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GREEN REPORT: Sustainable Stores Make More Green

From recycling paper to a complete redesign, being environmentally friendly has benefits

By Samantha Clark -- Video Business, 6/23/2008

Going green not only is good for the soul, it can be good for the wallet.

Dan Butler, VP of retail operations for the National Retail Federation, says that research done by the group's Sustainable Retailing Consortium suggests that environmentally friendly choices often bring down costs while boosting both consumer and employee loyalty. The main consideration, Butler says, is that retailers should do only those steps that make sense for their individual businesses.

“Whether you're a retailer with one location versus 50 locations or thousands of locations, you can make a difference in your footprint,” Butler says.

The same things that many retailers do at home can be done at work with little effort, such as encouraging employees to print on both sides of paper; installing recycling bins; and making sure water faucets and lights are turned off.

But that's not all.

Butler suggests doing a “light audit” at night after the store is closed. Shut off the lights as normal, then walk around in the dark with a flashlight and look for power lights that will give away electrical items that are still on, such as computers, printers and power bars. The savings in electricity will pay off over time. Lights also can be changed for energy-saving units.

Many utility companies offer customers the choice of purchasing green energy. But some retailers are taking extra steps.

Abt Electronics, one of the greenest electronics retailers around, according to Butler, powers much of its store with a natural gas generator, but it also is building a windmill and installing solar panels.

“It's harder when you're a [smaller retailer] to afford it, but it'll pay off in the end,” says Michael Abt, president of Abt Electronics.

These are long-term investments that Butler says can pay for themselves in four to seven years. “There are a lot of new systems in the market now, and people should take the time to look around,” he says, adding that store size will be a consideration.

Store design also can play a big part. Using more natural light can save energy. However, Butler says there's an added benefit: Research has shown that consumers respond more to natural light than artificial light.

Many companies also offer eco-friendly shelving units. Ecowood Retail Displays, for example, sells ready-made and custom-built shelving made of reclaimed and sustainable wood.

Once your store is green, let customers know. NRF members reported seeing a rise in business after their environmentally friendly habits were revealed.

6 Ways To Go Eco

Go digital: Paying bills online saves money in stamps, and opting for e-bills over paper helps the environment. Do more marketing with e-mail and the Web. When using paper, mail folded brochures without envelopes.

Reusable over disposable: Replace any disposable plates, cups and utensils in your kitchen with the kind that last. And invest in an energy-saving dishwasher to do the cleanup.

Recharge: Pay a higher price once on a charger and rechargeable batteries for your DVD player/TV display remotes and save money in the long-run.

Take control: Install timers on security lights, and keep the thermostat locked at a temperature that's right for your store.

Be a Star: Purchase EnergyStar-rated equipment.

Donate or recycle: Find a new home for your old equipment. Some retailers, including Best Buy and Abt Electronics, help their customers recycle too. —S.C.

©2008 Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.