Get your green on

Four ways to make your store sustainable

Six years ago Neil Kudrinko began the process of "greening" his grocery store in Westport, Ont. Today, after spending $600,000 on renovations, he is proud of what he's accomplished so far. The extensive upgrades now save him about $25,000 annually in energy costs and the store's carbon emissions fell to 110 tonnes per year, from 175 tonnes. His new goal is to get that down to 100 tonnes.

While perhaps ahead of the pack, Kudrinko's attitude to energy conservation and sustainability is far from unique in retail these days. And with good reason. "Going green increases profit and the impact is exponential for retailers," says Jim Harris, a speaker and environmental consultant. He notes that Walmart spends $500 million a year on going green, with energy efficiency projects that have a payback of four years or less. "Although the challenge is greater for the pure grocer that traditionally works on a one per cent net profit, saving energy has a 100-fold bottom line impact compared to increasing sales."

Common energy-saving strategies range from increasing transportation and logistics efficiencies and diverting waste from landfill, to simple changes like installing a white roof. If that seems a lot, relax. You can get started by following our four tips to creating a greener grocery store:

Energy efficiency. Hire a professional to do a baseline analysis of current energy usage and to develop a plan for conserving energy. Simple solutions include switching off equipment when not in use, installing more effcient freezers, using timers or motion sensors to control lighting and taking advantage of natural lighting and ventilation wherever possible.

Help green the community. Support local environmental initiatives and local foods and services. "We started a program to buy hormone and antibiotic-free Angus beef from a local farmer," says Kudrinko. "This supports a local farm family and jobs in the community. Our flip chart where we write about local products gets a lot more attention than our extensive renovations."

The three R's. Ideas for reducing, reusing and recycling include working with suppliers to cut product packaging, giving customers alternatives to plastic bags, reusing pallets and packaging materials, replacing written manuals with online versions, sending stale-dated products to food banks or to off-site composting instead of landfill, and educating staff to make them more environmentally conscious.

Use green products. Don't just sell environmentally friendly products–use them! Let your customers know that you use renewable energy, biodegradable and non-toxic cleaners, recycled paper and plastic products and other environmentally friendly supplies. Retailers who offer green products and choices but don't operate in a green way create a real conflict for consumers, says Tom Heintzman, president of Bullfrog Power, which provides 100 per cent green electricity and natural gas to Walmart, Mac's convenience stores, Unilever Canada and Kraft Foods.

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