Cutting down on the number of plastic shopping bags we use is just one of the small ways we can help the environment. And leading the way, high street retailer Marks & Spencer has been encouraging its customers to bring their own bags by charging a 5p food carrier bag charge since 2008.
Landmark Greener Living Space started
As well as getting customers to cut down on bag waste, the cash it has raised has been ploughed into conservation projects, and M&S has just announced that work has begun on the 100th of these ‘Greener Living Spaces’.
The projects are run together with environmental charity Groundwork UK, with this latest landmark scheme transforming an overgrown and underused wildlife corridor next to Sheffield’s Porter Brook River. The project will involve:
- introducing trout to the river
- improving habitats from protected species like otters and white clawed crayfish
- improving the site’s lighting
- adding information boards
Part of Marks &Spencer’s wider eco & environment programme
The Greener Living Spaces projects are just part of ‘Plan A’, Marks & Spencer’s eco and ethical programme, aiming to make M&S the world’s most sustainable major retailer by 2015. It tackles climate change, waste, sustainable raw materials, health and fair business practices and trading standards.
M&S has already reduced CO2 emissions by 96,000 tonnes since 2007 and aims to make all its UK & Irish operations carbon neutral by 2012. The first of its new ‘sustainable stores’ has recently been opened, also in Sheffield.
More than 80% of M&S customers now bring their own bags
Richard Gillies, Director of Plan A at Marks & Spencer, said: “The bold decision we made to become the first high street retailer to introduce carrier bag charging has had a hugely positive impact on communities across the UK.”
“With our customers’ support, we continue to change consumer behaviour for the better. Over 80% of our customers now bring their own bags with them when they shop with us and the ones that don’t have helped fund 100 Greener Living Spaces across the UK. These fantastic outcomes prove that bold decisions have the biggest impact when it comes to the environment.”
Carrier bag charge raises £4m for Greener Living Spaces
The M&S food carrier bag charge has reduced bag usage from 464 million in 2006/7 to 89 million in 2009/10, and raised more than £4m for Groundwork.
As part of funding the 100 Greener Living Spaces, the cash has:
- involved more than 10,000 local people and 1,200 M&S employees in local project activity
- turned more than 200,000m² of derelict or underused land into diverse spaces for play, education and relaxation
- built or improved almost 3.500m² of pathways
- planted more than 2,200 trees and shrubs
Businesses, charities & local people in partnership
Tony Hawkhead, Groundwork Chief Executive, said: “The Greener Living Spaces programme has reached a fantastic total of 100 newly created or rejuvenated parks, playgrounds, orchards, woodlands and nature gardens in towns and cities around the UK. When business and charities work together like this great things can be achieved.”
Employees from the local M&S store are helping with site clearance, planting and construction at the Porter Brook River site, which is expected to be complete by November 2011.
It’s definitely a great example of how retailers can help the local community and the environment at the same time. Here at Green Abode, we hope Mark & Spencer’s good work will inspire other businesses to follow suit.