The National Retail Association’s Sustainability project manager Daile Kelleher says her new job is with perhaps one of the most sustainable retail operations in Australia, St Vincent De Paul Queensland in Brisbane, where she will be retail area coordinator.
Among initiatives she will manage are going plastic-bag free, bringing soy-based hangars into stores and facilitating a growing collaboration with Ethical Clothing Australia. The op shop chain also has a strong solar program.
“St Vincent De Paul has more shops around Australia than any other clothing retailer, but we never really considered ourselves as a ‘sustainable’ retailer until recently,” Ms Kelleher said.
The organisation has a zero-waste-to-landfill policy, with all clothes that are not suitable for re-sale either hand-processed as rags for industrial and cleaning sector purposes, or exported to Fiji or Indonesia to be sold as useable clothing or turned into rags.
A new store recently opened on Magnetic Island is taking the zero waste even further, as the Island itself is a zero-waste community in order to reduce waste ferried to the mainland for landfilling,
Ms Kelleher said there are also increasing numbers of stores installing solar panels, with 37 stores having solar panels installed during the 2012-13 financial year, funded by a Queensland Government grant.
The solar panels will deliver a saving of $68,032 each financial year through saving an estimated 340,160kWh annually of mains electricity use, amounting to a greenhouse gas emissions reduction of about 240 metric tonnes.
“We own quite a lot of our buildings, so we can also make sure fitouts are energy efficient, Ms Kelleher said.
“St Vincent De Paul sees itself as among the original recyclers of clothing, [and has been doing it] since 1894. It is about respecting the garment – when you think about the carbon, the water, and all the other resources including labour that go into making it, prolonging the lifecycle as much as possible is important. And for shoppers, there is also the treasure-hunting aspect of it.
“You go to somewhere like [a major chain] and there are these mass-produced clothes that are badly made and fall apart. They are clearly unsustainable, nor are they ethically produced.
“I feel I have the best job in the world.”