10 Green Practices that Work

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10 Green Practices that Work

By Lorna Pappas - 11/03/2008
Social responsibility has permeated the retail industry and smart retailers are achieving competitive advantages by adopting environmentally friendly processes. Retailers such as Kohl's, Target, Wal-Mart and J.C. Penney are paving the way for others to follow in their ambitious footsteps toward staying true to their green efforts. As environmentally conscious retailers continue to go green, RIS has identified 10 eco-friendly practices that work. As you green your retail operations, consider these areas:

Green Roofs
Covering rooftops with hardy plants help filter air pollutants, absorb storm water, modify temperature fluctuations, provide habitats for birds and may keep stores cooler. Four Target stores in Chicago, Illinois are sheltered by a green roof partially or completely covered by plants growing in a thin layer of soil. Chicago is leading the nation in applying this technology, with more than 250 green roofs performing throughout the city.

Transportation Emissions Reduction
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) SmartWay Transport Partnership program helps increase fleet energy efficiency while reducing greenhouse gases and air pollution. Since joining SmartWay in 2004, Lowes has reduced carbon emissions by over 466,000 tons and saved 42 million gallons of diesel fuel. Kroger, whose trucks travel about 295 million miles a year, improves its fleets' miles per gallon by adjusting truck idle times and gear speed settings, and maintaining recommended top speeds of 62 miles per hour or the state limit. Wal-Mart has installed small, efficient generators on its trucks so drivers can turn off engines while parked, reaping a $25 million per year savings. Software that improves route planning also helps keep trucks from sitting in traffic.

Solar Power
With costly electricity and attractive federal and state tax incentives, many large retailers are installing solar panels to leverage the sun's power and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Kohl's, which in April 2007 made the largest commitment to solar energy in U.S. history, produces millions of kilowatt hours of energy per year with rooftop solar panels. Other retailers that are active in solar panel installations include J.C. Penney, Lowes, Macy's, Safeway, Staples, Tesco, Wal-Mart and Whole Foods.

Low-Power POS
Reduced power POS hardware helps retailers improve the environment without sacrificing performance. The compact DigiPoS Retail Core and DigiPoS Dynamic Blade systems, for example, draw only 15 watts of power. Users include Vision Express and Mosaic Fashions. The processors in IBM's SurePOS 700 system help users reduce system energy consumption by nearly 36 percent. The SurePOS 700 series is installed in 60 of the top 100 U.S. retailers. Current users of Fujitsu's TeamPoS 3000 systems, which adhere to green standards, include Staples, Dress Barn, YM Inc. (Canada) and Sony Stores (Canada).

Recycling Programs
Recycling waste and accepting waste from consumers, is key to going green. At Home Depot, a store recycling program for shrink wrap and mixed plastics results in 50 million pounds of waste diverted from landfills each year. Last year, Kroger's associates and customers recycled 9.1 million pounds of plastic and 1 billion pounds of corrugated cardboard. According to the EPA, U.S. consumers will retire 2 million tons of "tech trash" this year, including cell phones, batteries, televisions and computers. Among the retailers providing programs that help consumers safely dispose of these devices are Apple, Best Buy, Circuit City, Office Depot and Staples.

Selling Green Products
Informed customers value eco-sensitive retail products. REI markets garments made from bamboo, organic wool and cotton, hemp, post-industrial recycled polyester and PET plastic. Nike's goal for 2011 is to provide footwear meeting targets for waste reduction, elimination of volatile organic compounds and increased use of environmentally preferred materials. Patagonia stores will carry new products made of used fleece, as part of its Common Threads Garment Recycling Program. Home Depot promotes 2,500 environmentally friendly products, including natural insect repellant, energy-efficient washing machines and biodegradable plant pots. Wal-Mart asks suppliers to complete a scorecard that reflects the environmental sustainability of their products.

Carbon Footprint Labeling
Customers wishing to cut carbon footprints appreciate knowing the environmental conditions of the products they buy. Timberland recently introduced Green Index Tags, which rate certain items based on eco-factors such as greenhouse gas emissions, solvent use and organic content. Tesco's carbon labeling program tells how many grams of carbon or equivalent greenhouse gases were emitted as a result of growing, manufacturing, transporting and storing certain products. For some items, the label gives hints on reducing the product's footprint when it is cooked, used or thrown away.

