The beginning of my junior year, I was absolutely delighted when I heard that one of my favorite stores was opening a block away from the Main Quad — Urban Outfitters
. I was even more delighted when I walked in the store and realized that this particular branch, along with the chain, had been making several green improvements.
As I was checking out one day with my new purchase, a floral top that I got for $5 (yes, be jealous), the manager asked me if I needed a plastic bag for the item. Seeing as I try to skip plastic at all times and I had my entirely-too-large hobo bag with me, I passed.
"Great," said Beth Kopcke, store manager. "The store is really making an effort to be more eco-friendly."
She had me at "plastic bag."
The chain has made a huge effort within the past few years to up their green status, which completely fits in with their earthy vibe. They have cut back on shipping procedures, plastic bags, paper cups and even display materials.
"There is a huge opportunity fo us to cut down on that type of stuff (shipping and packaging)," says Kopcke.
Some of you may have unconsciously noticed the fantastic wood displays the store uses for odd knick-knacks, to hold the latest shoes, or to precariously perch a book on. At the Champaign store, a little extra construction and the reuse of wood makes for the perfect display.
"We definitely reuse wood for our displays," says Kopcke. "It cost money to buy materials all the time anyway. The first motivation is to save wood; the second is to save money. We always go to Paca [a salvage warehouse] because it's free ... we have to clean things up ... but then we reap the benefits."
Funny she should mention money. As she described several of the store's procedures, I noticed a common trend. Going green actually saves you money. Put the lights on timers, save money. Reuse mugs instead of plastic cups, save money. Use both sides of a piece of paper, save money. All of these clever tricks are used by the local store.
The biggest and easiest changes: shipping and cleaning supplies.
"We have changed our shipping methods and we don't ship as much," says Kopcke. "For our cleaning products we use containers and tablets. They [corporate] are pretty aggressive about implementing this."
All these changes seem more than easy. It got me thinking, what are the five easiest ways for a store to green itself.
Put all lights on timers to save energy and money on that insane electric bill.
Offer your customers the option of going bagless. Do you really need a huge paper bag for that electric blue nail polish?
Recycle, recycle, oh, and recycle. When I worked in retail, it annoyed more than anything when my fellow employees would toss large paper bags. I would have used those!
Decorating the place with reused materials, such as wood, and eco-friendly materials, such as VOC-free paint.
For all the things you need to print — pesky corporate notes, weekly schedules, shipment information, receipts, and employee notes — use both sides of the paper.
Sure, I stole these ideas from Urban, but it doesn't mean they don't work. Now, if only we could get the garbage pits that are the Champaign-Urbana bars to learn how to reduce, reuse and recycle! In the meantime, I will just admire Urban's efforts to help the planet.
Not only has Urban stole my closet's heart, but it has won over the tree-hugger inside of me.