Sustainability Series: Retail

Posted on Thursday, April 4, 2019 by Amy Liston1 comment

Welcome to the third and final part of our Sustainability Series in the hospitality industry; having covered restaurants and hotels, it is now time to see what changes we can make within retail.

From clothing stores, supermarkets and independent shops, we can all find ways to go a bit more sustainable and eco-friendly.  So, what can we do as consumers, employers and employees?


Two Paper Tote Bags

One of the first things to do is to try and go paperless; did you know that receipts don’t just cost money but also the environment?   A study shows that around 250 million gallons of oil, 10 million trees and 1 billion gallons of water are used each year to create receipts, and that’s only in America! 

The UK produce around 11 billion receipts per annum, but many stores have taken the steps to cut that number down.  In stores like New Look, they have started sending digital receipts to customer’s emails and giving them the option to print a receipt if they want a physical copy.

When it comes to packaging and bags, try to convert to paper bags rather than plastic when able to.  Replace the small plastic bags at fruit and veg sections with small paper bags; and even better, encourage your customers to bring their own paper and cotton bags with them too.


Try to find alternative packaging’s for your products; if you have items in plastic pouches, why not change to a small paper pouch instead.  For produce, try to keep your items together with less plastic by keeping them in cardboard or wooden boxes.

Thailand introduced banana leaf packaging, secured by a string of bamboo.  Banana leaves are thick, large and can easily be folded.  This is a useful thing to consider if locally sourced, however local biodegradable options in your areas would still be great alternatives!

Locally Sourced Material

Reduce your carbon footprint by sourcing the items you need locally, whether it is food, packaging or clothes, there will always be something nearby that can bring you one step closer to an environmentally friendly store! It also brings a sense of community to your area and stores, making it somewhere people would want to shop at.

Not only can you locally source items, but you can help those looking too.  For example, you can join up with companies like FreeShare, where you can give them food that would otherwise go to waste and they will redistribute it around the UK and give it to charities, community groups and those in need of a proper meal.  If you are doing a refurbishment, you could see if anyone nearby needs the items you don’t.

In retail, we can see a lot go to waste, and though we can’t change that overnight, the best way to start is by having these conversations.

Transparency and Encouragement

Feedback Text Illustration

As mentioned earlier, the best way to start is by talking and seeing what we can do collectively.  Teach your employees how to be more sustainable; encourage them to use reusable items in store, get them to encourage shoppers to use digital receipts and tell them why, and maybe those customers will go home and tell their friends and family about new sustainable ways. 

Tell your consumers about your mission to become sustainable and ask for feedback, work with your customers and see if they have any suggestions.  After all, pointing out that you’re making efforts to become sustainable will give your customers the chance to become more sustainable themselves by supporting your business!


Have you got any other recommendations?  Would you like to see more content about sustainability in the hospitality industry?  If so, please let us know in the comments!

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1 comment on "Sustainability Series: Retail"

  • Ganesh says: 22 April 2019 at 11:09

    Need to ban plastics and its usage. It needs its own time, but has to be initiated from our end to make a change.

    Recommendations for re-usability will include needles or syringes or any other tools for that matter which can be achieved through sterilization and making medical tools specifically that are suitable for re-usability

    This blog explains all the solutions for a eco friendly system beautifully, that if implemented even in a slow phase will be beneficial for the entire living things on this planet.