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03/01/2012

Going For The Green

Grocers continue to explore new opportunities to further expand their commitment to sustainability.

These days, it virtually goes without saying that striving for LEED and GreenChill designations are part and parcel of any new supermarket or major remodel.

And while Progressive Grocer is again pleased to recognize those retailers that have made great strides toward certification in those programs, most of the honorees of this year’s Green Grocer Awards clearly are taking things a step or two beyond in making their operations more environmentally friendly. Particularly for the three new members of our Green Grocer Hall of Fame — Ahold USA, Stater Bros. and Weis Markets — it’s plain to see that U.S. food retailers are reaching higher and making major headway in their ongoing quest to go for the green.

The retail grocery industry appears to be setting a standard to which the business community as a whole can aspire. According to the Oakland, Calif.-based GreenBiz Group, whose annual State of Green Business report measures the environmental impacts of an emerging green economy, companies continue to think bigger and longer-term about sustainability, even during economically challenging times, yet the overall improvement of environmental impacts appears to be slowing.

However, some significant trends are taking place in business, as the group's report observes. More companies are engaging their CFOs in sustainability, as they recognize the potential for environmental issues to affect risk, investments, and mergers and acquisitions. More attention is being paid to sustainable consumption by mainstream companies. Data streams are creating rich opportunities for companies to improve efficiencies and reduce impacts. And sustainable cities are becoming centers of green activities, with big implications for companies. With that, PG proudly presents a new crop of Green Grocers for 2012:

CLARK'S MARKET

Clark's Market, a family-owned grocery chain with eight stores in western Colorado, has teamed up with Carbondale, Colo.-based solar garden developer Clean Energy Collective to reduce energy costs and its environmental impact by purchasing solar power in community-owned solar gardens.

A member of Associated Food Stores, Aspen, Colo.-based Clark's had long considered installing its own solar panels, but was deterred by the high upfront cost. But purchasing panels in the off-site community solar gardens — enough to completely offset the energy used in its pharmacies — has allowed Clark's to pursue its environmental goals by generating home-grown electricity at a cost that meets financial parameters.

"After considering using solar panels on our rooftops, the cost and complexity of a rooftop system proved to be prohibitive," says Tom Clark, company president. "The Clean Energy Collective offered the quickest, easiest, most cost-effective and, most importantly, functional option available."

The system has reduced the lifetime cost to Clark's from 34.5 cents to 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour, a savings of nearly 1309,000. Other benefits include the reduction of 1.2 million pounds of carbon dioxide, equivalent to 1.3 million car miles or planting more than 1,900 trees.

FRESH & EASY

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market has installed rooftop solar panels on 11 of its stores in Phoenix and Los Angeles. The systems will produce 746,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually to meet about 20 percent of the stores' energy production needs, equivalent to reducing 26 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions or eliminating 38 million miles driven by cars over the next 25 years.

"Fresh & Easy's commitment to the environment is not just about reducing our carbon footprint, but also about saving money that we pass on to our customers," says Tim Mason, Fresh & easy president and CEO. "These solar panels will provide about 20 percent of our store's energy needs at more than one-third of our Arizona stores."

REC Solar installed roof-mounted solar systems on 10 stores throughout the greater Phoenix metro area, plus one in the Glassell Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. The stores feature in-store displays that report real-time solar energy production while explaining to customers how solar systems work.

"Through participation in the [local power provider] SRP EarthWise Solar Energy Incentive Program, Fresh & Easy has become one of our greenest grocery store chains," says Lori Singleton, SRP manager of sustainable initiatives and technologies.

Tesco-owned Fresh & Easy says its stores use about 30 percent less energy than a typical supermarket. The company uses LED lighting in external signs and freezer cases, offers customer recycling in every store, and uses advanced refrigeration and freezer units to cut back on energy usage. The company also recycles or reuses all of its display packaging, sending the majority back through its distribution center. Fresh & Easy has also worked to reduce emissions and has the most currently certified stores through the EPA's GreenChill program.

