Save the planet one shop at a time

Save the planet one shop at a time

<p>The realities of climate change have begun to hit home, and the nation&#39;s high streets are fostering an almost hysterical clamour to go green. Marks &amp; Spencer is investing &pound;200m in its eco-plan, and says it will be carbon neutral by 2012. Tesco is converting its fleet of 2,000 lorries to bio-diesel and is investing &pound;100m in renewable energy in its stores. Asda says it will stop sending waste to landfill by ensuring that all its stores recycle or re-use waste by 2010.</p><p>Book chains are busy, too. W H Smith has an environmental policy in place, including a project with the Woodland Trust to reduce carrier bag usage; it makes a donation to charity each time a customer declines a bag. Waterstone&#39;s and Borders are focusing on instore energy efficiency, and many independents are looking at the carbon footprint left by their products, stores and supply chains.</p><p>&quot;Independents realise they can improve their housekeeping to minimise waste and cut energy use, which is what customers would expect,&quot; Matthew Clarke, co-director of The Torbay Bookshop, says. &quot;German students in Paignton have been declining bags for a few years, but now locals say they don&#39;t need them. The appetite for change is here.&quot;</p><p>While publishers get serious about sustainable production, there are significant steps bookshops can take to reduce their environmental impact. Free help and advice is available from organisations such as The Carbon Trust, Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), and Envirowise.</p><p>There are considerable cost savings to be made from energy-efficient retailing. Boots saved &pound;3.3m last year and claims that figure will rise above &pound;4.3m by 2010, as waste reduction and energy, product and packaging efficiencies kick in.</p><p>Envirowise, the government-funded agency charged with helping business reduce its environmental impact, has helped UK industry save over &pound;1bn since 1994. It offers a free helpline; publications providing advice on waste, water and energy minimisation; best practice seminars; and free site surveys. Christopher Hodgson, Envirowise head of retail and commerce, says that his team aims to help retailers use less energy and fewer resources in ways that will not impact on basic business operations. </p><p>&quot;Our advice is to begin by asking where you are environmentally, determine priorities for action, and then make realistic change that won&#39;t hurt commercially,&quot; Hodgson says. &quot;Are you spending too much on electricity bills, or are your landfill taxes higher than they should be?&quot;</p><p>He urges retailers large and small to &quot;personalise&quot; the environmental debate, so that staff embrace ideas such as turning off lights and recycling their lunch packaging. </p><p>&quot;It&#39;s a good idea to appoint a Waste Minimisation Champion at each store to co-ordinate your cost-saving efforts,&quot; he says. &quot;Also, train staff in good practice issues, with refresher training every year, and put in waste reduction and energy efficiency targets as part of overall performance monitoring. Often, going green is about instigating behavioural change, and this shouldn&#39;t be a big cost to your business.&quot;<br /> <br /> <strong>Products</strong><br /> Do they make you proud or ashamed?<br /> Professor Alan Knight OBE, an expert with 15 years&#39; experience of corporate social responsibility and sustainable sourcing in global retail, believes that the background to products will become important to consumers. &quot;We need to think about products if we are going to be serious about sustainable consumption,&quot; he says. &quot;If products could talk, what would they say? Would you be embarrassed about that Chinese factory? Or would you be proud of that Fairtrade coffee?&quot; Booksellers should collaborate with publishers on the environmental legacy left by printed books, he says.<br /> A spokeswoman for WHS says that raw materials, the environmental impact of processes, and labour conditions in manufacturing the company&#39;s own-brand books and stationery are closely monitored&mdash;but that this is not possible beyond own-brand stock. &quot;We are increasingly looking at the type of paper all books are made from, and encouraging our publishers to use papers that are environmentally sourced or recycled,&quot; she says.<br /> <br /> <strong>Instore energy use</strong><br /> Can you cut it?