By Meline Beach
Five Focus Areas to Greener Stores
Sustainability is not just a fad but a vested interest and commitment today’s consumers are making when choosing what products and services to buy and where they want to do business. As a daily topic in today’s conversations, sustainability covers everything from how products are made, where they are sourced to how a business chooses to run its operations in an ethical manner. C&G retailers, though small in comparison to big box stores and large corporations, are not exempt from applying sustainability practices that capture a customers’ attention and secures their loyalty. Greener stores are the road to better profits and long-term sustainability.
LED lighting is a long-term investment with immediate savings. According to Dave Bowen, national sales manager at Webco Lighting Products Inc., a leading Canadian commercial lighting supplier, the sooner a site converts their interior and exterior lighting to LED bulbs, the faster their bottom line will improve.
“Not only will a retailer see immediate cost savings, their location will also appear brighter and safer, with a clean colour temperature that will make the site pop and the products inside appear more appealing, which can positively enhance sales and profits,” says Bowen.
Nika Mai, owner and operator of an ESSO gas station and Convenience 4U store located in Kettleby, Ontario has outfitted her new build with LED lighting. On bright sunny days, with a wall full of windows, Mai turns off interior and exterior lights to save on energy.
Setting interior and exterior lights on a timer is another way to conserve.
“We leverage timers and have enough lighting for our security system to capture any activity,” says Ramona Roberts, who owns and operates Big Dog Convenience in Prince Edward Island, with her husband. Together, they have three c-stores, each with a gas bar. “It is always a balance between safety and being energy conscious.”
A very understandable point, which Bowen addresses through an enhanced service offering.
“As a lighting partner to our retail customers, we come in and completely analyze a site to maximize energy savings and reduce maintenance, as well as recommend correct fixtures, colour temperature and wattages,” says Bowen. “We are then able to supply them with the lighting fixtures that best meet their energy sustainability and security needs.”
Bowen adds the option to consider solar LED lighting for greater sustainability results and additional savings achieved by being off the grid altogether.
Heating, Cooling & Appliances
You can’t deny the amount of equipment it takes to sell convenience in the C&G channel. Consider dedicated refrigerated coolers for beverages, frozen products, dairy, ice and foodservice, plus convection and microwave ovens, coffee machines, heat lamps and grills. According to ENERGY STAR – a government-backed symbol for energy efficiency based on a membership of thousands of organizations committed to energy efficient solutions, a high dependence on refrigeration in the c-store channel uses up to 40 per cent of the property’s total energy.
“Open coolers are much more attractive but can be energy wasters,” says Roberts. “We look for air curtains and screens that we can pull down at closing. We also turn some cooler lights off at night.”
Better technology, energy efficient options and improved practices can lead to greater energy conservation and cost-savings. Regular maintenance involving refrigerator temperature checks (ideal temp being -13 to -10 degrees Celsius for freezers and 1.3 to 1.6 degrees Celsius), ensuring door seals close tightly (not even allowing the width of a piece of paper between the seal) and cooling coils at the back of each unit are kept clean, free of dust and debris will also extend the energy efficiency of your equipment. Additional information on ENERGY STAR savings for the C&G channel can be found online: https://www.energystar.gov/buildings/facility-owners-and-managers/small-biz/grocery-and-convenience-stores
In terms of store temperatures, Roberts keeps it on the cool side and provides branded Big Dog jackets and sweaters for the staff to wear. Not only does it offer warmth, but also a sense of pride and store promotion.
“We also capture the heat from coolers and use it to heat the store in the winter months and in summer, we vent the heat out,” says Roberts. “We are able to greatly control heating expenses in this manner.”
A programmable thermostat can manage temperature settings in an efficient manner, especially for areas that are less occupied, such as stock rooms.
How we go about cleaning is also a big sustainability factor. Many commercial and even residential-grade cleaning products can be harmful. Artificial fragrances, corrosive drain cleaners, bleach and ammonia-based products can contain toxic chemicals and have a negative impact on the air we breathe and the environment in which we live. Many of these chemicals are flushed down the drain which pollute our waterways, fish and wildlife.
While cleaning is not optional, Mai prefers to take a more organic approach using vinegar and water for many surfaces, including the coffee machine and pots. Roberts does as well, and also sells greener household cleaning products as “there’s a market for it.”
When choosing cleaning products, be sure to look for ones that promote safety, low toxicity, biodegradable, are phosphate-free and environmentally safe.
Grocery stores and larger retailers have added a cost to their plastic bags, often mandated by municipal governments. While the intent of this “tax” was to reduce its use and negative effect on our environment, as they end up in landfills, many consumers still opt in.
In PEI, Roberts says the province is phasing out single-use plastic for retail, with a complete ban by July 1, 2019. In preparation for this ban, Roberts is in the process of sourcing reusable bags to sell and offer customers. The challenge being that it’s an emerging market with not a lot of priced options.
“This is going to change how we look at sales, especially for grocery and liquor purchases,” says Roberts. “PEI is mandating that we must charge customers for paper bags. The landscape here is changing.”
Washrooms play a vital role and accommodate high traffic in a c-store setting. Greening your washroom can support your sustainability mission and make a positive contribution to your bottom line – starting with the toilet. Toilets are one of the greatest sources of water consumption. Immediate savings can be achieved with the installation of a low-flow toilet. Even better, a dual flush option gives your customer the choice for liquid or solid waste.
Hands-free motion sensor faucets are also effective at managing water waste and the transfer of germs with the elimination of faucet handles. At this time, Roberts and Mai have traditional washroom equipment at their c-stores, but both recognize the opportunity for improvement.
And if your washroom doesn’t have a window for proper ventilation, an ENERGY STAR rated fan can also achieve both sustainability and economical savings.
The sooner a retailer commits to sustainability, the sooner they will see immediate benefits.
Meline Beach is a Toronto-based communications practitioner and frequent contributor to Convenience & Carwash Canada. In addition to freelance writing, she provides communications and public relations support to businesses across Canada. She can be reached at www.mlbcomms.ca