FOOD LION

Two of Food Lion's stores — in Georgia and South Carolina — have earned gold-level GreenChill certification from the U.S. EPA. The chain, owned by Green Grocer Hall of Fame member Delhaize America, is a founding partner of the GreenChill program and has previously won awards from the agency. Two Food Lion stores in North Carolina have received silver LEED status, and last fall, the chain cut the ribbon on its fourth green grocery store, in Norge, Va., built to strict LEED standards.

Earning the gold-level GreenChill Store Certification Award "reinforces Food Lion's commitment to being a responsible corporate citizen by conserving energy and protecting the environment," says Rick LaCroix, market VP for Food Lion's Southeastern markets.

Since joining the EPA's GreenChill program in 2007, the Salisbury, N.C.-based grocer has teamed with other food retailers to reduce refrigerant emissions and decrease the impact on the ozone layer and climate change. Food Lion also has won GreenChill's Distinguished Partner Award and its Superior Environmental Achievement Award.

Food Lion's Conyers, Ga., and Columbia, S.C., stores are "proof positive of Food Lion's belief that protecting the environment is not a 'once and done' thing," says Keilly Witman, manager of EPA's GreenChill Partnership. "Food Lion works very hard to protect the environment, year after year."

Food Lion has pioneered various technologies that save energy and reduce harmful refrigerant leaks. Food Lion has more than half of the nation's Energy Star stores, with 1,015 certified locations. In addition, the company has joined forces with utilities to evaluate a variety of energy-saving opportunities, including solar power.

Further, two Food Lion stores in Fayetteville, N.C., were awarded LEED silver certification in recognition of their environmentally friendly construction and energy-efficient services, among them an on-site recycling center, an educational kiosk and preferred parking for carpool vehicles.

"At Food Lion, we are committed to protecting the environment and reducing energy consumption through green building construction, and we are especially proud to have received this recognition," says Kyle Mitchell, Delhaize America South VP of store development.

For a decade, Food Lion has been dedicated to numerous sustainability initiatives such as energy conservation and reducing carbon dioxide emissions throughout its 11-state footprint, reducing its energy consumption by more than 27 percent, or 2.5 trillion BTUs, since 2000. Food Lion is also involved in a number of environmentally friendly initiatives, including recycling significant amounts of paper and plastic every year, and encouraging customers to use reusable bags.

HANNAFORD SUPERMARKETS

Nine Hannaford markets have been certified by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as Environmental Leaders — giving Hannaford 12 of the 23 total DEP-certified stores statewide. The Scarborough, Maine-based grocer, owned by Green Grocer Hall of Famer Delhaize America, has also teamed up with CLYNK, which provides self-service recycling kiosks for a statewide recycling competition to raise money for schools while encouraging kids and their families to recycle.

Green practices common to the certified stores include selling a percentage of locally grown and produced food items that are highlighted with "Close to Home" signage and Gulf of Maine Research Institute-verified sustainable seafood; using energy-efficient store lighting, water-conserving fixtures in restrooms, heat recovery from refrigeration systems and environmentally preferable cleaning products; donating food to local food banks or pantries; recycling of paper, cardboard and plastic waste, as well as composting of organic waste; and the adoption of a written stormwater management policy for parking lots.

The certified stores also maintain environmental information that educates customers and staff on the company's efforts to reduce its environmental impact, and have an environmental team of staffers at each store that meets at least quarterly.

In 2009, Hannaford opened the first platinum LEED-certified supermarket, which served as a learning laboratory for the grocer's sustainability activities. "We saw Environmental Leader certification as a way to increase focus on our sustainability work at a store level, while also engaging our associates," says Bernie Ouellette, Hannaford district manager. "Associates in these stores worked really hard to distinguish Hannaford, and themselves, as leaders in the area of sustainability."

