Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22. Worldwide, various events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. And you may think that this event has nothing to do with shoppers always looking for the best deals and retailers hoping to meet their desires, while offering the best user experience.
One decade ago, on the eve of celebrating Earth Day, Walmart issued a consumer research that showed shoppers were considering the environment before making a purchase.
Reusable and refillable options are the wave of the future
The growing number of cities across the world joining the movement to ban or heavily tax the use of plastic bags has grown significantly in the last two years. For instance, in the US, “Hawaii and California have statewide plastic bag bans, with several other cities having either mandatory recycling programs, or taxes on plastic bag use”. In 2018, in the UK, supermarket plastic bag usage dropped by 86% and there are now campaigns “calling for charges on plastic bottles and disposable coffee cups in the hope of producing a similar effect”.
“Modern-day coffee containers increasingly contribute to the mountain of plastic that's ending up in landfills”, USA TODAY reported. As such, Scotland banned single-use coffee cups in government buildings earlier in 2018, encouraging staff to bring their own cups for takeaways. Moreover, in an attempt to become more environmentally friendly, Hamburg banned coffee pods from government-run buildings, while coffee company Nespresso partnered with CollectPlus to launch a coffee pod recycling program in multiple countries, encouraging customers to drop off empty pods at collection points.
Also, many coffee outlets offer discounts to customers who bring their own reusable cups or tumblers. In November 2018, before Christmas, Starbucks launched in selected stores across EMEA a red reusable cup to enable customers enjoy the festive red cup spirit whilst also claiming their discount off any drink they purchase in store. Today, eco-conscious companies are looking to combine the convenience of single-serve coffee with the quality of a specialty brew with teabag-like packaging available through a subscription service. Steeped Coffee , for instance, is taking this approach. Overall, with the help of the subscription economy, coffee companies are looking to offer an alternative to pods with the promise of convenience and environmental friendliness.
Building sustainable ‘smart shopping streets’
Could city sidewalks generate the energy that powers streetlights? According to Pavegen Systems, a technology company that has developed paving slabs to convert energy from people's footsteps into small amounts of electrical power, yes, they could. The project was first trailed in June 2017 on Bird Street, a quiet and relatively traffic-free road adjacent to Oxford Street in London's West End neighborhood. When visitors stroll down Bird Street, a tiled path down the center of the street captures energy from their steps and generates power to trigger soundscapes of chirping birds and nighttime light displays along the avenue.
The energy produced by the tiled array, which measures 20 square meters, also powers low-energy Bluetooth transmitters embedded in the pathway. The transmitters interact with mobile apps that provide shoppers with data about steps taken and how much energy those steps produce; what’s more, their steps also deliver vouchers and discounts for a variety of pop-up shops along the street.
Sustainability will be a major focus for many retailers in 2019
Merchants have started to improve on their practices to ensure that they are packing, selling, and delivering products in ways that aren’t harmful to the environment or to society.
As issues like climate change, plastic pollution, endangered species become bigger threats, consumers have undoubtedly become more mindful of their purchases and, as a result, have started to align themselves with businesses that support their values. So, it’s clear that consumers prefer sustainable brands. A report published by Shelton Group found that 64% of consumers are likely to buy from companies that stand for social issues. Moreover, according to Nielsen’s 2015 Global Corporate Sustainability Report, 66% of consumers would spend more on a product if it came from a sustainable brand.