ALDI has eliminated all plastic shopping bags from its stores, but shoppers can buy a recycled eco-friendly bag to tote their groceries in style.
Curbing overall waste also involves addressing the significant impact of food waste, something that ALDI is working on at several operational points. “When it comes to food waste, our business model is inherently designed to create efficiency and reduce waste,” says Wiora. “Through smart ordering systems and longstanding donation programs, we are making strides to reduce food waste within our own operations by 50% by the end of 2030. Our innovative pricing and markdown tools help reduce food loss and waste, and even prevent excess buying from the onset. And when our excess food doesn’t end up feeding our customers or donation partners, we aim to use it to feed the planet. In 2022, we composted 1,645 tons of food between the ALDI Test Kitchen and select stores.”
Again keeping shoppers in that pivotal loop, ALDI encourages customers to manage their food waste at home by selling them products like reusable sandwich bags and a tumbling composter for home use.
Of course, ALDI carries nonfood products, too, and is likewise striving to keep more of those items out of landfills. Through its nonfood donation program, the grocer works with nonprofit groups to give away such products as paper goods, shoes and housewares.
Aside from its measures to cut down on material, packaging and food waste, ALDI’s format lends itself to sustainability. The typical ALDI store, for instance, spans just 12,000 square feet. “Our smaller store layouts keep operational costs down, create efficiency, reduce waste and minimize our carbon footprint,” notes Wiora.
ALDI’s smaller assortment of 1,400 or so products is part of its price-value magic for shoppers, and also offers sustainability advantages. Fewer products, more of which are locally sourced, cut down on transportation resources and, hence, emissions and fuel use.
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The types of products it carries also help ALDI strike a balance between price and sustainability. “As our stores are stocked 90% with ALDI-exclusive brands, we are able to work closely with our suppliers to ensure they are upholding high standards and taking care of the communities we serve in and the planet while bringing our customers’ favorite products to our shelves,” observes Wiora.
ALDI is taking other measures to live up to its green goals. In January, the retailer revealed that it will transition to natural refrigerants across all of its U.S. stores by the end of 2035, including ultra-low global-warming potential (GWP) carbon dioxide and propane refrigerants.
Each store has a role to play in that initiative, as ALDI will use the best refrigerant solution for an area’s distinct climate. What’s in place in Texas, then, will be different from what will be used in the Northeast.
Here, too, cost and sustainability are in sync. As Wiora puts it: “Environmentally friendly refrigerant systems help us support a healthier planet and reduce costs, which translates to big savings for customers. It’s a win-win.”
On the cost front, carbon dioxide refrigerants have been shown to be 61% cheaper per pound than traditional refrigerants used in older stores, according to ALDI. Moreover, the high pressure that carbon dioxide operates at enables stores to use waste heat from the refrigeration system in HVAC units, also cutting expenses and outputs.
As ALDI preps for another big year of store openings and the completion of its deal to acquire Jacksonville, Fla.-based Southeastern Grocers, the company is confident in its ability to hit its metrics and its mission. “Shopping sustainably doesn’t have to be expensive,” asserts Wiora. “We make sure that our sustainability efforts — and everything we do — is good for the planet and wallets, so shoppers don’t have to choose between doing what’s right and shopping with their values.”