For example, the typical Hannaford store keeps 61 percent of its waste from going to a landfill — compared with around 45 percent for the industry. Hannaford stores participating in DEP's Environmental Leader program averaged 78.7 percent.

Meanwhile, schools that sign up for the Hannaford-sponsored "Maine Recycles Championship" will compete to collect and deposit in CLYNK kiosks the most bottles and cans by the end of April, and win cash prizes. Additionally, the grocer has introduced sustainable seafood policies, which are outlined in PG's Sustainability Handbook that accompanies this issue.

HY-VEE

The West Des Moines, Iowa-based grocer opened the first supermarket in the Omaha, Neb., metro area to be built to LEED standards — the third such store for Hy-Vee since 2009. Green features are incorporated into all Hy-Vee remodels and expected at two other Omaha Hy-Vees in the near future. "We've noticed that people see environmental issues as a personal matter, and people are more energy and environmentally conscious," Hy-Vee CEO Ric Jurgens told the Omaha World-Herald on the occasion of the 87,000-squarefoot store's grand opening last fall. "It's important to our customers, and this will help us better serve them."

Every Hy-Vee store that is built new, relocates or is renovated incorporates energy-efficient features, including skylights, motion-sensor lights, a light-reflecting roof, doors on refrigerated dairy cases, low-flow toilets and automatic hand sinks. Hy-Vee's first LEED-certified store opened in Madison, Wis., in 2009; the second followed two years later in Fairfield, Iowa.

The Omaha store, which is awaiting certification, also features bicycle racks to encourage employees to bike rather than drive to work, parking designated for hybrid vehicles, and high-efficiency and photo-sensitive overhead lights that automatically dim when there's sufficient natural lighting.

A future store in Lawrence, Kan., will reportedly feature electric car chargers for customers.

THE KROGER CO.

This PG Green Grocer Hall of Fame member shows no sign of resting on its green laurels. The Kroger Co. has unveiled solar panels at two of its Smith's stores in New Mexico; Smith's is the first Kroger division nationwide to install solar panels. Output from both systems is enough to heat and cool 30 homes for a year. Kroger stores have reduced overall energy consumption by 30 percent since 2000. Company-wide, the Cincinnati-based grocer has saved more than 2.2 billion kilowatt-hours.

"We have done a lot of work over the last several years to integrate sustainable practices into our everyday business operations," says Rodney McMullen, Kroger president and COO. "Smith's has done a tremendous job bringing this to realization. Kroger will continue reducing energy consumption and testing technologies that support future use of alternative energy sources."

Smith's was selected to be among the first Kroger division stores to install photovoltaic panels, because of New Mexico's favorable sunny climate and the economic incentives offered by energy provider PNM toward installation of renewable energy sources. Kroger is also developing solar systems for stores in Ohio and Oregon.

The solar system on the roof of each Smith's store consists of 442 panels, each containing cells that convert sunlight into direct-current (DC) electricity. The power is then fed into an inverter that converts the DC into the alternating current (AC) that is used in the store. The electricity is then synchronized with the utility grid, allowing the panels to offset utility power plant generation.

Smith's has committed to reducing energy use in all 25 of its New Mexico stores, most recently having retrofitted walk-in coolers, dairy coolers, meat counters and grocery freezers with LED lighting systems.

Meanwhile, Kroger's Ralphs division in California, with the help of West Virginia University's Center of Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions, is transitioning half of its truck fleet to run on compressed natural gas.

MARKET OF CHOICE

This eight-store chain in Eugene, Ore., has become a role model of sustainability since 2008. It employs energy-saving curtains on front and rear doors, sells power generated by its own rooftop solar-energy system and composts its own food waste. The 32-year-old family-owned chain has also launched an energy-saving light bulb change-out program in converting to LEDs.

Originally aimed at indoor air comfort, the stores have since experienced additional air-curtain benefits of increased energy savings and flying-insect infiltration reduction. The air curtains, manufactured by New Castle, Pa.-based Berner International, are activated by a limit switch triggered when the door opens and deactivated on a five-second delay.

