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IT Offers Supermarkets Another Green Opportunity

IT Offers Supermarkets Another Green Opportunity

Retailers adopting a “green” strategy in their stores or warehouses ordinarily turn to a number of well-known solutions, from solar panels and wind energy to energy-efficient lighting and refrigeration technologies.

But there is a less obvious way they can save energy and reduce their carbon footprint: Deploy green information technology.

Many retail technology suppliers have taken pains to market energy-efficient, environmentally friendly systems in recent years. Retailers who make use of these devices will be able to cut their utility bills, help protect the environment and impress their shoppers, all at the same time.

One such green technology, virtualization, is enabling organizations such as Associated Grocers of Baton Rouge, C&K Market and Costco to sharply curtail their use of energy-intensive servers at corporate headquarters and stores. Instead of “server sprawl,” these companies are running numerous “virtual machines” on just a handful of physical servers. A feature story beginning on Page 39 has all the details.

Retailers who are ready to upgrade their POS systems now have an opportunity to invest in green models from the major suppliers. For example, IBM's SurePOS 700 system, made from some recycled materials, uses processors that require less power than other comparable systems. NCR now offers energy-efficient dual-core processing technology in its POS solutions and ATMs.

In January, Fujitsu Transaction Solutions announced a “Pervasive Green” initiative that includes energy-efficient processing technology in its TeamPoS 3000 POS hardware as well as a commitment to restrict the use of certain environmentally hazardous electrical and electronic equipment. And Fujitsu's self-checkout software has been updated to allow shoppers to use reusable grocery bags instead of plastic bags.

NCR has contributed another environmental boost to the checkout lane with a two-sided receipt printer that does simultaneous printing on both sides of a thermal paper receipt, reducing paper consumption up to 40%, according to the company. Earlier this year, Reynold's Market, which operates five stores in Montana, installed the printer in a five-lane store in Sidney, Mont.

Another independent, Newport Avenue Market, Bend, Ore., has given a green spin to its investment in electronic shelf labels, the plastic modules that display digital prices and replace paper price tags (which can't be recycled).

Owner Rudy Dory sees the ESLs, from StoreNext Retail Technologies, eliminating reams of paper, to say nothing of the energy and ink required to print the tags.

Of course, retailers need to beware of “greenwashing” — the practice of hyping eco-friendly product features that don't really exist. But that shouldn't diminish the fact that a growing number of the IT-related systems retailers need to run their businesses offer environmental benefits and energy savings that are quantifiable and real.