As featured on the 10:10 website, Greenshop Group's Jane Powell charts the company's 26-year journey to sustainability.
Believe it or not, our company started life back in 1984 as a petrol station and auto repair shop. But founder Roger Budgeon was already starting to think green. It was the first garage in Gloucestershire to sell unleaded petrol and the first in the UK to sell blended bio-diesel. In 1987 the shop started selling a few eco products alongside the usual drinks, snacks and magazines.
Today, the Greenshop Group consists of of five companies involved in sustainablilty issues and selling environmental products, from books to wood fuel systems. Our new HQ, opened in 2008, was designed by an RIBA Sustainability Award-winning architect. Last year we decided to work our carbon footprint. Much to our delight, it came out at 1.34 tonnes per employee – less than half the national average. To say that we've already come a long way is probably a bit of an understatement!
Because of this, our 10:10 commitment presents a particular challenge. However, I've often said that there's always something more that a business can do to reduce its impact, and this is a perfect opportunity to put it to the test.
Reducing our energy consumption
We minimise our energy demand through high levels of insulation, using vapour permeable building materials to provide good air quality without losing too much heat.
A significant contribution to the electrical load is achieved with the 4.6kw solar PV system. Heating and hot water in our new building is supplied from the Consolar thermal store, this in turn is supplied from a log boiler fuelled with waste wood, solar thermal collectors fitted on the walls. The car workshop is heated by waste oil.
To keep electricity usage down, we wired a master switch in each office, which can turn off everything in one go. This means we don't have to rely on each individual employee remembering to turn their equipment off, and can focus our behaviour change efforts elsewhere.
Green travel policies
We don't just encourage staff to cycle to work – we make it as easy as possible for them to do so, providing a shower on the premises to make sure they can do it comfortably and conveniently despite the hilly surrounding countryside! We are also registered with the government's Cycle to Work scheme, which gives employees big savings on new bikes and makes for a much healthier workforce.
All of our road travel is covered by a small fleet of fuel-efficient vehicles, and a car-sharing scheme allows the non-cyclists to cut the carbon from their commute.
Waste not want not
On the waste front, we've been equally ambitious. Cardboard boxes are reused and all obsolete paperwork is shredded and used for packing for mail order customers. We recycle rainwater from many of the buildings, using it to water the gardens and supply our low-flush toilets. Kitchen waste, meanwhile, goes to our compost bins and wormeries.
Engaging employees, partners and neighbors
We also work hard to get others involved in what we're doing. On-site, we use suggestion boxes and noticeboards to allow staff to help steer our efforts and stay up to date on progress.
Looking further afield, we contact other local businesses, the local community and local councils to see if there are ways that our organisations can work together.
All this might sound complicated, but remember that we'd already done all the easy things. If you're just getting to grips with your carbon footprint, you'll find the first 10% much more straightforward. Whatever your starting point, saving energy and cutting carbon can be an incredibly rewarding challenge.