Market of Choice's light bulb program replaces conventional bulbs with drop-in LED bulbs that use half the wattage, but offer equal or better luminance. The program started with the chain's Franklin Street store in Eugene, and its success means a rollout to other locations, according to Scott Cook, Market of Choice's sustainability coordinator.

Since 2009, Market of Choice has been using 562 rooftop-mounted solar panels to generate electricity, which the grocer sells to the local public utility company for 12 cents per kilowatt-hour. Market of Choice prominently displays the solar effort on its website (www.marketofchoice.com) via simulated electric meters that show ongoing daily solar-power generation statistics. The company's corporate offices use solar lighting generated from solar tracking skylights.

SUPERVALU

Four Seattle-area Albertsons stores of this Hall of Fame alumnus have achieved zero-waste classification by diverting more than 90 percent of their waste from landfills, totaling 2.6 million pounds annually. These locations join only a handful of other stores nationwide to achieve a total waste diversion rate of more than 90 percent.

"Being a strong community partner is extremely important to Albertsons," says Mike Clawson, president of Albertsons Intermountain West Division in Boise, Idaho. "We are proud to not only offer our customers the products they want, but do so in a sustainable way that can make them feel good about shopping with us."

The diverted waste from these four stores — in Kirkland, Milton, Mountlake Terrace and Woodinville, Wash. — includes nearly 1.5 million pounds of recycled material, more than 600,000 pounds of composted material and more than a half-million pounds in food bank donations.

"Our ultimate goal is to move all of our stores toward zero waste," says Pete Pearson, director of sustainability and national accounts at Minneapolis-based Supervalu.

SWEETBAY SUPERMARKET

The Tampa, Fla.-based chain has been recognized with the EPA's Energy Star certification for continued energy consumption reductions and a strong corporate commitment to promoting superior energy performance. Sweetbay has seen a 15 million savings in electricity costs since 2009 due to various initiatives, and plans additional steps for 2012.

Of the nearly 1,600 grocery stores acknowledged by the EPA for earning Energy Star labels for superior energy efficiency, only 170 were actually awarded certification. More than half of all Sweetbay stores were represented, with 53 making the cut for certification.

"We are thrilled to receive Energy Star certification for our stores and are committed to being strong corporate citizens in the communities in which we operate," says John Turner, director of business development for Delhaize-owned Sweetbay Supermarket. "Sweetbay remains dedicated to environmental stewardship and is proud to continue to lead the way with energy conservation initiatives."

From doors on refrigerated cases to the addition of LED lighting with motion sensors, to night shades over non-door cases, Sweetbay says its 18 percent reduction in energy costs is equivalent to reducing carbon emissions by 32 million pounds, planting nearly 4,500 acres of trees, powering more than 1,400 American homes for one year or taking more than 3,200 cars off the road.

Further efforts in the pipeline for 2012 include LED lighting and doors on additional medium-temperature and produce cases.

2012 PC Green Grocer Hall of Fame

AHOLD USA

For the first time, Ahold USA appears on the U.S. EPA's list of the largest green power purchasers, ranking No. 7 on the EPA's Top 20 retail list and No. 30 on the National Top 50 list. The company purchases more than 149 million kilowatt-hours of green power annually, enough to meet 7 percent of the company's electricity use. In addition, it buys renewable energy certificates and generates green power from onsite renewable energy systems.

According to the U.S. EPA, Ahold USA's green power purchase is equivalent to avoiding the carbon dioxide emissions of more than 20,000 passenger vehicles per year or from the electricity use of nearly 13,000 average American homes annually.

