Do-It-Yourself Water Efficiency

British home improvement retailer B&Q adopts One Planet Living principles as part of corporate social responsibility effort to make itself more water efficient and reduce its eco-footprint as well as that of employees and customers.

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By Terry Hartwell

British home improvement retailer B&Q adopts One Planet Living principles as part of corporate social responsibility effort to make itself more water efficient and reduce its eco-footprint as well as that of employees and customers.

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B&Q’s Terry Hartwell in front of one of DIY home stores
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As individuals, we’re all aware of ways we can work towards using less water – turning off taps, noticing and stopping any leaks, and investing in water saving devices such as water butts for collecting and storing rainwater. It’s equally important, however, for businesses to take stock and understand the improvements they can make in the way water is used.

It’s often difficult to understand the real and current need to reduce the amount of water we consume in the United Kingdom, but the UK has less available water per person than almost every other European country. At B&Q, we’re no longer willing to ignore this stark reality and feel it’s our duty to actively monitor and reduce water consumption across our store estate.

Water conservation is something we incorporate into the development of our stores and also into how we operate. This year we signed a three-year partnership with sustainability experts BioRegional to become a One Planet Living Business, working to make improvements in 10 key areas, one of which is water sustainability. We have several water saving initiatives in place to help us meet our targets. One of them is our rainwater harvesting project. At our store in New Malden a rainwater harvesting system is used to irrigate the garden centre and flush toilets. The system is designed to recover 50% of the water required for toilet flushing and irrigation from the roof, meaning up to 30,000 litres can be collected naturally. We’ve also installed two 20,000-litre underground tanks at B&Q’s stores in Stevenage and Norwich, recovering rainwater from store roofs.

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Water butt, or rainwater harvesting system, installed in a home
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Still, these measures will only be successful if we constantly review our activity and track water usage across our stores and, in February, we appointed a group of environment champions – one for every store – to report back on our progress and suggest further improvements to reduce our energy and water consumption. As part of this, we’ve introduced smart water metering in 27 Scottish stores, a system that enables us to identify leaks in real time. This has resulted in a saving on our water bill of £18,000, and we hope to roll this initiative out UK-wide.

At B&Q, we not only have an environmental interest in saving water – but a commercial interest – as we will pay for less drainage and for less water consumption, while an efficient use of water helps to safeguard our stock.

As the British government plans to deal with the water shortage crisis by introducing compulsory water metering across England’s most vulnerable areas, it’s business that has the power to act now and really make a difference.


One Planet Living

Associated with World Wildlife Federation and BioRegional Development Group, the One Planet Living program is based on 10 principles to reduce the eco-footprint of human beings on the planet: zero carbon, zero waste, sustainable transport, local & sustainable materials, local & sustainable food, sustainable water, natural habitats & wildlife, culture & heritage, equity & fair trade, and health & happiness. For more information, see: www.oneplanetliving.org


Author’s Note:

Terry Hartwell is group property director at B&Q, a British retailer of do-it-yourself (DIY) and home improvement tools and supplies founded in 1969. Its One Planet Home program includes a water efficiency calculator that allows homeowners to calculate how water efficient they are and research ways to improve the results. Contact: www.diy.com

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