Retailers Learn to Go Green

Green is the undisputed buzzword of the moment. Businesses from automotive to plumbing to, of course, fashion and jewelry, are “going green”—working to create a culture of environmental responsibility—in an effort to safeguard the earth. While the jewelry industry has much work to do before proclaiming itself completely eco-friendly, many jewelers are taking preliminary steps, such as conservation and recycling, toward environmental responsibility. The following is a summary of how some of your retail and manufacturing peers are helping to save the earth.

Recycling Many jewelry stores that JCK interviewed claimed to recycle a multitude of materials, including paper, cardboard boxes, plastic, ink cartridges, aluminum, and more. “We’re doing little things, nothing monumental,” says Rick McElvaine, president, Maxon’s Diamond Merchants, Springfield, Mo.

For Steve Rambo, president, Steve Rambo Fine Jewelry, Boise, Idaho, vigilance includes recycling batteries instead of throwing them in the trash; ditto for Signet and Zales.

Stuart Benjamin, president, Stuart Benjamin Jewelry Designs, San Diego, aims to step up recycling efforts in his store and some others in his mall-based location—if only neighboring merchants would pitch in. Few have utilized paper recycling receptacles in the mall’s mailroom. “It worked for a little while, but then people stopped using it,” he says.

Low-energy lighting Other green-minded efforts include replacing incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent ones, as Mark Callis, president, Bichsel Jewelry, Sedalia, Mo., did. So did Benjamin and McElvaine, as well as Zales.

“We just switched over this year to better lighting, and it was a good business decision,” says McElvaine. “We replaced three fixtures with a single fixture, which improved the store’s appearance with a white light and reduced heat output.”

Luxury brand Chopard even installed 18-foot-high ultraviolet-light-filtering windows that deflect heat into its recently renovated New York store.

Waste reduction In the last two years, Dallas-based Zales has taken steps to conserve energy at its headquarters. For example, the firm replaced inefficient 400- and 600-ton air conditioning units called chillers with more efficient models, and installed a computerized energy management system that monitors and controls temperature.

Ardella Percy, store manager at Steve Rambo Fine Jewelry, is environmentally conscious at work and home, and sometimes her efforts overlap. Such is the case with the store’s daily newspaper subscription. Percy reads it along with other staffers, then brings it home to her husband and recycles it after he reads it. Benjamin publishes a bimonthly newsletter that’s printed on recycled paper.

Some jewelers, including Callis and Percy, drive fuel-efficient vehicles to reduce toxic emissions, and Percy walks to work. Jennifer MacLeod, president, Jennifer MacLeod Appraisals LLC, Mobile, Ala., combines trips when running errands. “I used to not pay attention and just go out for one reason,” she says.

Environmental campaigns William P. Zundel Jr., president, Zundel’s Jewelry, Mobile, Ala., works with local group Mobile Baykeeper to clean up Mobile Bay, the body of water in which he fishes. “Last Labor Day weekend, I cut myself [while fishing] and ended up in the hospital for three days on intravenous antibiotics to treat cellulitis,” he says. Now he’s helping to eliminate the pollution that taints the water and caused his illness.

Percy participates in a program called Xeriscape, which aims to conserve water in the western United States through creative landscaping and planting drought-proof vegetation. For example, Percy is replacing the Kentucky bluegrass in her yard with gold yarrow and a native species of sage. She also has planted crab-apple trees and blue-berry bushes, which provide year-round food for birds (and home owners), and she regularly composts vegetable and fruit scraps.

Other ways to be green Sometimes environmental responsibility simply means making more informed choices. Chopard, for example, used renewable bamboo in its renovated store. Other jewelers turn off overhead lights at home and work when leaving certain rooms, buy energy-efficient appliances, and use desk lights and ceiling fans instead of powerful overhead lights and air conditioners. Signet installed moisture sensors in its irrigation system to conserve water, and Benjamin uses drip irrigation at home and cleans with Simple Green products.