"Reducing our carbon footprint is a primary tenet of Ahold USA's main corporate responsibility priorities, which helps us minimize our impact on the environment while at the same time making operations more efficient," says Jihad Rizkallah, VP of store planning for Carlisle, Pa.-based Ahold USA. "Being recognized by the EPA for our green power purchases highlights our ongoing efforts and commitment to reduce our electricity consumption and expand our renewable and clean-energy portfolio."

Ahold's newest stores are built with innovative green building technologies that reduce energy consumption, conserve water and reduce the environmental impact of the operations. Solar panels at 13 Ahold stores generate 7 percent to 13 percent of these locations' annual requirements. The chain also continues to help its retail divisions make existing stores more energy-efficient by upgrading light bulbs, turning lights down during off hours, and improving the efficiency of refrigerated display cases by replacing open frozen food cases with closed-door ones.

Hall of Fame Members

  • Delhaize Croup
  • Ciant Eagle
  • H.E. Butt Grocery Co.
  • The Kroger Co.
  • PCC Natural Markets
  • Publix Super Markets Inc.
  • Safeway Inc.
  • The Stop & Shop Supermarket Co.
  • Supervalu Inc.
  • Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
  • Whole Foods Market
  • The Great Atlantic &
  • Pacific Tea Co.

In addition to solar power, the Ahold USA team worked with its New England division to construct its first fuel cell project at a Stop & Shop (an Ahold division and previous Hall of Fame inductee) store in Torrington, Conn., which consumes natural gas to produce electricity and waste heat. The electricity being generated provides 95 percent of the store's annual electricity requirements, and the waste heat offsets the gas consumption required to heat the air and hot water for the store.

STATER BROS.

This San Bernardino, Calif.-based chain and previous Green Grocer Award winner continues to built on its annual achievements. For the second year in a row, the company has won a Waste Reduction Award from the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) Waste Reduction Awards Program (WRAP), in recognition of its many environmentally friendly programs.

In all, Stater Bros, eliminated nearly 126 million pounds of waste from landfills in 2011 — more than three times the amount that the grocer achieved in 2010.

The 167-store chain's significant green programs include recycling more than 70 million pounds of cardboard, composting nearly 40 million pounds of green waste, recycling more than 8 million pounds of sustainable rendering products, donating more than 3 million pounds to food banks and recycling more than 2.7 million pounds of plastic bags.

In addition, Stater Bros.' weekly advertisement is printed on recycled paper, and the grocer participates in California's Voluntary Demand Response Program to reduce energy consumption at store level when demand is high.

"Stater Bros, believes in doing the right thing for the right reason," says Jack H. Brown, Stater Bros, chairman and CEO. "Protecting our environment is the right thing, and the right reason is so future generations can live in a better world."

WEIS MARKETS

Sustainability is a priority on many fronts for this Sunbury, Pa.-based supermarket chain. Weis Markets has joined the EPA's SmartWay Transport Partnership to assess the environmental and energy efficiency of the trucks supplying its 161 stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and West Virginia. Further along these lines, Weis has installed skirts on its truck trailers to enhance their aerodynamics, thus saving fuel.

"We've made considerable progress reducing our fuel consumption and improving the overall efficiency of our truck fleet," says Joe Kleman, Weis' VP of distribution. "It's good for the environment and helpful to our business."

Weis was recognized by the Professional Recyclers of Pennsylvania for its commitment to recycling and its innovative program to recycle waxed cardboard used to ship and store fresh vegetables and meat. "This program has helped us reduce our store waste and our reliance on landfills," R. Kevin Small, VP of construction and development, says of the program that turns used waxed cardboard into fireplace logs.

Further, the company upgraded the lighting system at its Milton, Pa., distribution center with low-wattage fluorescent and LED lights, reducing energy usage and costs by 30 percent, or $500,000 annually. "The energy we save could power three of our supermarkets for an entire year," notes Small.

Weis' newest superstores, opened last summer, employ advanced refrigeration and climate control technologies to lessen impact on the environment and save energy. "We've worked to reduce our stores' overall impact on the environment," says president and CEO David Hepfinger.