Local shops often provide a range of services to a local community that go way beyond simply selling goods. As many people have pointed out, switching at least some of your shopping away from the supermarkets helps small retailers survive – but it can also be one of a number of ways that communities and local shops can work together to conserve energy.
One of the most obvious ways comes in terms of food miles – the measure of how far food travels before it reaches our tables. The big supermarkets have often been criticised for flying and shipping their goods into the country over large distances, transporting them further still by road from centralised depots and distribution centres and then encouraging us to add to the total by driving them home.
Even if smaller local shops also get their products from a distance, many of their customers will be able to avoid adding the car journey carbon emissions to the overall tally, while for those which source their fresh food locally, the energy efficiency is even better. Moreover, the more people use their local shops, the more likely the shop owners are to be receptive to requests for more local produce, which in turn brings even more benefits to the local economy – so everybody wins!
With so much of our food transported such a long way from the producer to our plates – adding up to an annual total of more than 20 billion miles – the problem is a serious one. Any attempt to reduce the amount of fuel energy involved has to be worthwhile – and it makes economic sense as well as environmentally.
Local shops, like any other business, need to make a profit to survive – and one way to do this is by cutting costs. If you can involve local shop-keepers in your drive to conserve energy by showing them a few low-cost ways to reduce their energy bills, not only will you win yourself a few friends, but you’ll also have a very public showcase for the benefits of energy saving. You’ll probably also find some willing windows for any posters or adverts too!
If there are DIY shops or hardware stores in the area, they should be natural allies for any energy efficiency project. It’s worth speaking to the owners very early on in the planning of any community scheme since a local stockist of energy saving bulbs, timers and other energy saving devices can be worth its weight in gold when it comes to getting the ball rolling. Even the local toy shop can play its part by stocking a few solar powered toys from the huge range now available.
If you let them know soon enough, they can be ready to meet demand when it comes; there are few things more frustrating for zealous would-be energy savers than to find that a shop doesn’t stock what they want – or for a local shop-keeper than to miss out on a sale. A bit of forethought is all it takes to turn this into another win-win situation.
Local shops can form the lifeblood of a community and the gradual erosion of small independent retailers from our high streets and villages is something that most people lament. When it comes to energy projects, clearly it’s vital to involve as many sectors of the community as possible – and the unique position of local shops makes them obvious candidates to be brought on-board as soon as possible. There are gains to be made in terms of energy saving from doing so, of course, but in many ways the social benefits to the community itself may be every bit as important and long-lasting.