Green Initiatives from Popular Retailers

by Guest Writer

Major retailers have not been known for being the most eco-friendly, but in recent years it seems that many are voluntarily taking green steps. Some of them are taking baby steps and others are making more noticeable leaps. I find it interesting that sometimes they are looking for customers to help, bringing attention awareness of their efforts, while others quietly do what’s best for the environment going mostly unnoticed. Whatever they choose, I think it’s wonderful that large companies are taking steps to protect the planet for future generations.

While working on this article, I contacted a number of retailers and the one who got back to me the quickest was Toys R Us. What they communicated was really impressive. While they are not one of the retailers who asks the consumer to get involved, Toys R Us does a lot on their own. Just this past August, they completed a 5.38 megawatt solar rooftop power installation at their largest distribution center, located in Flanders, NJ. The rooftop ranks as the largest solar rooftop installation nationwide. That’s enough electricity to power 532 homes annually! In addition, Toys R Us is installing solar rooftops to their stores nationwide and using that energy to run the stores. So far two rooftop installations have been completed—both in New Jersey. When I shop at Toys R Us now, I feel like I’m supporting a company that is truly looking out for our kids’ future—not just today by providing toys. While shopping at Toys R Us, you can browse the eco-friendly items they sell.

Digital receipts seem to be one of the new things many retailers are now offering. If you’re like me, your keychain has more rewards cards on it than it does keys. Most of those rewards cards have your email address linked to it, so if you swipe that card when you check out, the store already has your email. Many times, the cashier will also ask you for your email address at checkout (along with a slew of other questions—why do they need my phone number?). All kidding aside, when you make a purchase at Sears, Kmart, Gap or Old Navy, you are now given the option to either have a receipt printed at the register or have your receipt emailed to you. If you have the receipt emailed, then you are cutting down on wasted paper, but I think it also gives you a great opportunity to organize. I’m notorious for losing receipts, but by having them emailed to me, I’m able to create a folder in my email account dedicated to store receipts. It will make for much simpler returns, and I will be able to check receipts from anywhere as long as I have internet access.

Target is one of those companies that has taken a few steps to get consumers involved in their environmental attitude, but the larger steps are more “behind-the-scenes.” While you may know that Target credits you five cents for each reusable bag you use, and you may notice recycling stations in your local Target store, there’s a lot more you may not be aware of. For example, according to the company’s corporate website, 70% of materials are reused, recycled or rethought, instead of their previous fate—the landfill. Additionally, as Target enters more populated metropolitan areas, their focus has been on redeveloping “environmentally impaired” properties. The redevelopment of these sites is based on an understanding of the environmental conditions and solutions that meet clean-up standards.  While Toys R Us has been installing solar roofs, Target has been creating “green” roofs in four of their Chicago stores. These roofs have a thin layer of soil with hardy plants growing from them. These “green” roofs are especially helpful in metropolitan areas at filtering air pollutants, but they also soak up storm water and help with temperature fluctuations.

These are just a few of the retailers where you may want to shop this holiday season in order to support their eco-friendly actions. I also think it would be good to send emails to their corporate offices letting them know one reason you’ve chosen to make your purchases from them is because you want to support their green initiatives. When these large companies realize that consumers truly are looking for retailers who have an eco-conscience, they will continue their efforts and hopefully broaden them. This is something we owe to our children. It’s not just about what we buy for them this holiday season—it’s about buying it from environmentally responsible places.

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