EDUCATION OF BOTH CUSTOMERS AND EMPLOYEES is a key component of operating a LEED-certified store, according to Ruben Lemelin, the store manager at the Hannaford Bros. location in Augusta, Maine, that has been certified as LEED platinum, the highest level possible.
The store has an environmental initiative assistant store manager, Christy Elge, part of whose job it is to train employees on the many energy-saving and environmentally friendly measures that are deployed throughout the store.
She began training workers before the store even opened in July, and the store's break areas include information to help educate workers.
To educate consumers, the store includes an elaborate display at the front of the store, divided into sustainability initiatives surrounding “people, product and planet,” which fits in with the sustainability theme of the chain's Brussels-based parent company, Delhaize Group.
“Everything that we educated our associates on, our customers have at their fingertips as well,” Lemelin explained.
In addition to the extensive display near the store's entrance, customers are also encouraged to visit an area on the chain's website that includes educational information about the store.
To help promote the store initially to customers, the location gave out about 60,000 reusable bags — including one to every customer that came through the store during the opening week. In addition, Hannaford gave out free bags at two other Augusta locations as part of the effort, for a total of about 100,000 free bags.
“We really flooded the marketplace with bags,” Lemelin said. “Hopefully, this creates a reduction in paper and plastic — that's the goal.”
He noted that the store still offers traditional paper and plastic bags for customers.
Hannaford also promoted the environmentally friendly aspects of the store with an extra insert in the fliers and through a media tour before the grand opening.
Initial feedback from customers about the store has been positive, Lemelin said.
“The customers are excited about the fact that we have opened this environmentally conscious store,” he said. “The response has been phenomenal. My produce manager said when people walk into the store, the first thing they do is look up, because of all the natural light that pours into the produce department. And for customers to notice that we have vegetation on the roof is a pretty neat thing.”
Customers have also commented on the feel of the air in the store, he said. During a recent stretch of high humidity, when the store was being cooled almost entirely by the geothermal wells, the air inside the store remained comfortable.
“People came in and said how great the environment feels inside the store,” Lemelin said. “Usually if it is humid outside, it creeps inside, but not in this store.”
Operationally, the store has a few differences from a typical Hannaford, he noted, including additional “bells and whistles” associated with the advanced refrigeration, lighting and energy systems, he said.
Perhaps the biggest difference so far is the consumer interest in the location, however.
“From a day-to-day operating standpoint, it's not much different than a typical store, other than that you never know when a tour could pop in,” Lemelin said.