Building Eco-Friendly New Stores
Best Buy, Starbucks, Target and Lowes are part of a retail group working to test-pilot a new certification program to build only eco-friendly stores. Kohl's is pursuing LEED certification for every store breaking ground in 2008. Office Depot opened its first green store this summer in Austin, Texas, featuring energy-efficient lighting and water fixtures, and recycled and low-carbon-emitting building materials. A current Lowes construction site sees more than 75 percent of construction debris being recycled; at least 20 percent of project material made from recycled materials; and at least 50 percent of materials made within 500 miles. All new Lowes stores are outfitted with efficient heating and air conditioning rooftop units, with the higher initial upfront costs offset by long-term energy savings.

Purchasing Green Power
Lowes increased its green power purchasing by 7.9 million to 86 million, and raised it again for 2008. Patagonia was the first California-based company to buy electricity from 100 percent renewable energy sources. REI purchases green power equal to 100 percent of its annual electricity consumption, totaling 63 million kilowatt hours. REI has committed to reducing CO2 emissions by 1/3 from its 2006 baseline by the end of 2009. Coldwater Creek has offset 100 percent of its corporate and retail stores' electrical energy usage through wind power purchased through renewable energy certificates. Other retailers purchasing green power are Kohl's, Timberland, Nike, Wal-Mart and Target.

Reduced Packaging
Wal-Mart's new "Cradle-to-Cradle Life Cycle" program encourages its 60,000 suppliers to reduce packaging as part of its goal to cut overall packaging by 5 percent by 2013.  Timberland changed all footwear packaging to 100 percent post-consumer recycled boxes and soy inks. Selected Tesco packaging has been reduced by 90 percent in a single year. The company removed 24.8 tons of plastic packaging its electrical products -- equivalent to three million plastic carrier bags -- while also saving 2,600 tons of glass from one supplier challenged to produce lighter glass packaging. Bulk imported wines bottled by Tesco saved 4,100 ton of carbon emissions, and reductions in sandwich packaging saves one truckload of waste every month.


CASE STUDY: Office Depot Debuts
  Christina Zarrello

First Green Store

Office Depot opened its first green store in July 2008. Located in Austin, Texas, this store uses less energy and water in its daily operation, and is committed to increasing its recycling efforts. With its new green store concept, the retailer leaves a much smaller overall environmental footprint than a typical store of its size.

Innovative Green Features
Energy efficient lighting, skylights and rooftop solar panels are a part of Office Depot's green store concept. The Office Depot green store is equipped with T5 energy-efficient lighting, which is more than 30 percent more efficient than traditional, incandescent lighting. Office Depot green stores also feature more than 50 active skylights that provide natural light to over 90 percent of the store. Solar panels have been added to the rooftops and generate approximately 10 percent of the store's energy needs. These solar panels also power the exterior Office Depot signage. Reflective rooftops feature a membrane that helps to prevent absorption of the heat from the sun and keeps the interior of the store cool. In addition, the building structure is composed of steel decking and joists, which are made of over 85 percent recycled steel and recycled concrete partitions composed of more than 95 percent recycled materials.

Focus on Recycling
Office Depot will stock its stores with office supplies, technology and furniture options that are made of recycled content, remanufactured, EnergyStar certified and non-toxic. These green concept stores also contain an in-store recycling center which features a designated area for Office Depot ink and toner cartridges, cellular phone and rechargeable batteries as well as a tech recycling service.

Educating Shoppers about Green Initiatives
Office Depot green stores also feature educational vignettes about how the store and product assortments are focused on its effort to go green. Customers can view informational boards that contain interesting facts and details on what makes the store green. Store associates have been educated to recommend tips to help customers learn how to green their own businesses and lifestyles.

"Office Depot has an environmental vision to increasingly buy green, be green and sell green," says Yalmaz Siddiqui, director of environmental strategy for Office Depot. "While we have already achieved dramatic reductions in carbon emissions from our existing facilities, this new store takes us to a completely new level of energy efficiency, carbon reduction and waste reduction."


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