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  • Verity Gray

3 Ways To Make Your Retail Interior More Sustainable

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

Since the pandemic, nearly 1 in 3 consumers claim to have stopped purchasing from certain brands because they had ethical or sustainability related concerns about them. It’s more important than ever for retailers to make sure they are as sustainable as they can be. An effective retail interior should reflect the brand’s values, and there are many simple ways to make a retail interior more sustainable.

Shopfitting is renowned for creating a lot of waste as retailers need to adapt and change to suit their customer’s needs. However, if sustainability is considered right from the start– in the initial design phase, then sustainable practices will be easier to maintain.

Here are the 3 main ways to make your retail space more sustainable through the initial design phase.

1. Material Choices

When choosing finishes for your interior scheme, the key is to think about the life cycle of the material. Firstly consider how the material is made (recycled or natural materials create the least environmental impact). Then think about how the material will be delivered (it may be a great eco product, but if the material needs to be imported from the other side of the World then it’s carbon footprint is going to be far from ideal). Next think about how it will be installed or used. Choose eco alternatives to adhesives and sealants. Finally, think how the material will be disposed of when you no longer need it. It’s about the circular economy.

There are some amazing recycled sheet materials on the market these days. Check out smile plastics smile plastics who manufacture sheet plastic from waste products (I particularly love ‘Ocean’ which is made from recycled plastic packaging). Plasticiet is also worth checking out.

Foresso is another favourite company of mine, they produce timber terrazzo sheet made from waste material. Recycled plastic furniture is also widely available.

Yarnton Home & Garden use sustainably designed plastic chairs in their café which look really stylish.

Recycled metal is a sustainable choice for shop fittings. Not only does it have an edgy industrial look, but metal can also be recycled repeatedly without degradation of its properties.

Other sustainable materials to consider are ceramic tiles and terrazzo that have pre- or post-consumer recycled content in it. Consider natural materials like cork, jute, and wicker. I recently found a basket maker who was local to a farm shop that I was designing the interior for. The basket maker uses locally sourced willow. Commissioning the basket maker to create large feature light shades to hang over the counter, not only supported another local small business, but is a great example of using local sourced natural materials in an interior scheme.

Timber isn’t a sustainable choice upon first use. However, reclaimed wood gives the material a new life and can keep being reused and recycled. Reclaimed timber can be easily obtained and can look fantastic as cladding to a coffee shop counter. Try

2. Limit Waste

Shopfitting is renowned for creating a lot of waste, minimising the amount that is sent to landfill from your initial fit out is an obvious good place to start. A large proportion of construction waste can be recycled. Unwanted or outdated shop fit can be sold on. Be aware of packaging and order from suppliers that have recyclable packaging.

The next stage is to look at the waste created in the day to day running of your business.

Recyclable packaging is an obvious quick win. Going a step further with packaging can also create a marketing tool for your brand as well. I worked with Bliss Mill Studio (a ceramics studio in Chipping Norton) with their branding and packaging last year. They now partner with another local business, Mark’s Cotswold Bakery, and have found a clever packaging solution. The bakery gives Bliss Mill Studio their unwanted flour sacks, which are then used to package all online sales, addressing some of the waste issues for two businesses at the same time.

3 . Minimise Carbon Emissions

Keeping the carbon emissions in mind when making design choices will help keep the operation of your retail interior as environmentally friendly as possible. Ultimately, this is about making sure your shop has everything it needs to run efficiently but still minimising your carbon footprint over time. Selecting the most appropriate equipment during the design process will make sure you have the balance right between running your business smoothly and minimising energy consumption.

Lighting is a key area of the design that can make a big difference to the energy your retail business uses. LED light bulbs are 70% more efficient than regular bulbs and using timers and dimmers will considerably reduce energy. Did you know that having occupancy sensors in toilets and stockrooms could reduce lighting energy used by 50%?

If you offer a delivery service, have a look at the mode of transport. The Village Refill use a solar charged electric vehicle for their deliveries. This obviously has great sustainability credentials, but also works as a great marketing tool as it drives around the local villages.

How can you make your retail interior more sustainable? If you would like to chat about any ideas or would like some more advice, then get in touch.

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