Walk the Walk: How to Green Your Store
Los Gatos, CA
Green Life Guru
Organic Trade Association
Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation
When Shannon McDaniel took over a well known Los Gatos, CA clothing and home furnishings shop in late 2007, preserving much of the store’s longtime appeal was a goal. Another important goal was to make the store more green.
Whether you’re just beginning to create an environmentally friendly store or you’d like to add even more eco-friendly touches to your operation, experts say there’s plenty of simple ways you can make your shop more “green.”
“Some changes are small but they add up over time,” says Holly Givens, public affairs advisor for the Organic Trade Association. The Greenfield, MA-based organization aims to encourage global sustainability by promoting diverse organic trade. “It doesn’t have to be an extensive building change. I think a lot of it has to do with creative thinking with where waste might be happening and finding ways of cutting it out in the beginning of the stream,” she says. The end result can prove gratifying—to both you and your customers.
As for McDaniel, she renamed the store—Anjou—and also planned a new vision for it. McDaniel decided she would make the shop more earth-friendly. “We wanted to have the underpinnings of what (previous store owners) had developed in Los Gatos over the past seven years. We wanted to respect that,” McDaniel says of the shop that formerly was known as Leaf & Petal. At the same time, McDaniel also wanted to bring in what she describes as a “more eco-friendly, eco-fashion forward organic clothing line for women and children.” She planned on also stocking the store with home furnishings and accents made with organic or recycled materials.
Just as important as the products themselves was the actual building that houses the boutique. McDaniel spent several weeks taking steps to “green” the structure both inside and out. The store’s fixtures and furniture now include rusted panels from dilapidated barns in Oregon and salvaged wood. The “carbon footprint” involved in shipping materials large distances—that is, the energy expended in moving materials—is much larger than gathering stuff locally, so this too needs to be factored into your “green” thinking.
Making your store more green can involve an overhaul similar to what McDaniel did to her shop. It can also involve taking more simple steps such as changing your lighting to one that is more energy-efficient or improving your indoor air quality.
One trend McDaniel says she is seeing more often: retailers offering re-usable bags to customers who purchase items in the store. “The amount of bags we all go through on a daily basis—all of that could be gone,” she says. “Sell cloth bags or have them bring in their own bag. That’s very easy to do. Give 10 percent off if they use that bag,” McDaniel advises her fellow retailers.
Consider the following additional suggestions:
- Switch to eco-friendly cleaning supplies.
There are plenty of alternatives that do not cost any more than “mainstream” products, says Gregg Steiner, president of Los Angeles-based, Green Life Guru. Green Life Guru is a consulting firm that helps individuals and businesses who want to live more sustainable and healthy lifestyles. If you pay someone to clean for you, know that a growing number of cleaning businesses are advertising that they use “green” cleaning supplies, says Givens, of the Organic Trade Association. The association provides listings of certified organic products, producers, ingredients, supplies and services offered by OTA members, as well as items of interest to the entire organic community.
- Consider creating customized reusable bags with your store’s logo.
It’s a good green step and a great marketing tool.
- Even if they might be a bit more expensive, consider using recycled paper and ink products.
Look for “soy-based” in the list of materials.
- Institute a recycling program at your shop.
Givens, from the Organic Trade Association, advises calling your municipal waste services or local chamber of commerce for pick-up options. Setting up stations where customers can bring in hard-to-recycle items (such as printer cartridges or other computer-related materials) is also something to consider. Should you be renovating your building’s interior or exterior, consider handing over the salvageable materials to a local re-usable building materials business. Givens says these kinds of businesses are cropping up around the country.
- The Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation.
An Atlanta, GA-based non-profit rechargeable battery and cell phone recycling company, helps in the recycling of rechargeable batteries. The organization helps to recycle used portable rechargeable batteries, which are commonly found in cordless power tools, cellular and cordless phones, laptop computers, camcorders, digital cameras, and remote control toys.
- Seal air leaks from the building.
A device known as a “blower door” can find any poorly insulated spots in the structure from where air could be leaking. Making sure the building doesn’t lose energy is not only green, it also cuts down on your energy bills. There are many consulting companies that offer the “blower door” service as part of a larger package of “green” steps to implement. Check your Yellow pages.
- Test your water and air quality and take necessary steps to change these for the better.
This will benefit not only customers but also your employees. Gregg Steiner, a Los Angeles-based eco-consultant and president of Green Life Guru, says the move also creates goodwill among your staff. “After you do all these things, the people who are working for you are going to be much happier because they are breathing better air. All around it’s going to pay for itself,” Steiner says.
- Getting take-out lunch for your crew?
Consider buying from your local farmers’ market or from your local food co-operative. More local food businesses are responding to customer demands that food be fresh, healthy and if at all possible, organic.
- Use “smart strips” for anything that needs to be plugged into an electrical outlet.
These power strips conserve energy because when turned off, no electricity is being used. They also come with a power monitor, which tracks how much energy you are using at any given time.
- Know where your products come from.
What is the environment like in which these products are made and distributed? How do these companies treat their employees? If organic is important to you, make sure a manufacturer’s green claims are true.
Stamping out carbon
Carbon offsets are tools you can buy to offset the carbon emission that your store produces. Companies like San Francisco’s TerraPass, helps calculate your store’s emission and recommends the right carbon offsets that work. Money used to buy these offsets is then channeled toward clean energy research, reforestation and similar environmentally friendly activities. Investing in carbon offsets (after implementing simple green strategies) shows you are serious about being and staying green.
In the end, any change large or small, is going to make a difference, Givens says. “Don’t worry about doing it all at once, which is sure to only overwhelm you, she says.
“If you are embarking down this path, feel good at whatever part you are playing,” she says. “Keep chipping away at it and try to improve processes and cut back on waste and use energy efficiently. Every little bit does help.”