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10 Ways to Improve Your Carbon Footprint

Lowering your carbon footprint isn’t just good for the environment; it could also save you money. Many shoppers may even favor a retailer who shows a desire to recycle or reduce energy usage. Here are 10 ways your business can be more environmentally friendly.

1. Reduce, or eliminate, plastic bags.
A few states already have regulations concerning the use of plastic bags. Some retailers, including some home improvement retailers, have taken the initiative to swap them out for paper or reusable bags. You might not save money by eliminating plastic bags, but you can send a signal to your customers that you are environmentally conscious. It also gives you an opportunity to sell reusable bags with your logo on them, and customers are likely to take reusable bags other places, too, such as the grocery store, where more people will see your brand. If you’re not ready to ditch plastic, then look for ways to reduce the number of bags you use. Have cashiers ask customers who are only buying a couple of items if they want a bag. Many customers just don’t want the hassle and will say no.

2. Reduce energy usage.
If you’ve remodeled your store in the past few years, you likely upgraded to LED light fixtures. The fact is, with the phase out of most incandescent and fluorescent bulbs, LEDs are the logical choice. They also save you a lot of money in energy costs, which pay for the upfront investment. LEDs offer a brighter, better quality light than other types of bulbs, which will improve the shopping experience. Lights aren’t the only way to reduce energy usage, either. Install energy-efficient toilets and electric hand dryers in the restrooms. Install automatic lighting sensors in areas not frequently used, such as storage areas and restrooms. It’s also a good idea to check up on your weatherproofing around the building.

3. Use green cleaning supplies.
Environmentally friendly cleaning supplies are safer and usually don’t have the strong odors associated with traditional cleaners. Consider using the cleaning lines you already carry in the store. It will create an opportunity to talk about their effectiveness with customers who come in looking for these specific types of products.

4. Start a recycling program.
Set up bins in the store and become a drop-off point for materials customers have a more difficult time finding a place to recycle, such as lightbulbs, batteries and paint. Running a recycling program may require a little extra work on your part, but it will generate goodwill with your customers and give them a reason to keep coming back. It’s also a service you can offer the community. If you don’t want to manage the recycling, ask your local waste management company if they would consider setting up a recycling container in your parking lot

5. Get a hybrid or electric delivery vehicle.
Are you in the market for a new delivery vehicle? Consider purchasing one that uses biofuel, is electric or is a hybrid. If you do, advertise what kind of fuel you’re using on the side of the vehicle. As you are saving on fuel costs, you will also be endearing yourself to a segment of customers who may be looking for eco-friendly retailers.

6. Install solar panels.
The cost of installing solar panels has continued to drop over the past few years as the technology improves. Last year, Home Depot announced plans to sell solar panels in some of its locations and even retrofit some stores with solar panels on the roof. Going solar can save you money on energy costs, but they could also give you a unique niche if you decide to sell them. Learn more about how Damariscotta Hardware in Maine saves by using solar here.

7. Cut the paper.
Look for options for paperless invoices, which will save on printing and mailing costs. If you’re not already using paperless ordering through your wholesaler, ask how to get started. Have cashiers ask customers if they want a printed receipt, and then ask your POS provider about setting up email receipts to customers. You can collect customers’ email addresses for your marketing list and send them their receipts all in the same transaction.

8. Buy recycled fixtures.
If you are replacing gondola racking, look for store closeouts or other sales where you can buy used fixtures. It’s a great way to recycle while saving the cost of buying new fixtures. Also consider repurposing old furniture or other shelving that could be used as a fixture. Unique merchandisers can add interest to niche categories, invite customers to browse and encourage impulse buys.

9. Celebrate Earth Day.
Promote your values to the community by hosting an event centered around the green lifestyle. An event could be a great way to promote the eco-friendly products you sell, promote recycling or demonstrate earth-friendly projects such as composting or weatherproofing the home. Look for a nonprofit to partner with for the day.

10. Communicate your vision to your staff.
If you want to be successful at reducing your carbon footprint, and if you want to be known as an environmentally conscious company, don’t just make policy changes; make culture changes. Share your vision of a company with sustainable values with the entire staff. Make sure everyone knows ways they can reduce waste and use less energy, whether it’s turning off lights in the storage room when they’re not there or thinking twice before using the printer. Also encourage them to recycle at home. If you get buy-in from the staff, the more likely customers will catch the vision, too.

About Jesse Carleton

Jesse Carleton has visited independent hardware retailers, conducted original research on the industry and written extensively about the business of hardware retailing. Jesse has written for more than a dozen of NHPA’s contract publishing titles, all related to the hardware retailing industry. He also was instrumental in developing the Basic Training in Hardware Retailing courses now used by thousands of retailers across the country.

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