Being kind to the environment has become something of a badge of honour, but while the supermarkets have millions of pounds to spend on improving their green credentials, being eco-friendly isn't out of the convenience retailer's reach - and it could actually save you money, too. Not only that, showing your commitment to all things eco-friendly will earn you valuable brownie points with consumers, who are increasingly concerned about saving the planet.
Tesco's green Clubcard points, Sainsbury's environmentally friendly carrier bag, Asda's new energy efficient store, or M&S's five-year £200m eco-plan are all good for their image, but there's no getting away from the fact that supermarkets by their nature - out-of-town developments producing huge amounts of waste and selling food that's travelled far and wide - can never be truly environmentally friendly, however many millions they spend on marketing to convince us otherwise.
Local shops, on the other hand, are a different story. Last year Friends of the Earth launched its Shop Local First campaign, aimed at raising awareness of the benefits of using independent shops and to get consumers to shift at least some of their shopping back to them. Part of the campaign stresses the environmental reasons for supporting local shops.
Vicki Hird, food campaigner at Friends of the Earth, says: "Although it's hard to imagine persuading many families to switch all their food shopping from the supermarket to the high street, a shift to locals for top-up shopping could still reduce car travel. People are increasingly making return trips to big supermarkets to do top-up shopping they could do in a local shop."
The charity claims that local shops are also more energy efficient than big supermarkets. An average big supermarket emits three times more carbon dioxide per square foot than an average greengrocer's shop, and it would take more than 60 greengrocers to match the carbon dioxide emissions from a single average superstore, according to research into energy use in UK non-domestic buildings by Sheffield Hallam University.
"Food miles also contribute to carbon dioxide emissions and the rise in supermarkets has been clearly linked to a rise in food transported in the UK," adds Hird. "Supermarkets also generate vast quantities of waste - both in terms of packaging and wasted food - and fresh produce is often rejected because it doesn't meet the supermarkets' cosmetic standards."
The following pages will give you a taster of the sort of things you can do to improve your green credentials further. From improving your store's energy efficiency to making recycling pay, this Green Issue should give you some food for thought.
Protect your profits
Saving the planet should be a good enough reason to cut down on your energy consumption, but if you're not convinced by the environmental argument, try this - you'll be saving yourself a lot of money into the bargain.
Last year retailers were hit by an unprecedented double whammy: a massive hike in energy prices and soaring summer temperatures, which placed huge demands on chiller cabinets, freezers and air-conditioning equipment. The autumn's bills came as an electric shock to thousands of small business owners.
With the electricity providers warning that a return to previous pricing levels is unlikely, because the majority of our power comes from natural resources which are becoming more and more scarce, c-store owners will need to cut their own consumption to keep their bills under control.
Convenience Store has found that this might not be as difficult as it sounds. C-stores need heating, lighting, air conditioning and refrigeration, all at the same time, and often in competition with each other, but in many cases it is only a matter of awareness which is preventing store owners making significant bottom-line savings by reducing the amount of energy they consume.
Over the next few issues we will be looking at ways to slash those power bills in a series of features under the Protect Your Profits banner. We will reveal energy-saving tips around the store, the latest technology which can save you money, and how measuring your power consumption is key to managing it.
Protect your Profits will highlight the financial advantages of an environmental approach - good for the planet, but good for the wallet, too.