If you’re making the effort to go “green” in your shop, you may be facing a few new problems, such as how to recycle burned-out, compact fluorescent bulbs; what to do with endless mounds of Styrofoam popcorn; or determining who’s products are truly healthy for the planet. There’s a whole new world to explore! It feels good to be ‘the change’ for customers, but oodles of eco-choices and vague information can be confusing. Don’t worry. By focusing on four key areas – merchandise selection, recycling, store décor and design, and marketing, you’ll find your eco initiatives can be manageable.
1 Green Inventory
What makes something truly healthy for the planet vs. the many faux green products infiltrating the marketplace still has some debate surrounding it and may be up to interpretation. Here’s a down-to-earth definition: something that causes less harm to any aspect of the planet, whether in its creation, use, delivery, or disposal than its comparable counterpart.
There are products made with recycled, re-used, re-purposed or post-consumer content, those utilizing organic materials, and those incorporating renewable resources. Green products often use materials that are biodegradable, meaning they decompose and break down in a reasonable amount of time.
Items should be made in an earth-conscious manner, keeping in mind their manufacture, shipping, and even packaging. Social conditions and trade practices that don’t harm people are also certainly green issues. Often, what makes something green in one category can make it less green in another. For example, some items that have a high recycled content may not be great in terms of toxicity levels. It might be a challenge for store owners who are eco-friendly with a commitment to wanting it all, but as a shop owner you can pick and choose the level and type of earth friendliness that works for you, expanding as you go greener. Honestly, there’s no reason to not choose green since now-a-days there are eco-conscious alternatives for just about all your inventory selections.
Talk to your vendors to see what’s available, ask them questions to make sure
there’s no “greenwashing” behind the scenes.
2 Proper Disposal
Be concerned with recycling, reducing, repurposing, and redirecting everything your business uses. With luck, your community has a recycling program. If not, contact your local government to implement one. If you aren’t sure if something is recyclable, for example, compact fluorescent bulbs (mercury sealed in their glass tubing), ask your municipal solid waste agency or take them to a household hazardous waste event. In the specific case of compact fluorescent bulbs, many large home supply stores have special bins to drop them off in for free.
Styrofoam popcorn is still not recyclable. So, save it in large trash bags and donate it to your local pack-and-ship store. They might be so appreciative that they’ll give you shipping discounts! If your shop does lots of shipping, choose the kind of packing material that dissolves in water.
3 Eco-Design Choices
If you’re planning some interior changes, make sure to use low- or no-VOC (volatile organic compound), non-toxic paint. Find creative floor solutions such as simply polishing cement or installing sustainable bamboo flooring. For area rugs, jute, sisal, or hemp rugs are sturdy and ecologically respectable choices.
A top priority should be changing lighting to CFLs (compact florescent) or even better, LED. In both cases, although pricier than incandescent bulbs, the energy saved will more than return that investment. Plus, they emit less heat, so the air conditioning bills will dramatically drop (just one degree of difference can save hundreds of dollars each year). Today’s CFLs and LEDs are offered in a variety color temperatures or tones, so select what works best with your store layout and design.
4 Go Paperless
Using social media as a marketing tool rather than post cards is a definite earth-friendly choice. Think of the gas and electricity you and your customers are saving with a shopping cart capable website. Besides, ‘green customers’ will prefer to get news updates, check store information, and more, on their mobile devices. Consistently educate customers by blogging and posting, showing that green choices are ultimately more affordable in the long run than their harmful counterparts.
5 Let Customers Know Your Store is ‘Green’
Being green is a great marketing tool to let customers know your store cares about the planet. Let people know that your store cares about the environment and sustainable practices by providing education in palatable, fun ways. Here are some creative ways to spread the word about your “green business”:
Print your store logo on organic cotton tote bags. They become walking, everlasting
Send out press releases to local newspapers touting your carbon footprint reductions.
Create catchy headlines and human interest angles for a “cause marketing” story. An
eco-accomplishment you think is no big deal might trigger a feature story. Don’t forget to include photos.
Plan a “Green Day Celebration” or an “Earth Day” event, enticing customers with special rewards if they bike or walk. Have some creative eco-contests like a green scavenger hunt; plant an edible garden in the neighborhood; give away plant bulbs; have a veggie chili cook-off; host a wellness class, or consider any number of other Earth-friendly activities to show your support of our planet and nature.