Ideas for Creating an Eco-Friendly Showroom

Environmental awareness among consumers has grown dramatically over the past few years, helped along by media coverage of crises around the world and by motion pictures like An Inconvenient Truth.

Once unfamiliar phrases such as “global warming” and “indoor air quality” are increasingly becoming household terms. As consumers try to shrink their carbon footprints, they are seeking out smarter, more environmentally friendly products and practices in their homes, and they are turning more frequently to businesses that demonstrate a similar commitment to “going green.”

Exhibiting environmental responsibility in your showroom doesn’t require a complete overhaul. There are simple steps to get you started that your customers will appreciate. For guidance and inspiration, look to industry leaders who have successfully adapted their own showrooms in response to the green movement.

Tom Kelly, president of Neil Kelly Design/Build Remodeling and chairman of the board for Neil Kelly Cabinets in Portland OR, is one such leader. Neil Kelly Co. has helped to pioneer green building solutions for 60 years, and Neil Kelly Cabinets has developed cabinet products and practices sensitive to indoor air quality and environmental sustainability via a national dealer network for more than a decade. Kelly is also a founding member of the Oregon Natural Step Network, an organization that supports businesses interested in reducing their impact on the environment.

“Consumers would rather do business with a company that is socially responsible, and right now that responsibility hot button is green,” states Kelly, who says committing to becoming a more environmental operation has been an important component in his company’s growth in recent years.

The serious green consumer is evolving all the time, according to Kelly. “Gen-Xers are probably more eco-conscious than the preceding generation of Boomers,” he observes. “They’re entering their prime buying years and they are going to drive the demand for green products and practices, as will the younger generation coming up behind them.”

Kelly cautions, however, that green is not a style per se – nor reflective of any particular look – and showrooms should still carry products that reflect popular market trends. In order to satisfy customers’ wishes as well as their budgets, he says, it is not uncommon to create designs that blend both traditional products and eco-friendly products in one.

“Customers buy styles they like regardless of whether or not they want green,” emphasizes Kelly. “The consumer doesn’t expect a green kitchen to look any one particular way.”

Creating a Green Showroom

Carrying eco-friendly building products is a terrific start, but it doesn’t have to stop there. Increasingly, consumers are interested in doing business with those companies that incorporate environmentally friendly behaviors in their day-to-day operations.

Consider these suggestions – many requiring minimal to moderate effort – for making your business more environmentally responsible:

  • Substitute reusable/washable coffee mugs bearing your company logo in place of polystyrene cups.
  • Use recycled paper in copiers, fax machines and printers. Conserve paper by printing on both sides.
  • Offer design/build seminars on a variety of green topics. This also creates networking opportunities and generates potential leads.
  • Invite a specialist to talk to your showroom staff, including designers, sales personnel and installers, about green product options in the building industry. A green-educated showroom builds credibility with your customers.
  • Donate time, services and/or product to an appropriate community non-profit organization.
  • Offer an array of green product options and allow clients to pick and choose from among them.
  • Use carpet tiles containing reclaimed fibers on showroom floors. When a section needs replacing, simply replace the soiled tile rather than ripping out the entire carpet.
  • Use low-VOC paints on all showroom walls and building areas.
  • Drive an environmentally friendly company car.
  • Use ventilation systems to circulate fresh air throughout the showroom.
  • Install low-flow toilets in restrooms and lighting that turns off automatically when not in use.
  • Convert exterior lighting to photovoltaic; add skylights to your showroom to reduce the amount of interior lighting needed; landscape the front of the building with indigenous plants, and harness rainwater runoff to maintain plant life.

Green from the Ground Up

Making a bolder green showroom statement is easier when you can start from scratch. Having recently completed the first West Coast LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified showroom, Neil Kelly Co. gained firsthand insight into the creation and development of a green showroom from the ground up.

“A LEED-built showroom uses 40% less energy than a standard showroom,” explains Kelly.

If it’s a viable option, consider building a brand new satellite showroom using predominantly green building materials. Follow the guidelines from programs such as LEED to gain environmental certification for your project. By promoting your building as you go, you can generate ongoing excitement among consumers and others within the building community.
The green movement may be growing slowly in your area. Consider this an opportunity!

Become a pioneer in your region by organizing a green community with other local businesses interested in participating.

hen your customers start asking, you and your showroom staff will have already established yourself as environmentally conscious.

Remember, even the smallest steps – i.e. replacing plastic cups or using recycled paper – can make a real difference.