Vol. 2, 2014: Green Retailers: How Retail Stores and Shopping Malls Can Be Green

Retail stores located on the ground level of condominium buildings, plazas at main intersections, and big box stores less than 15 minutes from our home – these are the retail conveniences we have come to enjoy in today’s society. With all of the advantages that come from urbanization, we must not forget about the challenges it can create for our planet and its resources. It is important for retail owners and customers to be informed on what they can do to be green in order to avoid environmental degradation.

Water Conservation

In Ancient Roman times, public fountains were used for both aesthetic and functional (drinking) purposes. As years passed and water systems became more advanced, water fountains were used for aesthetic purposes.

In the late 60s to early 70s came the popularity of water fountains in shopping malls in North America, which were normally situated on the ground level of a mall. These fountains were and still are not sustainable choices if shopping malls want to protect our resources and cut costs[i]. Because of this, it is no longer common to see fountains at shopping mall within Canada or the United States.


  Kennedy Mall, Dubuque, IA - late 60s early 70sSource: 

 Leakage Reduction

Not only is choosing low flow toilets, urinals, and automatic faucets a great way for retail stores and malls to cut costs and reduce the depletion of our natural resources, it can also extend the life of septic systems and reduce the likelihood of overflowing these systems and creating leaks into lakes and rivers[ii].

Sloan BASYS™ Low Pedestal Faucet (IR) EFX-3XX Series

Toilet and faucet leaks can occur at any given time, especially in older or frequently used plumbing equipment. Leaks are both wasteful and unnecessary, and fixing them requires limited time and money. To ensure that leaks are caught as soon as possible, it is necessary for retailers to emphasize the importance of reporting leaks during the training process and in staff meetings. To reiterate, posting signs in bathrooms and kitchens to help remind staff is also suggested. A small leak of one drop per second can waste about 9,000 litres (2,377.6 gallons) of water per year, which is equivalent to 16 baths every month[iii].

Rainwater Harvesting

Rainwater harvesting, a rainwater collection system, is not only beneficial for homes, schools, and offices, but it can also be used at retail stores and shopping malls.

BRAE Rainwater Harvesting System, Sam’s Club, Fayetteville, Arkansas

Sam’s Club is a membership retail wholesaler that has incorporated rainwater harvesting at their Fayetteville, Arkansas location. The rainwater that is collected by rainwater harvesting is used to supply drip irrigation and cooling mechanical equipment, which in turn reduces the amount of city water needed by 1,500,000 gallons (5,678,117.7 litres) per year[iv].

The following are some benefits of rainwater harvesting for the retail industry[v].

  • Rainwater is free.
  • Lessens the demand on the municipal water supply.
  • Saves money on utility bills.
  • Provides effective stormwater runoff management by diminishing flooding, erosion, and reducing the flow to stormwater drains.
  • Stored water can be used for flushing toilets, urinals, landscaping.
  • Beneficial for irrigation: plants thrive because stored rainwater is pH neutral, with limited amounts of pollutants, salts, minerals, and other natural and manmade contaminants.
  • Harvested rainwater can meet most non-potable water demands, which comprises of about 89% of all water use in a typical office building.
  • Helps achieve LEED® credits under Water Use Reduction, Water Efficient Landscaping, and Storm Water Management.

 Did You Know?

In addition to cutting costs, being a sustainable store or mall can host many amazing benefits, including[vi]:

  • Increasing revenues: Customers will pay up to 10% more for green products (organic, fair trade, or made from recycled content).
  • Finding and keeping great employees: Employees tend to be more motivated if the company that they work for takes care and effort into preserving our planet.
  • Increase your goodwill: Activities like donating to community environmental projects can strengthen and increase support for a company.

 Case Study: Target

A Target washroom in Denver, CO
Source: Unknown

Target, recognized by its white and red bull’s-eye logo, is a retail company that sells items for your family and home. After opening its first US store in 1962, it has become a trusted company for years. Target is serious about sustainability and they have taken great strides to protect our planet since 1968[vii].

The following are just some of the green initiatives that Target has incorporated throughout the years:

1970 – Sponsored the first Earth Day[viii].

2006 – Became a USDA certified organic grocer[ix].

2009 – Introduced a 5-cent incentive program for every time a guest uses a reusable bag[x].

2009 – Began working with EcoSet Consulting on film sets to help make commercial sets more green[xi].

Target Canada

In the US, Target has gained much attention for their many LEED buildings and initiatives. When making their grand entrance in Canada in 2013, Target kept this passion and belief for green design to the north. For their locations in Canada, Target obtained LEED certification through the US Green Building Council’s LEED Volume Program. This program is available to both US and Canada, and streamlines the certification process for multiple buildings of a similar type[xii].

Target, San Rafael, California

In 2013, Target received their first United States Green Council’s LEED Gold certification. Located in San Rafael, California, this Target store is situation on a brownfield development, with breathtaking views of the bay[xiii].

In 2005, when the idea of building a new Target store in San Rafael was introduced, Target was informed that all new buildings in San Rafael needed to earn LEED (building permit applicants are “required to submit a LEED checklist completed by a LEED Accredited Professional as part of their building permit submittals[xiv]”). Target knew this would be a challenge, but achieving LEED Gold would be their ultimate challenge, a challenge that would really display their commitment to the environment to the public[xv].

