Earth Day (which is happening on April 22nd) is just a few short weeks away! In honor of the occasion, we thought we’d share some of our top tips for going green. If you’re looking to adopt more sustainable business practices — and we highly recommend you do — here are some action steps you can take.
Switch to energy-saving fixtures and appliances
Being more energy-efficient in your retail business isn’t just great for the environment, it can also help you save money. According to the Small Business Administration, “a 10% reduction in energy costs for the average full-line discount retailer can boost net profit margins by as much as 1.55 percent and sales per square foot by $25.”
The savings are a lot bigger for supermarkets, in which a 10% reduction in energy can boost net profit margins by as much as 16% and sales per square foot by $44.
That’s a lot of money, which is why if you’re not practicing efficient energy use in your business it’s high time to do so. Here are some ways to do it.
Be smart about lighting
Do you and your employees neglect to switch off the lights before leaving a room? You may want to use automatic lighting controls or sensors that can help you conserve energy when your lights aren’t in use.
Another tip is to switch to use energy-efficient lighting. If you’re in the United States, for example, be sure to use Energy Star certified lighting, which “typically use one-quarter the energy of traditional lighting and distribute light more efficiently and evenly than standard fixtures.”
Be efficient with heating and cooling
Your heating and cooling system can eat up a ton of energy. Follow these tips from Energy Star to help you maintain comfortable temperatures while saving energy at the time:
- Change your air filter regularly. Check your filter every month, especially during heavy use months (winter and summer). If the filter looks dirty after a month, change it. At a minimum, change the filter every three months. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm or cool—wasting energy.
- Tune up your HVAC equipment yearly. Just as a tune-up for your car can improve your gas mileage, a yearly tune-up of your heating and cooling system can improve efficiency and comfort.
- Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat is ideal for areas that are unoccupied during set periods of time throughout the week. Rooms that have minimal traffic (such as stock rooms and warehouses) should be kept cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer.
- Seal your heating and cooling ducts. Ducts that move air to-and-from a forced air furnace, central air conditioner, or heat pump are often big energy wasters. Sealing and insulating ducts can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20 percent and sometimes much more.
Opt for digital receipts
Traditional receipts don’t just use up more paper, they can also clutter up the wallets of consumers. That’s why retailers are increasingly opting for digital receipts, which are both eco- and customer-friendly. Consider the following:
One option is to go paperless. Instead of printing out physical receipts, ask shoppers to enter their email address to get an electronic copy.
This not only helps you reduce waste, but it can also pave the way for higher customer engagement. Many retailers are using email receipts to grow their subscriber lists or loyalty program members.
One retailer that’s seen the benefits of email receipts is surf shop Sitka NZ. Owner Andrew Howson is big on sustainability, so when he found out that his POS system (Vend) allowed him to send receipts via email, he used the feature right away.
When asked if they had difficulties getting people to adopt email receipts, he said: “not at all.”
“We first ask if they would like to be added to our customer database and if they say no, we then just ask if they are happy to receive a receipt by email.”
Aside from reducing their carbon footprint, Andrew shares that sending email receipts helped them increase their online fan base.
“We include a link on the receipt, which goes straight to our Facebook page. And you can literally see every day new fans on our Facebook page, and they are the same customers who bought from our store.”
Email receipts are great, but they can sometimes add friction when you’re ringing up sales. Not everyone wants to share their email address, and the task of entering their information might lengthen the checkout process.
If this is the case in your store, then consider Micro Receipts, a solution can save up to 80% in receipt paper, but still give retailers powerful capabilities to connect with customers.
A solution from Star Micronics, Micro Receipts contain a small QR code that takes up less than half the space of a traditional receipt. Customers who want to view the full receipt can just scan the QR code using their mobile device.
Star Micronics also gives retailers the ability to print coupons and promotions on the back of the Micro Receipt. And, thanks to an integration with digital receipt tool AllReceipts, retailers can engage customers through tools like surveys and messages.
So which solution should you go for? The answer depends on your customers. As David Salisbury VP of Sales and Marketing at Star Cloud Services says, “Now, more than ever, the shopper is in control of the entire retail experience. The receipt — the last part of the transaction — should not be any different.”
He continues, “if the shopper wants a receipt, print one as fast and as clear as possible… On the other hand, if the customer wants an email receipt, make sure you have a way to easily capture their email without causing delays or stress.”
“The good part about the AllReceipts digital receipt service from Vend and Star is that the shopper now has yet another choice. If the shopper would like a receipt but isn’t keen to give up their personal information or manage the paper receipt, they can use the AllReceipts or a compatible app to scan the QR code on the Micro Receipt.”
Encourage reusable bags
Reusable bags are becoming more common in retail stores, and for good reason — plastic and paper bags aren’t exactly environment-friendly. For this reason, more and more communities, cities, and states are opting for reusable bags at stores.
California, for example, recently implemented a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at large food retailers, pharmacies, corner markets and liquor stores. Businesses in California can still provide paper bags and thicker plastic bags, but they would have to charge at least 10 cents for each one to disincentivize shoppers from using them.
Even if your store isn’t affected by such policies, you still want to keep reusable bags in your radar. The ban on single-use plastic bags isn’t going away anytime soon, and we expect more communities to implement legislation similar to the one in California.
If you’re looking to take your eco-friendly practices to the next level, you can start encouraging reusable bags. This doesn’t mean that you should start charging people for using disposable ones, but you might be able to nudge shoppers in the right direction. Set up signage outlining the benefits of reusable bags. You could even start selling tote bags and encourage people to use them on their next shopping trip.
You’d be surprised — your customers might be more open to such practices than you think. For example, The Bread and Butter Letter, a vintage clothing and homeware boutique based in New Zealand, told us recently that their customers are starting to care more about sustainability.
“We’ve noticed our customers increasingly ask the important questions: where the goods come from, who made them, what they’re made from. We’ve also seen that people increasingly reject our paper bags and bring their own!”
Go green with your store design
Opt for sustainable materials in your displays and decor. For instance, you could start sourcing your props and displays from vendors that use eco-friendly materials.
Want to breathe life into your store design? Consider using plants. Concrete + Water, a lifestyle boutique in Brooklyn, does a fantastic at using plants in-store. Check out photos of their beautiful space below:
Spread the word
Already implementing sustainable business practices? Tell people about your initiatives. Let’s say you’ve started working with a more environment-friendly vendor; why not discuss it on your blog or on social media?
Or, if you’re using sustainable materials for your products, mention it in your packaging. Mother Nature and your customers will thank you for it.
Modern shoppers are starting to care more about sustainable business practices. As Nielsen puts it, “consumers are trying to be responsible citizens of the world, and they expect the same from corporations. So when it comes to purchasing, they are doing their homework. Checking labels before buying. Looking at websites for information on business and manufacturing practices. Paying attention to public opinion on specific brands in the news or on social media.”
Going green isn’t just a good move from a sustainability perspective, it also makes a lot of business sense. It saves you money, and it makes your business more attractive to consumers — and who wouldn’t want that?
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.