When you shop for food, clothes and everything else, you will be glad to discover that some of your retailers power with renewable energy. Big box retailers have taken the lead by being more energy efficient, using daylighting instead of constant lights, and by installing solar on the roofs of stores and distribution centers.
Walmart is my mother’s favorite store. My wife refuses to shop there. Love them, or hate them, you cannot ignore their impact. Walmart is a global retailer operating 11,532 stores in 28 countries. As part of RE100, Walmart is committed to sourcing 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy. The company aims to use 7,000 GWh of renewable energy globally by the end of 2020 in a mix of rooftop solar and contracted renewable energy.
Walmart is the biggest U.S. solar corporate buyer, with 142 MW of installed solar photovoltaic (PV). The fossil-fuel industry claims that there is not enough land on the planet to meet our energy needs with wind and solar. In fact, only one percent of the earth’s land would be needed to meet all energy needs with renewables. In the case of solar on rooftops and parking structures, no added land is needed.
In Evanston, Illinois, the Walgreen store is zero net energy (ZNE). This energy-efficient building meets all of its energy needs with 850 solar panels, two small wind turbines, and a geothermal system exchanging heat in the winter and cool in the summer from the constant temperature 550 feet below ground.
Evanston is just one of 150 Walgreens with solar on the roof. At 400 locations, Walgreens has electric vehicle charging stations for customers. I’d like to thank them for charging my EV on several occasions.
Monthly utility bills can be a big hit to the budget. Safeway uses Stem intelligent storage systems to not only shift energy use to low cost hours with battery storage; they have also used big data analytics to understand, and then reduce, peak demand charges. For example, they have learned that by not running a chiller at the same time as a water pump, they can lower peak usage.
Safeway’s next initiative with Stem will be to help utility Edison replace nuclear plants and methane peakers with energy on demand from Safeway’s installed batteries in Southern California. In return for being part of the Edison program, Safeway will be rewarded with thousands saved monthly in its utility bills.
Through energy-efficiency measures, Safeway reduces its total energy use annually by installing everything from LED lighting to adding humidity sensors in refrigerators. Thirty-five stores are solar powered and two 1 MW wind turbines are used at a distribution center.
Digital and the Energy Cloud
Many of us do most, or all, of our shopping online with retailers that are lowering carbon emissions from data centers, to warehouses, to home delivery.
Your purchase may have started with a Google search. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is the biggest corporate user of clean energy. Google is so energy efficient, that your use of their search and other apps probably uses less energy in a month than driving your car one mile. Google has been carbon-neutral since 2007.
Alphabet has gone beyond its own needs and invested $2.5 billion in large-scale and solar and wind with combined renewable energy capacity of 3.7GW. Its massive data centers use renewable energy and are far more energy efficient than typical centers, Google designed servers that need less air conditioning and uses machine learning to optimize over 100 aspects of data center energy use.
Nest, an Alphabet company, helps homeowners manage energy. For example, it will help 50,000 in L.A. make money from utility giant Edison by reducing demand for electricity and aggregating demand response for the utility.
Amazon has transformed products with larger carbon footprints into digital services such as e-books, music, and film. Amazon is committed to running all cloud services with renewables, up from 40 percent today. Amazon Web Services (AWS) hosts web services for millions of organizations (including Meeting of the Minds), on average reducing carbon emissions by 88 percent over what the organizations would have used with their own data centers. Amazon lowered the carbon footprint of its 20,000 headquarters workers by moving to downtown Seattle, where they can get to work car-free by walking and using transit.
Prologis owns distribution centers globally where it warehouses goods for companies like Amazon. Most of its 3,000 buildings are LEED certified.149 MW of solar are installed.
One truck delivering 100 packages in an optimized route has only a fraction of the emissions of 100 people driving cars to stores. FedEx currently operates 118 all-electric trucks and 364 commercial hybrid trucks. When you choose ground delivery from a shipper, your carbon emissions are a fraction of when air shipment is involved.
FedEx distribution centers are powered by solar. The 2.7 MW solar array at the FedEx facility in Hagerstown, Maryland, consists of nearly 9,000 individual modules and offsets 37 percent of their electricity demand.
Net-Zero Mixed Use
If you live in a city, you’re likely to meet many of your shopping needs with a walk down the street, and the rest with a ride on light-rail. In cities there is enough density of people that groceries, restaurants, and a wide range of merchants nearby. In an ideal transit oriented development, pedestrians are given top priority. Walking is safe. Merchants, office space, and living are integrated into lively mixed-use. Children can walk to school, instead of being chauffeured by busy parents.
Open Square in Holyoke, Massachusetts is the country’s largest zero net energy mixed-use development using 500 kW of hydropower to support 50 businesses from CPA and law firms to salons, yoga studios, and venues for events.
You may prefer to let your fingers do the shopping, or go where everything is under one roof, or buy in your own neighborhood. For many some mix of these choices is ideal. Most readers here at Meeting of the Minds are living more sustainably. They appreciate retailers who shift to renewables, help their supply chain be more sustainable, and aspire to be carbon neutral. Our readers also know that the lowest carbon shopping solution is buying less stuff.
Living in a city, my wife and I are lucky to be walking distance to a corner market with fresh fruit and produce. Even better, most of the salad greens that we enjoy are grown on the patio of our condo. We harvest fresh without transportation or supply chain issues. Most of the time, a walk with friends or time with loved ones seems to be more fun than a trip to the shopping center.