Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Saving energy on a supermarket sweep

A couple of weeks ago I attended a sponsored bloggers lunch at a sustainable restaurant in West Hampstead to mark the launch of Sainsbury's consumer energy-saving initiative, in conjunction with British Gas.

British Gas and Sainsbury's had already partnered to offer customers gas and electricity services through Sainsbury's Energy but the buzz of the day or indeed that week was the launch of a new range of products and services that can actually save their customers energy while they shop!

Yes I know, I too have got that same image of busy customers flocking to Sainsbury's and being wafted with natural fans and fruity cocktails, while the fresh young interns do the supermarket dash to fullfil that part of their training programme, leaving them suitably recharged to go about the rest of their business.  Ok, only in my own dreams then!

Cutting back to the real world, what we are really talking about here is a prime opportunity to help shoppers become more sustainable in their energy usage, through new services such as home insulation, solar panels and energy monitors.  This stuff that is normally reserved for the mysterious world of eco or sensible- living enthusiasts has finally made it onto a mainstream supermarket floor.

With six permanent energy centres and one mobile unit, Sainsbury's customers will be able to get advice instore whilst picking up their weekly shopping, and for many, their starting point will be to book a home-assessment to calculate their current energy rating.  Of course, customers are rewarded with a range of Nectar points for any of the services and products they choose.

Now what I find quite interesting about all this, is not the service offering itself...  (despite the urgency for us all to save energy due to issues of peak oil and climate change, I'm afraid that the subject doesn't quite float my daily boat)...but more so the increased opportunities that supermarkets have in influencing consumer behaviour.

With so many shoppers dependent on their local supermarkets for the bulk of their shopping, it makes sense that such major retailers can offer a range of services to help consumers become greener.  The more profitable the service is to a retailer, the more it can expand and deliver the message, and the more customers there will be sat at home saving energy and benefiting from reduced fuel bills. 

Now being one of life's dreamers, during the last couple of weeks, I've let my thoughts wander in a rather frivulous direction about the power that supermarkets have to influence consumer action and how they can actively raise awareness to help customers keep their green halos polished to a sparkle.  And I have to admit, I've seen some great examples on the Sainsbury's website about what they're doing in the particular area that does get me very excited... i.e..reducing waste.

And in this sector (with the exception of some understandable localised disappointment) Sainsbury's generally seems to be stepping up to the mark on strategic waste reduction initiatives, including reducing product packaging, leading a UK based  mixed plastics recycling trial and diverting food waste from landfill through donating surplus food to Fareshare, before even considering solutions such as anaerobic digestion.  The company is also working hard on its stock control and forecasting to reduce surplus food in the first place.

I suppose the only key things on my wish list that aren't yet fulfilled are comprehensive onsite Tetra Pak recycling banks for customers to return the ubiquitous carton in areas where kerbside collection isn't available.  And I also think that supermarkets should give their support to washable nappies and sanitary products too, to help raise wider awareness that convenient products are available in our disposable oriented culture.

But coming back to the subject of energy you don't need to be a Sainsbury's Energy customer to add loft insulation to your basket of energy-saving solution or any of their other products for that matter, but if you want to convert, bear in mind that their Green Energy solution is not available yet.  Apparently it's in the pipeline (what a relevant turn of phrase) and won't be long.  For the moment the energy-saving products are the priority.

And finally, if you're a Sainsbury's customer and you haven't done so already, you might find it useful to hunt down the low energy lightbulb recycling bank. Apparently, news on the street is that there's now a bank in every store, making it a convenient solution to recycling your energy-saving bulbs.  And you can tell how long it's been since I've popped down to our local supermarket.  I took a tourist snap for my memoirs and made a mental note that it's another service that's closer to home than my household waste recycling centre..it's just a shame I forgot to take my bulbs while I was passing.  Oh well, no-one's perfect!  Maybe next time eh!

Blogger disclosure: the blogger lunch was arranged by PR company TVC, who also covered travel expenses to the event and provided attendees with a range of Sainsbury's products as a thank you for attendance.   This has not influenced the nature of this post or indeed my opinion, as I would have attended anyway and reported back in the same way.  It just means it cost a lot less to get there, I had some food I could cook when I got back and if my hob was electric I could have monitored how much energy I used to cook it!


Unknown said...

Always think it is great when a compnay comes out with an initaive such as this even though teh sceptic in me purses her lips! Wish tehy would hurry up and reduce wastage esp food wastage!!! Makes me want to weep when I see what goes in teh bins at my local Tesco....

Evil Edna said...

aha, I wondered what I was dodging the other day. I do find that even useful info when presented at a supermarket by someone turns me into one of the Rugby playing Rhinos from the sword in the stone film. I will pretend to be Sir Hisssss instead next time and listen smuggly.EE

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi Tattie Weasle, lovely to hear from you...and I totally get it, I battle with the inner sceptic myself lol. I've heard quite a few stories myself about supermarket foodwaste. Saw an interesting video last week too by ITVFixers, an independent youth documentary which revealed that although other big supermarkets have said they support Fareshare, Sainsbury's (at the time of filming) was the only one who had signed up! Crazy isn't it!

LOL Evil Edna...you do paint such a fabulous picture ;0) x

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