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Click Here For the Minutes of June 13, 1999
Hardlines Conservation Initiative Meeting

By: David A. Winkelman of The WATER Foundation April 6, 1999

The hardlines industry is in a great position to profit from a major trend in our society. As we turn the corner into the next century, conservation of our natural resources and related health issues are of growing concern to most Americans and other cultures around the world.

The World Watch Institute and other research organizations predict that we will near the end of our fossil fuel supply by 2050. Our water supplies are being altered and contaminated each day by almost six billion people. The population growth curve predicts another doubling of earth’s peoples by the mid-2000s. The balance of nutrients in our once healthy soil, water and air is being upset and contaminated not only from industrial pollution, but from transportation, deforestation, agriculture, urban development and the over-chemicalized home, lawn and garden. As a result, our health and immune systems are being compromised in many ways by these unnatural elements in our food, air and water. Ecosystems everywhere are suffering.

The hardlines retailer can be a major part of the front line of defense of our environment, health and natural resources. There are hundreds of billions of dollars of new profits to be made from sales of newly emerging product lines over the next few decades. According to the EPA, in 1995, sales of environmentally oriented products reached 105 billion dollars and are growing 10-15% each year. Newly emerging technologies and products not only reduce pollution, but also save consumers money and help us live more natural lifestyles. Unfortunately however, we are creatures of habit and require strong incentives for change.

The primary incentive for civilization seems to be money, so let’s focus on the money to be earned through conservation products. As an example, the compact fluorescent (CF) light bulb replaces the "old fashioned" incandescent (IC) bulb in a profitable manner for everyone using bulbs. A standard CF bulb lasts an average 10,000 hours and uses about one fourth of the electricity of the standard IC (which lasts 750 hours). So, over the life of a single CF bulb, the average consumer will save about $47, based on average costs of reduced electricity consumption, replacement bulbs and waste disposal costs. The average home contains about 100 IC bulbs, so retrofitting could yield a $4700 return on investment, plus a significant labor savings and a reduction in solid waste just from one home’s light bulbs! Once people understand the logic of this, they will buy the new bulbs. How big is the market for this single product? One hundred million homes and millions of other buildings in America need CF bulbs and less than 10 percent now use them. The catch is education...most consumers, including store managers do not understand these incentives.

Consider some of the products in the hardlines business which are conservation minded: Less Toxic Pest Control, Energy Efficient Small Appliances, Water Saving Plumbing, More Natural Lawn and Garden Products, Environmental Safety Products, Less Toxic Paints and Sundries, Automotive Maintenance Products, Recyclable Batteries (in Tools, Telephones, Toys), Composting Products, More Natural Cleaning Products, Household Recycling Products, Bulk Items (less packaging), Insulation, Weather-Stripping, Caulking, Window Kits, Recycled Plastic Building Materials, Energy Saving Windows and Doors, Water Based and No VOC Sealers/Coatings, Waste Reduction Products, Recycling Products, Wildlife Feeding & Homes, Environmental Test Kits and more. How much money can be earned in just these categories? First of all, by retrofitting their own buildings with these products, retailers can reduce their operating expenses by thousands of dollars per year (from preliminary research) and, secondly, stores will set the example for their customers. Research is needed to quantify the amounts and best practices from various types of retailers.


What more needs be said about this profit potential? As America retrofits for conservation in the 2000’s, staggering amounts of dollars will be spent. Who gets the profit is simply a matter of who best capitalizes on this trend first. For the hardlines industry, what needs to be done is to assemble an infrastructure of educational resources, operational practices, marketing and merchandising programs into a solid initiative, and work it into channels of trade proactively.

We propose that meaningful studies be done by stakeholders and industry groups, such as the Home Center Institute, the National Retail Hardware Association, the American Hardware Manufacturers Association, the US EPA, the Midwest Hardware Association, the Minnesota-Dakota Hardware Association, the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance, The WATER Foundation and others. The WATER Foundation has worked with these and other organizations for almost a decade on conservation and environmental programs, such as the True Value GreenGuide, the Ace Hardware Conservation Initiative, the Home Depot Environmental Initiative, the Target Stores Earth Savers program, the Environmental Achievement Awards programs, the Best Management Practices for Conservation for the Hardware Retailer, the National Environmental Education Day (NEED), the Hardlines Environmental Leaders Product Showcase (HELPS), the Environmental Show How brochures, "Doing The Right Thing" Environmental Research for the Hardlines Industry and several other efforts. Key executives from these organizations are now being contacted by The WATER Foundation to join a steering committee for what is being called the Hardlines Conservation Marketing Initiative (HCMI).

