer digital receipts. Many retailers are now offering customers digital instead of paper receipts, which are easier to keep track of and save tons of paper. Some programs even allow you to offer a discount once customers have emailed themselves a certain number of receipts, which adds an extra incentive for them to go paperless.
24. Offer incentives for not driving. Consider offering a discount to customers who walk, bike or bus.
25. Reduce use of bags. Encourage your customers to bring their own bags by offering a discount to customers who do.
26. Sell reusable bags by the registers. Make it easy for customers to use reusable bags by selling them at cost when customers check out. And rather than asking, “Would you like a bag for that?” have cashiers ask, “Do you have reusable bags with you?”
27. Participate in a carbon offset program. If you offer online orders, offer carbon-neutral shipping or give customers the option to add a carbon offset to their order.
Once you’ve implemented the earth-friendly measures discussed here that make sense for your business, get another energy audit. You may be amazed how much of a difference a few changes can make — and you’ll be proud that you’re doing your part to prevent climate change!