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Birding Business

birding business

This month’s bird

The Hairy Woodpecker

Becoming a Successful "Green-tailer"

Get from here to there with baby steps

AS A CONSCIENTIOUS RETAILER IN THE BIRDING BUSINESS, you’re probably offering feeders and bird houses of recycled materials, providing environmentally sound choices to the best of your ability, and supporting your customers in learning about and appreciating nature. How can you move toward an even greener business model?  Whether you’re ready to move in a big way or just want to test the waters, here are some ideas – large and small – for “greentailing” success.

Customer touch-points and “In-House” ideas

Bags – In California most grocery stores now charge a small fee for plastic bags and give credits or discounts to those who bring their own bags.  An increasing number of retailers nationwide are expected to adopt similar strategies as communities consider a ban on plastic bags. One option is to consider selling lightweight reusable totes marked with your store name, of course, for a nominal fee. Big box chain stores such as Target have jumped on this concept and their reusable totes (usually $1/bag) are available at every check out stand.

Paper – Of course the easiest way to cut back on paper is to use email for updates, flyers, coupons and newsletters.  Some retailers even offer to email receipts to save on paper. But even when paper is necessary you can cut back on some of it. For example, design your flyers as postcards (4 postcards to a standard-size sheet of paper) or as bookmarks (3 to 4 to a sheet).

Decrease your in-house waste by providing washable cups and mugs for employees. Utilize both sides of paper for in-house use, and shred your used paper to cushion packages for shipping.

Consider the environment when purchasing supplies. Purchase green cleaning products, and use only recycled paper and ink cartridges. Office Max and Staples offer money-saving incentives for recycling your used ink cartridges.

Electricity – Take control of your in-store electrical use!

• A simple place to start is to make a checklist of all your electric and electronic devices and turn them off when not in use.

• Adjust the AC from, say, 72 degrees to 75 degrees and save money.

• Invest in LED lights to spotlight areas or products rather than energy guzzling halogens. LEDs come in a variety of bulbs that may fit your existing fixtures. They cost pennies to operate and outlast conventional bulbs. Moreover, compared with CFLs, LEDs don’t contain mercury, thus making disposal safer and “greener.” (For more information see the article “LED vs CFL” by Michael G. Richard on www.treehugger.com reporting the results of recent comparative studies on light bulb energy.)

• Consider putting in solar panels. Solar power is going mainstream. For instance, the nationwide company Home Depot not only offers installation of solar panels, it will handle the permit process, tax credits, and interface with your power company. Looking into the future of solar, a San Jose, California, solar power company is developing large-scale solar power plants, and reports, “On California’s central coast, for instance, SunPower is building a 250-megawatt photovoltaic farm that will supply electricity to Pacific Gas and Electric” (NY Times, Feb. 11, 2010).

• Monitor and share the utility usage on your bills to show the benefits of your energy conservation and inspire your employees and customers alike.
Marketing – Don’t let your green status go unnoticed!

• First of all, make sure your message is clear and consistent. Whatever steps you take, your employees as well as your customers should know they come from your commitment to greening.

• Tell Your Story. What excites you most about going green? Why are you inspired to care about the environment?  Share your personal pivot point -- the birth of a child or the beauty of a hiking trip, a sunset . . . a particular experience that led you into the nature business. Explain why you care and how that plays out in your life.

• Don’t exaggerate what you’re doing – keep it simple and truthful, but share your ideas and plans for the future. Invite input and feedback from the community and your customers.

• Explain the benefits of conservation and greening in a positive and upbeat way. Stay away from doom and gloom images – you don’t need them in order to excite and motivate your customers to care. In fact, doom and gloom can be counterproductive – your customers want to feel good about the choices you offer them and know that they’re contributing to a better future by patronizing your business.

• Join or create a green team by partnering with local or national green non-profit groups. Consider including information about your greening efforts at special events like Earth Day celebrations or on-going activities like bird-walks.

The “eco-lifestyle” is hip and exciting, but going green is a journey. Technology is changing and growing greener every year. You can feel proud about the steps – large or small – that you’re taking!