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7:21 PM   April 21, 2015
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Good for the ‘Retail Soul’

By conserving energy, pet stores can help pets, the earth and their bottom lines.
By Wendy Bedwell-Wilson

"Of one thing we can be sure: Energy will be more challenging and more important in the future. Will you—and your business—be ready?" 
      —Peter Schwartz, chairperson of Global Business Network, a consulting firm in San Francisco

Retailers require energy to run their stores. Energy spotlights displays, runs the cash registers, heats herps, keeps aquariums humming and sets the perfect stage for shopping. Though conserving energy in a retail environment may seem nearly impossible, savvy retailers are finding ways to do just that.

“We consume massive amounts of energy,” admitted Matt Johnson, co-owner of Critter Cabana in Newberg, Ore. “So we had the electric company come out and do a consultation. They recommended some ways that we could save energy, and we’re hoping at some point in the next year to make the move in that direction.”

12 Ways to Conserve Energy
Retailers recommend these simple ways to incorporate energy savings into your retail routine:

  1. Stock shelves with locally made products.
  2. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents.
  3. Turn off lights when not in use.
  4. Configure computers and cash registers to enter “sleep mode” when not in use.
  5. Unplug unnecessary equipment when not in use.
  6. Replace old office equipment and appliances with energy-efficient versions.
  7. Pay for a professional energy audit.
  8. Change air filters regularly.
  9. Recycle whenever possible.
  10. Use energy-efficient pumps in aquariums.
  11. If remodeling, consider using sustainable building materials.
  12. Support manufacturers of eco-friendly products.
Stephanie Volo, president of Planet Dog in Portland, Maine, went a step further. She hired a consultation company to conduct an environmental sustainability audit for both her manufacturing and retail businesses.

“People may not necessarily want to spend the money on doing an audit, but I think it’s well worth it,” she said. “Now, more than ever, because of the changed economic landscape, you can work with people that will do this for less money, because everyone is on the same page in terms of moving into a more sustainable environment.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Energy Strategy for the Road Ahead,” 50 percent of all U.S. electrical generation relies on coal, a fossil fuel; 85 percent of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions result from energy-consuming activities supported by fossil fuels. The demand for energy resources will rise dramatically during the next 25 years, with global demand expected to grow by 57 percent and U.S. demand to grow by 31 percent. By 2030, new power generation equal to 300, 1,000-megawatt power plants will be necessary to meet electricity demand worldwide.

Retailers need the energy, but can reduce the overall demand by employing some conservation strategies, which will benefit more than just Mother Earth.

“I do believe that when you are a retailer, if you go green and you’re compassionate and generous with educating customers about sustainability, your retail store takes on a soul,” said Susan Goldstein, co-author of “The Goldsteins’ Wellness and Longevity Program” (TFH Publications Inc., 2005) and owner of Earth Animal, a retail, wholesale and mail-order business in Westport, Conn. “It feels very different. It becomes not so focused on the bottom line, and it’s more nurturing when you’re there. It comes from goodness when you’re giving back to the earth. You reap those benefits. The days are richer, and the years are richer from a P&L standpoint.”
Reduce the Use

Want to Learn More?
Stephanie Volo, president of Planet Dog in Portland, Maine, offered these websites for retailers interested in learning more about eco-friendly business practices:

  • A storehouse of links to of eco-friendly, eco-minded businesses, from professional services to building materials and everything in between.
  • A resource for environmentally friendly packaging.
  • A source for green office supplies, including recycled paper, office equipment and cleaning supplies.
  • A place to help educate staff about the importance of a reduced carbon footprint.
  • A Site dedicated to providing solutions to stabilize climate change.
Cutting back on energy consumption centers on replacing old fossil-fuel-guzzling light bulbs and equipment with conservative alternatives. Nancy Howatson, owner of Barking Babies in Yaletown, British Columbia, Canada, replaced her incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents.

“We recently expanded the store from 300 square feet to 1,000 square feet, and when we did that, we put all track lighting in,” she said.

“And we use the type of bulbs that don’t produce a lot of heat.”

They require an up-front investment, but they’ll save in the long run, Johnson said.

“For us, it’s an investment of about $3,500,” he added. “But the lights are supposed to last seven years. And for the same light output, we’re only using maybe 4 watts instead of 75. We’ve estimated that the actual savings will be about $300 a month. So it’ll pay itself off in a year.”

To cut down on energy use, Volo replaced her bulbs with compact fluorescents and installed sensor lighting in low-traffic areas following her environmental audit.

“We decreased some of our track lighting, and we put sensor lighting in some places where we could use it, mostly in the office space and bathroom,” she said. “And we went ahead and changed all of our lighting. That’s something that we felt very strongly about, and we did that right away.”

Heating and air conditioning systems consume a lot of energy, too, so Howatson set hers on a timer.

By being aware of energy use and taking steps to conserve, retailers can help both the environment and their bottom line.

“My heating and cooling system automatically shuts off at 8 p.m. and turns itself on at 8 a.m.,” she said. “I have it on a timer. And we have brand new ventilation systems, so they’re not going to use as much power.”

Goldstein keeps her air and heat use to a minimum, and throws open her store’s doors on nice days, letting in natural light and heat as well as enticing walkers-by. 

“A couple of years ago, we began keeping the doors open instead of using heat and air conditioning,” she said. “We just open the doors and get the fresh air. It helps to detoxify. It also welcomes people when you have the doors open. People just kind of come in and browse.”

Retailers may also want to look into using energy-efficient refrigerators and freezers, replacing outdated office equipment with newer models that automatically go into sleep mode when not in use and investing in point-of-sale systems that conserve energy, Volo said.

Reap the Benefits
By reducing the amount of energy used in a retail setting, pet-specialty stores will certainly benefit the environment, Goldstein said. Retailers doing their part to care for the planet should also consider it an investment in their business’ future.

“In the beginning, when you take the step to go green, you have to see it as an investment in your consciousness and an investment to give back,” Goldstein said. “And when you do those things, you’re always taken care of. The end result is it will help contribute to your profitability.”

Lower energy use will also help retailers save money in the long run, Volo said.

“By doing things like replacing all of your incandescent light bulbs with your compact fluorescent bulbs, you’ll reduce incredible amounts of energy and save money, too,” she said. “I don’t think people realize that. You’re going to pay up front a little bit, but it saves so much money and you’re using so much less.”

Reducing energy use is a good marketing tool, too. Goldstein and her partner, Robert Goldstein, VMD, aka “Dr. Bob,” frequently speak at public events about the benefits of natural care of dogs and cats. Johnson plans to contact his local newspaper when he “goes green” with his shop. And Volo has turned her store into an eco-friendly center for her community, teaching young and old the benefits of environmental responsibility.

“When you commit to doing something like that, you become a community member,” she said. “It’s another way to get your store and the products that you support out there. You’re almost becoming more of a resource center. Customers see products and the best food and the innovative ideas, but there’s this whole community area that talks about how to reduce their carbon pawprints.”

By being aware of energy use and taking steps to conserve, retailers can help both the environment and their bottom line. Though the financials shouldn’t be the primary motivation, a little positive PR doesn’t hurt.

“Retailers need to know that going green really is a good marketing and promotional opportunity for them,” Volo said. “I don’t even care what the reason is or why this trend is so big right now, but the good news is that everybody is listening and everybody is doing it. And if that’s what it takes to get people on board and have an understanding about what’s going on with our environment, then that’s what it takes.” <HOME>

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