Safer Stores Toolkit: Case Studies

Toxics reduction works in real stores.

PSI and its partners helped a small independent grocery store and an independently owned grocery chain with six full-service locations become safer stores. We gave the staff on-site training about proper hazardous waste management and green cleaning, then walked through the stores with the managers to identify steps they could take to reduce hazards.

Using safer cleaners in-store

With the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI), we performed an audit of all products used in the stores for cleaning and maintenance. In total, TURI analyzed nearly 40 products. The detailed assessment examined eight categories encompassing chemical, physical, and environmental hazards.

Products analyzed included surfaces and hand washing disinfectants, all-purpose cleaners, pot and pan cleaners, and toilet bowl cleaners. The disinfection chemicals rated the least safe among all cleaning products used in the stores.

For each store, we recommended ways to reduce the amount of chemicals used and suggested safer alternatives to a disinfectant, a no-rinse sanitizer, and a heavy-duty aerosol cleaner. We also recommended streamlining (reducing) the number of products in use. That not only makes cleaning easier for staff, but also makes it easier to find safer multi-purpose alternatives.

Finally, we encouraged the stores to talk to their suppliers. We recommended looking for vendors that offer many green cleaning options, and even those that offer pre-diluted chemicals, so that the stores could cut down on the amount of chemicals used, save money, and protect their employees from exposure to concentrated toxic substances. 

Boosting sales of safer cleaning products

Both participating retailers already sold a number of green cleaning products in their stores, including all-purpose cleaners, glass cleaners, kitchen and bath scrubbers, and shower cleaner. One store opted to install shelf tags to highlight their EPA Safer Choice-certified cleaners.

The shelf tags worked! In the first month after hanging the tags on more than a dozen items from seven brands, the store saw substantial increases in sales for most of the products. Over a six-month period, year-over-year sales for every product were up, many 100 percent or more.

You can use these same shelf tags in your store.


Lighting and parking lot maintenance

We also discovered that the stores already engaged in some best practices, including using LED lighting and clearly designating storage areas for fluorescent lamps.

However, parking lot maintenance was commonly overlooked. One store was using coal-tar for their biennial parking lot sealing. Coal-tar sealants contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which have been linked to elevated risk for lung, skin, bladder, and respiratory cancers. We advised the manager about alternatives that will soon be available locally.


Ready to become a Safer Store? Get started with the handy checklist.