If you’ve seen a skip filled with waste next to a shop recently, there’s a good chance it’s having a fit out. But, did you happen to ponder the environmental impact of it? Probably not – and shop owners are guilty of that too.

While the retail sector has come a long way with its recycling and reuse practices, fit outs are often overlooked on the sustainability checklist. “Getting the job done” takes precedence for businesses that need customers through the door.

This is understandable.

However, consumers are increasingly environmentally conscious and shopfitting like any other area has the potential to turn a corner. Best of all, this can be done without affecting project cost. It won’t cost you anything extra.

There are three areas to consider with sustainable shop fitting:

  1. Materials
  2. Waste
  3. Carbon

In this article, we’ll discuss fitting out a new shop in a sustainable way with tips on how to go about it. Read on to find out more.

 

Materials

When selecting materials for a fit out, it’s important to consider the material’s whole lifecycle. This way, we can choose the most sustainable materials based on how they are made, delivered, installed and disposed of in the future.

This process will also help you reduce costs since you will be more informed about the options available to you. Armed with the right information, you can choose the most cost-effective and sustainable material for the job.

Here are some tips to help you:

  • Specify materials made from recycled materials. This will significantly lower the environmental impact of your fit out. Examples include chipboard, concrete, tiles made from recycled plastic and fixings made from recycled metals.
  • Specify locally reclaimed and used building materials. These can be found from construction sites, tear-down sites and vendors.
  • Specify materials that can be easily recycled at the end of their life. Most materials can be recycled, including ceramic, porcelain and stone tiles, metals, paper, glass, plastic, wood, bricks, rubble, concrete and plasterboard.
  • Specify high energy, low footprint materials. These are always natural materials. Timber is the best example. Other examples include straw and cork, which are both excellent options for insulation.

We can also go further with materials by delving into the supplier to see if they are certified with an environmental management system like BES6001; ISO 14001 or EMAS.

This will give you an environmental edge when hunting materials by helping you source materials from suppliers who can demonstrate responsible sourcing credentials.

In summary: specify recycled, reclaimed and used construction materials in your fit out. Where new product is needed, use high energy, low footprint materials like wood and materials that are easily recycled at the end of their life. The origin of materials is an important consideration too. One way to ensure responsible sourcing is to use suppliers with certification with an environmental management system.

 

Waste

Fit outs generate large amounts of waste that then need to be disposed of.

Shop fitters would tell you this is unavoidable. While this is true, we can at least minimise the amount of waste that gets sent to landfill.

One way to do this is by insisting on products that are packaged in cardboard and paper. If plastic packaging is unavoidable, then the best you can do is choose a plastic that is widely recycled here in the UK. Low-density polyethylene is a good example (bubble wrap, air-filled packs and plastic films are made from this).

The second aspect of waste is construction waste. It is highly likely your fit out will generate some construction waste. The good news is a wide range of construction materials are recyclable, including ceramic, porcelain and stone tiles, metals, paper, glass, plastic, wood, bricks, rubble, concrete and plasterboard.

In the case of construction waste and building materials, these need to be taken to the local recycling centre and there is usually a fee.

Another way we can reduce waste is by offering reclaimed waste to other people for other projects. So the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and salvaged and reclaimed materials like wood are always in demand.

In summary: waste is inevitable with a shop fit out. The best we can do is minimise the amount that gets sent to landfill. We can make a conscious decision to only accept products that are packed in recyclable packaging, and we can make sure our construction and building waste finds its way to a local recycling centre.

 

Carbon

With your shop fit out you should have two aims with carbon:

  1. To deliver developments that are low carbon in design
  2. To deliver developments that are low carbon in operation

Note: we use the term ‘developments’ as a general descriptor for anything you use in your shop, from your windows and insulation to your coffee machine.

These are important considerations because fit-out design choices directly affect the operational energy requirements of a business. Bad choices now could significantly increase your carbon footprint and your energy bills.

Ultimately, this is about making sure your shop has everything it needs to run efficiently and minimising your carbon footprint over time.

Here are some tips to help you:

  • Understand the impact of design choices on energy efficiency. Whether we’re talking about a radiator underneath a window or a door that doesn’t shut itself, your design choices can directly affect your shop’s energy efficiency.
  • Utilise energy-efficient light bulbs and light solutions. LED light bulbs are on average 70% more efficient than regular bulbs. You can also place your lights on a timer, use a dimmer or even a motion detector to reduce energy consumption.
  • Negotiate a green tariff with energy suppliers. There are plenty of energy suppliers out there who offer green tariffs (tariffs with energy that is renewably sourced). For example, Bulb Energy offers 100% renewable electricity.
  • Use energy efficient equipment. If you use household appliances in your shop, fridge freezers have an EU Energy Label. If you use commercial equipment, then pay attention to kWh ratings. A lower kWh rating means an appliance is more efficient and uses less energy than one with a higher rating.
  • Pay attention to the energy you consume. Have a smart meter installed to monitor your energy consumption and use energy smarter.
  • Upgrade to an electric boiler (and recycle your old one). Every time you use your gas central heating, your carbon footprint increases. For now, there is no viable alternative to gas (biomethane is available, but not readily) so an electric boiler is the answer. When combined with a green electricity tariff, this makes for a carbon-friendly way to heat your shop with central heating.

In summary: the thoughtful planning of a fit-out to reduce carbon emissions requires consideration for design choices and how you will consume energy. Minimising your impact on the environment should be the mindset, and the best way to achieve results is to consider your relationship with energy – where it comes from, how you use it and how much you consume. Improvements are possible across this chain.

 

Want to know more?

Hopefully, this guide has given you a solid introduction to fitting out a new shop in a sustainable way. If you’d like to find out more, we’re here to help. Contact us on 0333 050 8419 or email us at [email protected].