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As individuals, we all know how important it is to increase the number of things we do to help the environment. We’re trying to recycle more of our rubbish, turning off lights that aren’t needed and using our cars less, to name just a few.
Businesses, no matter how big or small, also have a duty to act responsibly and take the same approach.
For Sophie and Paul Boxall, improving the way their business is run to make it more green and sustainable is high on their agenda. And it’s not just about being environmentally friendly. The steps they have taken are also saving them a lot of money.
Lisa Creasey, field sales manager for Cadbury, visited Pelynt Post Office in Looe, Cornwall, to look at the changes the Boxalls have already made to their store and discuss what more can be done.
Abolish free plastic bags, look into offering reusable bags and encourage customers to bring in their own.
Promote the work you’re doing to be more environmentally friendly to customers and encourage them to recycle.
Stock products from local suppliers. Not only will it reduce your carbon footprint, but it will create a point of difference for your store.
Look into offering recycling facilities, such as bins for used batteries.
1 Reduce your carbon footprint by cutting down on vehicle usage, reusing scrap paper, using appliances that are environmentally friendly, and recycling. As Sophie walks around the shop, she points out several new refrigerators that have been installed in the past 18 months to replace the old energy-sapping units, and a freezer, which they bought to replace one that had been there for 30 years.
“It wasn’t cost efficient for us to continue to have it fixed or run it as it was,” she says. “We updated it to make the shop better and, initially, the growth in sales was phenomenal.”
The refrigerators run off three compressors that only give the amount of power required. Paul says they were expensive, but worth it. “Compressors that run on 100% power 24/7 are not good for a business or the environment,” he says. “We reduced our quarterly electricity bill by £1,200 as a result, which is fantastic.”
Lisa asks Sophie and Paul whether they have done anything else to reduce their carbon footprint.
They say they have recently replaced two vans that deliver milk, papers and groceries to customers who can’t get to the shop every morning. “We chose vans that were as efficient as they could be without spending an obscene amount of money,” Sophie says.
The one thing they have yet to do is replace the shop’s lighting with lights that are as bright as possible and energy efficient, but they’re struggling to find the right solution. Lisa advises they contact their symbol group, Spar. “I’m sure Spar is trying to improve energy use as well, so it may be able to help you find the right lighting,” she says.
Sophie explains that while they have made significant progress improving their recycling, after reading about other retailers who have waste-free shops, their goal is to cut down their waste to nothing.
“We have two allotments in the family so we compost our food waste and all cardboard is recycled, but we haven’t yet found a way of having our plastic recycled, which is where most of our waste is,” she says.
They are in the process of talking to Robert Wiseman Dairies about having their milk supplies delivered without shrinkwrapping. “Reducing our waste down to nothing would be a real achievement,” she adds.
2 Reduce plastic bag use by charging or offering reusable bags An increasing number of retailers are charging for plastic bags and selling reusable bags, and the Boxalls are no exception.
They stopped giving away free carrier bags around a year ago and now have 5p bags, 10p bags and hessian bags. For those customers who don’t wish to purchase a bag, a collection of cardboard boxes are kept outside the store.
“People are really warming to them,” Sophie says. “Most of the locals are quite proud to carry their reusable bag.”
3 Provide recycling facilities for your customers Recycling is made easy for customers as there are a bank of recycling bins in the car park for glass, paper, cans and clothes.
There’s also a battery recycling box at the till, but Sophie admits it isn’t used a lot as most people aren’t aware of it.
Lisa suggests they do more to promote their recycling facilities to customers. “You could advertise in your parish magazine,” she says. “The more customers who know you have facilities here, the more you’ll find they’ll use them and the store.”
4 Offer locally produced eco-friendly or sustainable products. Lisa points out that many products are locally produced, helping the Boxalls to cut back on their carbon footprint.
All of their fruit and vegetables come from a supplier in nearby Bodmin, which sources everything as locally as possible. The shop also has local cider and one shop assistant’s husband provides meat from their farm.
“We have lots of farmers who are delighted they can get Ecover products from us,” Sophie says. “It helps that my customers are also supportive of the environment.”