Save Money, Get Green Customers
8 Reasons for Retailers to "Go Green!"
Article by Rosamaria Caballero Stafford, co-founder of Green Irene, a company dedicated to greening our world one home and one green retail business at a time.
From growing your green customer base to growing your bottom line, the benefits of going green make it a great strategy for any retail store. Eco-friendly retailing practices can help your business stand out in your community, all while lowering your overhead costs and creating a healthier space for your customers and staff.
Here are some of Green Irene’s top green tips for retailers:
#1 Save Money on Lighting
Whether you own or rent your store’s space, thinking about your store’s lighting can have a major impact on your utility bill (and on your environmental footprint.)
Consider this: energy efficient options like Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) and Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) use up to 75% less energy than traditional incandescent lighting. CFLs last up to 10 times as long as incandescent bulbs, while LEDs last 50 times as long! This all adds up to a lot of money saved on your utility costs (and also less time wasted with replacing old lighting.)
Just a single bulb replacement can mean $100s in savings over the life of the energy efficient alternative. The more light bulbs you replace, the more you save!
Energy-efficient lighting comes in a full range of colors, shapes and sizes, including dimmable and outdoor options, so you won’t need to compromise on your customers’ shopping experience when you make the switch. It’s easy to maintain the intensity and quality of light that you’re used to!
#2 Save Money on Heating and Cooling
Heating and cooling your store can make up as much as 50% of your utility bill. An overworked radiator or too much air conditioning can be setting your store back $1,000s each year!
Here are a few ways to take control of your energy costs:
- By installing a programmable thermostat, you can keep better control over your store’s HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system. A programmable thermostat can be scheduled to automatically change temperatures, so you won’t have to worry about wasting energy overnight or on days when your store is closed.
- If you like to keep your store entrance propped open to attract foot traffic, consider conserving energy by running a fan rather than using air conditioning.
- Finally, take care of your HVAC system. By making sure filters stay clean and ducts unobstructed, you’ll not only maximize energy-efficiency, but you’ll also remove the dust and mold particles that can trap bad smells or irritate the allergies of your customers and staff. Check your system’s air filters once a month and clean or replace the filter when necessary.
Energy conservation is a win-win for your store and for the planet!
#3 Save Money on Water
The flow rate on most public bathroom faucets is 2.2 gallons per minute - that's the same amount used by many inefficient showerheads! Here are a few ideas for conserving water at the faucets in your store bathroom, and reducing your water bill:
- A low-flow aerator helps to manage the amount of water that comes out of a sink, but it doesn’t change the water pressure or affect the feel of the water flow. This is a cheap, quick, and effective solution that can save you 50-75% on each sink’s water use.
- For sinks where a faucet aerator isn’t an option (like some decorative faucets), you can still achieve the same savings! A faucet flow control valve easily installs under the sink between the pipe and faucet.
- An instant-off water saver can save up to 10,000 gallons of water per year by eliminating the waste of unused running water. Easily installed in place of current faucet aerators, it allows users to turn on the faucet only when they intentionally move the water saver rod. It also reduces the spread of infection and simplifies sink use since there is no need to adjust the faucet handles once it’s set up. Installation can result in savings of up to $200 annually per faucet!
While every green retail business can save money and conserve water using these tips, imagine how much a water-dependent business - like florists, dog groomers, hair salons, or garden centers - might save!
#4 Reduce Waste, Save Money
You may already be recycling paper, plastic and glass, but taking a look at your store’s waste stream can really help to find other opportunities to reduce your waste and save money.
For example, containers and packaging account for roughly 31% of the waste created in the U.S. today! More and more businesses have found that cutting down on packaging can help a store’s bottom line:
- Making products lighter reduces shipping costs.
- Reducing packaging waste not only cuts down on the amount of trash that’s sent to landfills, it can also shrink your waste hauling fees!
Here are just a few of ideas to consider for reducing waste and saving money:
- Think about eliminating paper and plastic single-use bags from your store, or offering a discount to shoppers who use reusable tote bags (tote bags could even be branded with your company logo for great publicity).
- Talk to your suppliers about minimizing packaging or choosing recycled packaging materials.
- Ask yourself if any of your products can be sold in bulk, or with less packaging.
