THERE are so many buzzwords lately some of which are: eco-friendly, going green and reduce, reuse , recycle, But what can one do to really have an eco-friendly retail store?

Think long term profit, not short-term gains

"We knew inverter aircons are more expensive but over time, we gain the savings back because we save as much as 50% in electricity expenses," said Reena Francisco, designer and store set up in-charge for the Echostore chain of eco-friendly stores. Reena chose inverter aircons for their newest store.

"We also used LED lights," she continued. They are more expensive at the start but eventually they will pay off in length of service and in decreased electrical consumption, she said.

"I used to replace halogen lights almost every month," she said. "I have changed all our lights now to LED," the practical designer said.

Think company-wide, not a solo journey

Being eco-friendly means engaging all your staff and employees and not just keeping the objectives to yourself or your partners. The whole company must be aware of the store’s or company's philosophy.

"We use old glossy magazines for our paper bags," Chit Juan, Echostore co-founder. "It was a happy coincidence that we forgot to think about what bags to use when we started the store. So Reena started to fold old magazines into paper bags of various sizes," she said. Even the Echostore licensees get a lesson in making paper bags out of magazines.

Think organic

"We used to go to the weekend markets before we opened Echostore" said Jeannie Javelosa, the third of Echostore's triumvirate. "Then we asked Chit to start planting our own organic vegetables in the Echofarms," she said.

Now the Echostore is able to use their own organic farm-grown vegetables in their Echocafe.

"Everything we do is centered on organically-grown or organically-produced," Jeannie pointed out.

"For our licensees, we do check their sources for organic vegetables and other fresh produce which come from nearby sources rather than all the way from Manila, in true eco-friendly fashion," Chit said.

From the physical store set-up to what is sold in the store, eco-friendly practices demand that no toxic chemicals are used in any of the products.

"No harmful chemicals is what we say because some wisecrack might say water is also a chemical, and we ,of course, use water, Reena said.

She handled the manufacture of their eco-friendly body products and home cleaning solutions.

Besides being a social enterprise that sells many products from artisans and small producers around the country, Echostore has given meaning to its very name which stands for Environment, Community, Hope and Organization, making consumers get the "aha" moment of why it is Echostore and not Eco-store.

It is more than eco-friendly. It engages communities, non-profits and recently even aid agencies and government bodies who need market access for their beneficiaries' products.

Further, Echostore has expanded its reach by opening licensed stores in Centris, Quezon City, Davao City, and Cebu City. Replace halogen lights almost every month," she said.