How green are bookshops?

<p>At the beginning of the decade we seemed on the cusp of genuine progress as regards the environment. The Kyoto Accord held the promise of a better future, the economy was in fine fettle and retailers were in robust good health, coffers overflowing and ready to face up to their green responsibilities.</p>
<p>In practice, as the noughties have worn on, all of this added up to the appearance of a lot of corporate social responsibility websites, yet more pledges and some progress in energy saving and cleaner energy generation.</p>
<p>Now, as the screw tightens and bottom lines go backwards, the reasons for creating lower energy, greener stores seem more compelling than ever. After all, with utility prices following a stellar trajectory, what possible reason could there be for not implementing money-saving initiatives? So have bookshops gone green?</p>
<p>Look at the facts. A short walk along east Oxford Street or the Charing Cross Road reveals a couple of things. On a coolish August day, most of the big booksellers had their air-conditioning operating at full tilt. Most had their doors pinned back &ndash; meaning that the air-con was working overtime to counter the ambient external temperature, which was perfectly comfortable.</p>
<p>Then there was the messaging. Retailers these days are full of graphics, written or pictorial, urging us to use our own bags, think twice about where a product comes from, or cycle to the shops &ndash; prior to indulging in a little recycling. Not much evidence of this among the bookselling chains.</p>
<p>In fairness, Waterstone&rsquo;s has got its &ldquo;eco point&rdquo; strategy up and running where shoppers accrue points for eschewing plastic bags. And what do points mean? Pennies, of course: probably unlikely to change the buying habits of many.</p>
<p>Then there&rsquo;s Blackwells, which among other things, has the forthcoming Espresso Book Machine. Billed as an ATM for books, this does at least mean that excess inventory will not ultimately be pulped. But it&rsquo;s difficult not to wonder how many people are liable to hang around waiting for a book to be printed out, much less to ask how much energy the device uses.</p>
<p>Compare this with the food sector, for example. Sainsbury&rsquo;s&nbsp; hasopened a wood-framed supermarket in Dartmouth, complete with energy-generating turbines, that will cut carbon emissions by 40% when compared with a conventional store of the same size. It may not be in Oxford Street, but what are booksellers doing that can match this?</p>