<br /> How much electricity are you using? Typical figures for stores are &pound;0.68 per sq m, but with good practice, this can fall to &pound;0.56 per sq m. The Carbon Trust helps to cut energy bills by offering practical advice, free publications, interest-free loans for energy-efficient upgrades, and site surveys. For example, up to 30% of electricity usage when a store is closed may be unnecessary.<br /> Envirowise suggests replacing tungsten lamps with compact fluorescents, which can save 75% on lighting costs. Replacing halogens with LED lighting reduces consumption by 95%. Photocell controls switch off lights on bright days and motion sensors switch off lights in infrequently used areas, saving 20% on costs.<br /> Turning thermostat settings down 1&ordm;C saves 10% on heating and cooling costs. (Stores should be 19&ordm;C and warehouses 16&ordm;C. Air-con should be off at temperatures below 24&ordm;C.)<br /> Helen Webb, general manager of The Watermill Bookshop in Aberfeldy, says: &quot;We don&#39;t have air-con as customers prefer the fresh air. We also turn off lights if it&#39;s a sunny day.&quot;<br /> Some instore technology can add to the problem. Sun Microsystems is developing a carbon neutral EPoS system, which is small, highly energy-efficient, solar-powered, and designed to last at least 10 years.<br /> </p><p><strong>Waste reduction</strong><br /> Huge cost savings to be made<br /> Retailers are responsible for 12% of industrial waste in the UK. It&#39;s a major expense: all business waste that goes to landfill is taxed at &pound;18 a tonne, and this will soon rise to &pound;48 a tonne. Envirowise has helped many retailers achieve a 50% reduction in waste-disposal costs. The agency recommends cutting office waste by reusing scrap paper, not printing out sales reports and emails, and printing double-sided where possible.<br /> Unavoidable waste should be carefully separated for recycling, with staff given incentives to do so. Plastic drinks bottles could be saved by offering filtered water in staffrooms.<br /> Webb at The Watermill Bookshop says the packaging of books is essential: &quot;But we hope publishers will speed up the trend for cutting plastic packaging and instead using shredded paper which has already been recycled or can be recycled.&quot;<br /> <br /> <strong>Bags</strong><br /> Can your customers kick the habit?<br /> A horrifying eight billion plastic bags are dumped in the UK every year. In February, the retail industry pledged to reduce the environmental damage caused by carrier bags by 25% by the end of 2008, an objective shared with the government and WRAP. The Watermill Bookshop and The Torbay Bookshop have both switched to using predominantly paper bags (plastic bags are used when it&#39;s raining), and ask customers if a bag is needed before handing one out.<br /> Bags made of biodegradable polythene or compostable starch are coming onto the market. Suppliers include the Yorkshire-based Biodegradable Bag Company and Papier-Mettler of Germany.<br /> <br /> <strong>Water</strong><br /> Are you flushing it away?<br /> There are many ways to reduce water use and save up to 50% on water costs. To begin with, carefully monitor water usage over time, and ensure that staff understand why saving water is important. Consider alternative water usage, such as rainwater and grey water re-use. Fit water minimising controls where possible, such as push taps, flow restrictors, cistern displacement devices, spray nozzles on hoses, low-flush toilets and sensor-activated urinal flushing controls. Cistern volume adjusters, sometimes known as Save-a-Flush, are growing in popularity. These are small bags that reduce the volume of water in the toilet cistern, saving a litre of water per flush.<br /> <br /> <strong>Waterstone&#39;s acts</strong><br /> Waterstone&#39;s Environmental Committee meets twice a year to look at issues including energy usage. Energy consultants have been employed to evaluate energy usage and advise on where improvements can be made. Waterstone&#39;s is addressing its open-door policy: stores have been told to use common sense regarding their over-door heaters, with the likelihood of doors being closed in cold weather (except for during peak trading hours).<br /> Waterstone&#39;s anticipates reducing energy use by 10%, by reducing the thermal-comfort expectations of staff and customers.<br /> Air-conditioning units are being adjusted to come on later and switch off earlier. Lamps are being replaced by low-energy lamps; this has already happened across two-thirds of the estate. The store development team aims to purchase only energy-efficient properties for new and refurbished stores.<br /> Waterstone&#39;s has joined the recently launched Environmental Action Group run by the BA and the PA.<br /> <br /> </p>