Great attention was made to not only the building itself, but also to its surrounding environment, and ensuring that wildlife was not disrupted during the construction process[xvi].

The following points are green initiatives that Target’s newest San Rafael store included[xvii]:

  • During construction, waste was minimized and recycled material was used whenever possible.
  • 35% of purchased electrical energy comes from renewable resources such as wind power.
  • The building uses 62% less water than typical LEED baseline buildings.
  • Low flow water closets and urinals are used, in addition to a high HE vacuum waste system.
  • Bike lockers were installed to encourage staff to leave their cars behind.
  • A bus shelter was built adjacent to the store.
  • 17 electrical vehicle charging stations were installed.
  • 22% of the store’s electrical energy comes from a roof-mounted photovoltaic system, which uses the sun to convert into useful energy.

Energy Conservation

With the popularity of  big box stores and the growth and expansion of existing malls, such as Yorkdale Mall in Toronto, Canada, comes the increased use and cost of energy. One of the most economical and sustainable ways to conserve energy is by taking advantage of our natural source of light and installing rooftop solar panels.

Below are additional tips that can be used to reduce energy in malls and retail stores[xviii]:

  • Turn heat down and air conditioning up.
  • Keep lights low in main concourse.
  • Install lower wattage bulbs in malls.
  • Install a natural grass and flower roof, which keeps hot and cold air outside.
  • Install verandahs over shop fronts to avoid the sun from penetrating into stores[xix].


 trespa 1Trespa Meteon Exteriors, Conestoga Mall, Waterloo, Ontario





Material that we once had to throw in the garbage is now becoming recyclable. It is quite common to see larger retail stores incorporate recycling programs, which include bins at the front of their store. There, customers can recycle such items as cell phones and printer cartridges, which will be turned into many useful household items[xx].

In addition, many stores are aiming for LEED certification when building new or renovating by reusing building materials and products and avoiding the use of virgin materials[xxi].

“One point can be earned by using salvaged, refurbished or reused materials, the sum of which constitutes at least 5% (based on cost) of the total value of materials on the project. An additional point can be earned by using at least 10% (based on cost) of the total value of materials on the project (additional point not applicable to Core and Shell Rating System). Material costs for the project can be determined according to CSI MasterFormat 2004 Edition from the project schedule of values[xxii].”

Did You Know?

Reusable bags are one of the easiest ways a customer can be green. Many stores in North America create incentive programs such as giving customers five cents for every bag they bring in, or a five-cent penalty for purchasing a plastic bag.

For those times that we forget to bring our reusable bags and have to resort to plastic bags, we can rest assured that these bags will not go into landfills. Many grocery stores have recently set up recycling bins for plastic bags. The recycled bags are then recycled into new plastic bags and a number of other household products.

Final Thoughts

Promoting and conversing about green living is not the difficult part, it is creating a reaction that poses the greatest challenge. Doing simple tasks such as purchasing reusable bags, or installing low flow faucets and toilets are just a few examples that can go a long way in creating a sustainable environment. It is within our control to help save our resources.


[i] Johns, K. How Malls Can Conserve Energy to Lower Their Utility Bills. Retrieved April 28, 2014, from

[ii] 25 Way to Conserve Water in the Home and Yard. Retrieved April 16, 2014, from

[iii] Best Practice Database: Water Conservation. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from

 [iv] Sam’s Club 8209. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from

[v] Volume 1, 2009. Rainwater Harvesting Technology. Retrieved May 20, 2014,  from

[vi] Johns, K. How Malls Can Conserve Energy to Lower Their Utility Bills. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from

[vii] Environment. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from

[viii] Team Members Talk Sustainability. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from

[ix] Our History: Target Through the Years. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from

[x] White, M. C. (October 20, 2009).  Target, CVS Launch Reusable Bag Incentive Programs. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from

 [xi] Zmuda, N. (January 10, 2011). When It Comes to Commercials, Target, Others Keep It Green: How Much Waste Do Your Shoot Generate? Retrieved April 15, 2014, from

[xii] Target Announces First LEED Certified Stores in Canada. (June 10, 2013). Retrieved April 15, 2014, from

 [xiii] San Rafael Target Store Earns LEED Gold. (November 15, 2013). Retrieved April 15, 2014, from

[xiv] Green Building. Retrieved June 17, 2014, from


San Rafael Target Store Earns LEED Gold. (November 15, 2013). Retrieved April 15, 2014, from


San Rafael Target Store Earns LEED Gold. (November 15, 2013). Retrieved April 15, 2014, from

[xviii] Johns, K. How Malls Can Conserve Energy to Lower Their Utility Bills. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from

[xix] Best Practice Guidelines. Page 77.  Retrieved April 15, 2014, from

[xx] Best Practice Database: Solid Waste Recycle. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from

[xxi] Trespa Decorative High-Pressure Compact Laminate (HPL) Panels Potential Contributions to LEED Credits for Materials Reuse. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from

[xxii] Trespa Decorative High-Pressure Compact Laminate (HPL) Panels Potential Contributions to LEED Credits for Materials Reuse. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from