According to Trendwatching, a company that analyzes trends, "Green Pressure" is one of the top trends of 2020. "When eco-alternatives are as available, affordable and effective . . . there's no reason not to choose them. Eco-consumption becomes less about the status of opting in, and more about the shame of opting out. Throw in Extinction Rebellion, the global Strike for Climate movement, and Greta, and you have a tipping point in awareness also fueling this crucial shift."
Greener business practices aren't just about responding to customer pressure to be more environmentally aware, it's also better for the planet and can be money-saving for businesses. Here are some green practices already happening at member stores.
"We made the decision just this morning to transition to LED, and away from fluorescent lighting."–George Williams of MoonPie General Store, Pigeon Forge, TN
"We re-use a lot of boxes and packaging material; right now my closet is filled with bags of bubble wrap waiting to be used during returns."–Sarah Pishko, Prince Books, Norfolk, VA
"One thing we've been doing that is really useful is taking hard to recycle materials like packing material to the recycling center instead of just throwing it away. Bobby Bradley (pictured) has really been the impetus behind that, and seeing how much bubble wrap we recycle in a week feels significant. The cafe has continued adding more compostable "plastic" and paper products for all of our single-use and to-go items. Even our mesh tea bags are made of corn and fully compostable!"–Justin Souther and Hannah Campbell, Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC
"We use paper bags and ask customers if they want a bag, so we don't give them automatically. We've never used plastic bags. We reuse all the cardboard boxes and packing that we can for outgoing shipping to customers, and to publishers for returns. Anything that is not reused is recycled. We recycle newspapers, plastic bottles, cans, mixed paper and anything that we have recycling facilities here for. (Unfortunately no glass facilities here). In our cafe we use real glasses and coffee mugs and only give to-go cups when requested. We do not sell drinks in plastic bottles. If someone wants water, we offer tap water for free or they can buy a boxed water (which we think is expensive---that's the point---but people still buy it). Whenever we change a lightbulb, we switch to LED. We hope to transition to LED overall soon. We keep the thermostat at 68 in winter and 78 in the summer and use ceiling fans. This is a bit warm in the summer for some folks, but hard for me to justify keeping bank temps." –Lyn Roberts, Square Books, Oxford, MS
"We reuse pretty much everything. Boxes, packing material, mailers; honestly I even keep paper clips to reuse. Same with old or damaged books. If I can reuse or repurpose it I will - mostly, we do this by passing books along to teachers who use them for crafting or blackout poetry. We have slowly but surely been replacing our fluorescent lights. As the fluorescents around the shop go out we replace with LED. We've made it through about two thirds of the lights and are seeing savings in our electric bill as well. We also replaced two A/C units with more efficient ones. Our electricity bill was down by 25% last year over the previous year so we are seeing a financial impact.
We don't offer any incentives to customers who bring in their own bag but we do try to nudge individuals away from the single use bags, mostly by asking if they "need" a bag rather than assuming that they do. Using the word "need" is quite key here. When you ask if someone 'needs' a bag they often realize that they do not; if you ask if they would 'like' a bag, they nearly always would. We also offer paper rather than plastic bags. We do have plastic bags, but use them infrequently. And boxes are always available for those purchasing many books.
We don't incentivize employees walking to work as they all live in the next town (we are rural-suburban). However, being able to walk to work was a big factor in the purchase of our own home. We also keep a pitcher of cold water in the fridge - some people will not drink it because the water comes from the tap, but it has been pretty effective in keeping employees from bringing in single use water bottles. Our community is not very environmentally minded so these kinds of changes are not championed. Our thinking is that we can model good behaviors and hope for the best." –Michelle Cavalier, Cavalier House Books, Denham Springs, LA
"Instead of bottled water, we offer authors and other guests a glass and a pitcher of cold water. We keep a donation jar for local non-profits at each register, and add a nickel whenever a customer chooses not to use one of our QRB bags. We've been doing that for about 2 1/2 years, and customers tend to donate a lot of their change, too. We place recycling cans near all workspaces, including the register and break rooms." –Lisa Poole and Sarah Goddin, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC
"Before retiring, I ran chemical plants, and I am an engineer so I try to stay up on these areas. LED lighting is great, just remember to check the color as a lot of it is very white. I like 4000 to 5000k, but I believe 3500k is recommended for book stores. LED has a good return on investment. Solar on its own is just not worth the investment. Check your local governments and utility for incentives. Some places have incentives that can make solar almost worth doing. We have been offering bags and about 10% don't want one."–Dean Swift, Swift Books, Orangeburg, SC