A preliminary plan is being created in 1999 by The WATER Foundation for the HCMI in meetings with other stakeholders and the first meeting is being scheduled for June of 1999 at The WATER Foundation’s new conservation showcase facilities in central Minnesota. The plan also calls for a Green Team of Hardlines Stakeholders to assemble and officially launch the HCMI during the Hardware Industry Week and convention in Chicago in August of 1999.

The HCMI plan calls for a Retail Conservation Marketing Kit to be disseminated to over 44,000 hardware and home center stores. This kit contains employee training and incentive programs, in-store signage, shelf talkers, end-aisle headers, suggested Vendor Products Grid, "Conservation Corner" for website and circulars, advertising modules for print and broadcast, and a comprehensive GreenGuide® of Best Management Practices for the retailer.

In conjunction with the kit, the retailers will be provided an on-going service program to help them implement conservation programs into their customer service, operations and merchandising efforts. As an incentive, documented research and solid case histories prove that even a small store (12000 square feet) can save an average of $15000 per year in their operations by implementing a simple set of conservation practices. Further, how-to instructions for setting up customer recycling services for toxic products like batteries, fluorescent tubes, auto fluids, paints, and pesticides will bring in many new consumers, including the upscale green consumers.

Next, a Vendor Conservation Marketing program is being launched. Vendors are being selected for the Vendor Products Grid by category because of their product’s conservation attributes, pricing and value, co-operative advertising programs and overall environmental impact. Vendor product literature, ordering materials, co-op advertising materials and marketing communications will be presented to 44,000 hardware stores and home centers in America. Broadcast and print advertising campaigns will be orchestrated in conjunction with the campaigns to retailers, with at least a two-month lead-time. Campaigns include Energy Conservation, Less Toxic Pest Control, Natural Gardening, Water Quality, Rechargeable Battery Recycling, Water Conservation, Eco-Autos and Equipment, and Waste Reduction. The vendor campaign will be modeled after the successful program operated by The WATER Foundation over the past nine years through the True Value and Ace Hardware chains, but modified to work for Home Centers too.

The blanket of national broadcast consumer advertising will be on going, year round but targeted seasonally for the above markets through The WATER Foundation’s nationally syndicated programs on conservation. From current audience reports, it is estimated that over 1 billion impressions will be made on the America public in the first twelve months. Over 2500 radio stations will carry the conservation product messages daily, placed directly in on center stage in the award-winning conservation programs produced and syndicated by The WATER Foundation. The print advertising campaign will be focused at the retailers through the leading trade publications of the Home Center Institute and the National Retail Hardware Association.

The WATER Foundation has spent the past 13 years working on Conservation Initiatives within the Hardware and Home Center Industry. As the leading nationwide conservation marketing organization, they know how to make conservation programs profitable. Having successfully worked with hundreds of vendors including 3M, Honeywell, Black & Decker, Skil/Bosch, S.C. Johnson Wax, GE Lighting, Intermatic, Rayovac, First Alert, Brita, Eveready, Teledyne Water Pik, Woodstream, Turtle Wax, Armor All, Kaytee Products, PUR, Easy Gardener and Rubbermaid, The WATER Foundation has a successful reputation with vendors. Also, by orchestrating conservation programs for over ten thousand hardlines stores through key retailers such as True Value, Ace, Coast to Coast, Home Depot, Lowes and others, the new Hardlines Conservation Marketing Initiative will be a successful culmination of many years of experience.

Please send your comments on the HCMI to David Winkelman of The WATER Foundation, 9121 County Rd 23, Brainerd, MN 56401 or e-mail them to, or fax them to 218-764-3582. Thank you for your interest and we hope you will join in this worthwhile endeavor.

Click Here For the Minutes of June 13, 1999 Hardlines Conservation Initiative Meeting

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