It’s time to transform your retail business into an eco-friendly shop. From cleaning supplies to tax credits, sustainability can be implemented at every level of your organization. Whether you’re a standalone store or run a chain of retail locations, these eco-friendly tips will come in handy.  

The RUBICONMethod and our unique acronym, “DIVERT”, was created to help brick and mortar businesses implement a successful waste and reduction program. “DIVERT” (Determine, Initiate, Vocalize, Eliminate, Roll-out, and Track) consists of six necessary steps which will guide your business. Waste Reduction goals are achieved through initial examination and planning, fundamentals for communication and waste reduction, and by tactical implementation and tracking.

1. Think green when you clean

Evaluate your cleaning supply cabinet. Chances are, your business has been using cleaners with toxic or harsh chemicals in them. Switching to natural cleaning supplies is a simple first step.

You can test out natural brands or even experiment with DIY solutions. Vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice can go a long way in cleaning just about everything you need.

2. Say goodbye to paper & go digital

Millions of tons of paper are used every year. Not only does this paper production require a lot of electricity and water to create, but so much of this paper go to waste. Make sure your retail business does its part and eliminates paper whenever possible.

Go digital with your POS system. By eliminating paper receipts and moving to email receipts, you’ll save money and reduce paper waste. Plus, email receipts help your marketing strategy. You can use customer emails in newsletters and advertising.

Have your business switch to online billing for all vendors and suppliers, use online payroll, and distribute staff schedules digitally. These are all easy ways to eliminate much of your paper waste quickly. If you do need some paper for other needs, consider using recycled paper.

3. Eliminate useless waste

From plastic bags you give to customers to the packaging when you receive new shipments, there’s a lot of unnecessary waste in the retail space. Perform an audit of your business and thoroughly examine what kinds of useless waste you produce or consume. Then, make an actionable plan to eliminate these items.

A significant first step is to stop using single-use plastic bags. Consider creating branded reusable tote bags and selling them for a small fee or even giving them away to customers for a promotion.

Make sure your cashiers ask if customers need a bag when they check out. Chances are, the customer might already have a reusable bag ready to go. If they do require a bag, your business can switch to recycled paper bags for customers. Your cashiers can also use tissue paper or bubble wrap more sparingly when ringing up and packing items.

Replacing individually packaged goods with refillable dispensers reduces packaging waste. Examples include replacing individual coffee pods with a pot of coffee, plastic water bottles with a filtered water tap, individual creamers, and sugars with dispensers. Again, talk to your waste partner and procurement team to decide what’s right for your business.

4. Invest in eco-friendly updates

While some sustainable switches might be costly at first, they’ll have a positive environmental and financial impact on your business. For example, consider investing in:

  • Electric and efficient hand dryers
  • Automatic lighting sensors, especially in stockrooms and bathrooms
  • CFL and LED light bulbs
  • Water-efficient sinks and toilets

The items above can be an upfront investment, but they will save your business money on bills for years to come. Plus, they’re kinder to the environment. Now that’s a win-win.

5. Do your research on retail tax credits

Make sure you explore any opportunities for retail tax credits on sustainability initiatives. Often there are local, state, or federal benefits to doing things like switching to efficient lighting or reducing waste. This can help cover the costs of the eco-friendly updates your retail business implements.

To start, check out the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy’s list of tax incentives and the IRS’s small business tax credits.

6. Communicate your values to your team & your customers

Once you decide to go green, ensure that the management team communicates your new sustainable business values and priorities to your staff. By properly training employees, you’ll instill buy-in from the beginning.

With your action plan in place, it’s time to vocalize the program and educate a variety of stakeholders. The best way to do so is through signage, training and a central point of contact.

This communication can take place in many forms. You can send out weekly reminders via email to encourage employees to reduce waste, put up posters by waste and recycling receptacles with reminders on the proper protocol, and hold regular team meetings where you report on the business’ progress.

Sharing your eco-friendly values isn’t only about communicating with your store’s team. Share these values with your customers, too. Conveying your retail store’s green initiatives via social media, newsletters, signs, and more will bolster your brand identity.

Make sustainability part of your brand recognition and generate buzz around the great work your business is doing by incorporating some of these external communications activities into your program.

Looking for some more eco-friendly business tips?  Read the RUBICONMethod in full to start developing a more successful waste reduction and recycling program today.