NEW YORK — An online survey of SN's readership taken earlier this month revealed that food retailers are generally highly proactive in tackling an array of energy and environmental issues affecting store operations.
More than eight of 10 respondents (82%) to the Green Store Survey, which elicited 67 responses, said they have been able to reduce energy consumption in their stores in the past year. Nearly two-thirds (64%) said they employ an energy management system to help control usage, and 55% said they have done energy recommissioning of their stores in the past year. More than half (57%) said they have a formal energy awareness program for employees.
More than four of 10 respondents (42%) said they operate stores that have been certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program, which sets standards of energy efficiency for buildings and plants. Retailers with the most Energy Star-certified stores include Food Lion and Giant Eagle.
Just under one in four (24%) respondents said they run stores that have been certified by the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program, a benchmark for the design, construction and operation of environmentally sound buildings. Giant Eagle operates two LEED-certified stores.
Some U.S. businesses have begun seeking alternatives to the traditional sources of energy that come from fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. Two of the major alternatives — solar and wind energy — have been tried by just over one in five respondents (21%).
In the lighting area, more than half of respondents (57%) said they use alternative lighting technology such as LED or fiber optics in their stores. About a third (39%) employ skylights to reduce the amount of electrical lighting required.
On the refrigeration front, seven in 10 respondents to the survey said they are actively retrofitting the refrigeration systems in their stores to use HFC refrigerants rather than ozone-depleting HCFC refrigerants such as R-22. According to the Montreal Protocol, to which the U.S. is a party, no R-22 refrigerant will be produced or imported for new equipment as of 2010.
Two-thirds of respondents said they expect to be fully converted to HFC refrigerants by 2010. And three-quarters of respondents said they are exploring new types of refrigeration technology that uses less conventional refrigerant. More than eight of 10 (82%) said they were able to reduce refrigerant leaks in the past year.
One of the hottest trends this year is the move away from plastic shopping bags that are not biodegradable. Almost three-quarters of respondents (73%) have introduced reusable bags in their stores, while almost two-thirds (66%) provide plastic bag recycling bins.
Retailers that offer reusable bags include Stop & Shop, Giant Food, Henry's Farmers Market, Vons, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market and Whole Foods Market, which has recently stopped providing plastic bags to shoppers.