- If your store offers ready-to-eat food, also think about providing biodegradable plates, bowls, and cups. Quality alternatives (like sugarcane-based or corn-based products) are as durable as the usual Styrofoam, plastic or paper products, and they can be used with hot or cold foods. Your customers will appreciate helping them to reduce their waste, and you’ll eliminate many of the environmental health concerns that surround traditional products like BPA (a chemical linked to a number of serious health issues) in plastic cups and bleaches in paper plates.
Taking on waste reduction won’t just help keep trash out of landfills; it’ll help you cut costs, and maybe even help you design a more effective way for distributing what you sell.
#5 A "Green Clean" Means Healthier Employees
The way you clean your green retail buisiness can have a profound impact, not just on how your space is perceived, but also on employee and customer health.
Of the roughly 17,000 chemicals used in cleaning products, only about 30% have been fully tested for health effects. The “volatile organic compounds” (VOCs) released by many cleaners are particles that can reduce indoor air quality, triggering asthma or allergies. Other ingredients in many traditional cleaners have been linked to everything from headaches to cancers!
To protect your employees, your customers and yourself:
- Always check cleaning product labels for known hazards, and study warning labels carefully.
- Request a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for any chemicals your store uses so that your staff knows the best way to handle spills or exposure.
- Switch to non-toxic cleaning alternatives. Enzyme cleaners are a safe and effective solution.
#6 Better Air Quality = Happier Customers
Customers won’t flock to a space that smells like strong chemical cleaners or sickly-sweet air fresheners. Skip antibacterial sprays, scented air fresheners and petroleum-based candles in your store, and go with healthier, safer ways to improve indoor air quality:
- A few carefully placed indoor plants can vastly improve indoor air-quality without hurting the look and feel of your store.
- Choose soy-based candles or use natural air fresheners to give your store a signature scent.
- Remember that regular maintenance for your HVAC system pays off! Check your system’s air filters one a month and clean or replace the filter when necessary to prevent mold, dust, and allergens from building up.
- Watch out for hidden toxins in unexpected places: some receipt paper is actually given a powdered BPA coating! BPA easily rubs off of these thermal receipt papers and leaves residues on skin or even in the air, so check with your supplier to make sure your receipts are BPA-free.
When you take steps to improve indoor air quality, your employees and customers may not be able to pinpoint what’s different about the store, but they’ll certainly be able to breathe easier.
#7 Attract and Retain High Quality Customers
Aside from financial savings, health benefits, and environmental improvements there’s another big advantage to going green: attracting eco-minded consumers!
Green customers are a growing segment of the consumer market, and they are also among the least sensitive to premium prices. When surveyed, 80% of such consumers said that they would pay a premium of 20% for green products and services, and 76% would switch brands or retailers to one associated with a good cause when price and quality are equal.
An eco-friendly store will help develop an emotional connection between you and your green customers. Your existing customers will feel even better about shopping with you, and new customers will appreciate your store’s commitment to responsible environmental citizenship.
As you build your green brand, highlight the ways in which your store prioritizes what really matters: healthy people, a healthy environment, and a strong community. You won’t redefine your brand or attract a better class of customer overnight. But by taking small steps, and celebrating your successes, you’ll help protect both your profits and the planet.
#8 Going Green Gives You Something to "Crow" About
Going green is a great opportunity to reduce your environmental footprint, build a green retail business, and turn your store into a safer, more welcoming space. Yet your eco-friendly changes won’t build your brand unless consumers know about them!
Publicize your eco-friendly measures with a press release, a sign at your register, in your email newsletters, or on your product labels.
- When it comes to eco-labels on products you stock, be careful of “greenwashing” schemes. Some manufacturers will market their products as “natural,” "fair-trade" or “eco-friendly” without any actual substance to those claims. Research your products carefully, and make sure any green claims or eco-labels are genuine.
- Many green consumers actively look for stores that have received some sort of green certification. Green Irene has partnered with the Green Business Bureau, a leading organization that awards Green Business certification, offering a retail-specific roadmap and resources for retailers seeking to green their store. The certification logo, once earned, can serve as a valuable branding tool for your green retail business; display it in your store window, on your website, or as part of general promotional materials.
There you have it - 8 great reasons you should introduce eco-saving ideas to your retail store! It's better for your bank account, better for your marketing, better for your staff, better for your customers, and better for our planet.
Green Irene is the largest eco-consulting firm in the country with over 600 eco-consultants across the country. Our eco-consultants help families and business adopt healthier and more sustainable practices that save money, energy and water. We know that taking on environmental issues can help businesses redefine their brands and boost their profits, because we see the results every day!