An Inside Look at Wegmans' Sustainability Efforts
April 14, 2011
As part of its month-long Earth Day celebration, Wegmans is sharing many of its sustainability milestones in a behind-the-scenes video and post to its Fresh Stories blog.
The Wegmans’ Green Team takes viewers for a tour of the store in Jamestown, N.Y., including the back room to see how the grocer is reducing, reusing and recycling.
While there are many green initiatives the chain engages in that are visible to the consumer, there are just as many that the consumer does not see first hand, said Mary Ellen Burris, senior vice president of consumer affairs on her blog post. She noted that customer recommendations often result in positive changes, for example when the grocer was using plastic sample cups for demonstrations “customers asked why these had to be plastic. We said ‘good question’ and now we’re using tiny brown paper boats.
Another initiative under way is the use of plastic bags at the checkout in Rochester, N.Y., stores are now made of 40 percent recycled plastic. “This is still a work in progress to find the right balance between strength and stretchability to prevent ‘zippering’ if punctured by a sharp box corner,” Burris said.
But not all seemingly good ideas work out. For a while, Wegmans switch bakery bags for doughnuts and muffins to unbleached unwaxed brown paper, “but customers strongly felt the new materials did not keep products fresh enough through the day, so this one is being reevaluated.”
Behind the scenes there are many initiatives customers can’t see. For example, in 2010 Wegmans retreaded 1,800 truck tires instead of replacing them outright. “Calculating that it takes 24 gallons of oil to build one new tire and seven gallons to produce one retread, this saved over 30,000 gallons of oil,” Burris wrote.
Wegmans newest store in Maryland recently achieved GreenChill Gold-Level Store Certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for using a naturally occurring refrigerant (carbon dioxide), to minimize use of synthetic refrigerants in frozen food cases.
“Speaking of certifications, we’re cutting our teeth on LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the nationally accepted benchmark of the U.S. Building Council) in converting a closed Rochester store into needed office space in early summer,” Burris wrote.
GRD Views: With all that is going on at Wegmans, it’s clear that broad sustainability efforts are taking place at more than just the largest national retailers. Wegmans initiatives are meaningful examples of what can be accomplished by any retailer that makes a commitment to Green Retail. -- John Failla for Green Retail Decisions
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