A progress report about Valley Natural Foods' efforts to
demonstrate sustainable practices.
By Gary Johnson
The pulsing of technology in our society often leaves consumers and building managers wondering what is around the corner, and if the current technologies are really going to meet payback estimates, and how quickly the new technologies should be adopted. Valley Natural Foods continues to focus on green business model practices in resource management.
Valley Natural Foods continues to pursue the adoption of green business tactics to meet our goals of:
Actions have been taken in the store that not only help efficiency but are also appealing to our five senses. The sense of sight has been most apparent as during this past fiscal year we have completed installation of LED lighting in all the coolers and freezers. This process was done in stages, so perhaps not everyone has noticed the change. While this has provided improved illumination for products it has also improved the freshness of products which is accomplished by reducing the amount of heat produced by the LED lighting. The variety of fresh, cooled and frozen products are not absorbing the heat from the lighting, allowing them to stay cooler longer. This also reduces the amount of electrical energy consumed by the coolers and freezers. LED lighting has also been incorporated into the overhead lighting in Trail 8 (bottled beverages, pet care, and home cleaning products). Overhead lighting in the Health and Beauty department is next up for the LED change over. This change keeps the fresh in fresh, including visual appeal, aroma and taste.
- Reduce, recycle, and reuse at every opportunity
- Increase the focus on local products and services
- Think about how every action affects the natural world
As coolers and freezers come to the end of their life cycle, they are replaced. Due to the focus of green business it might seem quite logical to acquire used equipment as had been done in the past. Now the upfront cost may not be the first consideration, as overall maintenance and energy consumption costs are more critical to the operations budget. New equipment is far more energy efficient than older models. This is not something readily visible to our shoppers.
Time is important to keeping products fresh. As our Down in the Valley products are distributed to additional outlets how smoothly and efficiently our driver gets though traffic to make deliveries on time while keeping quality high is even more critical. Many area co-ops and restaurants have Down in the Valley products. Lunds and Byerly’s stores have been a recent addition for many of the gluten-free products coming from the bake house. Route planning is part of the drivers’ quest for efficient deliveries, road safety and fuel cost reduction. This is part of the well integrated wholesale business practices that will continue to make these and others a great addition to the Down in the Valley family of products.
Being green can be as simple as honoring a city watering ban, as has been the case this summer. The city of Burnsville requested no watering of any kind between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., and residential and business landscape watering on an every other day schedule. This saves water for the city’s residents and businesses and the city the electrical cost of moving water through its waterlines.
Last winter we made a big commitment to reducing the volume of material reaching the landfill from our store. We have been able to capitalize on the relative ease of recycling plain cardboard, leasing a compactor and reselling the 30 yards of cardboard accumulated on a weekly basis. This has lead to an even more aggressive change that has diverted a greater volume of former landfill bound materials into a compostable materials program. Included are the many waxed cardboard boxes from the meat and produce departments, produce department trimmings and waste, deli and kitchen food preparation waste. We also include material from the gardens here at the Co-op. This material is taken in by the Mdewakanton Sioux Commercial Composting site in Shakopee. The resulting compost is used by a variety of commercial and residential users in our area for soil improvement.
Stretchable plastics used as skid wraps or bubble wrap or ordinary plastic bags are also being diverted away from the landfill. This material, while not a heavy material, added a lot of volume to our landfill waste stream. The clean material is collected in large white bags that hold about a cubic yard of material. Further processing takes place at the local recycling plant prior to being used by other businesses for new products made from recycled materials. Our departments also recycle tin, glass and plastic containers.
Current reports for the first 8 months of 2012 indicate the success of the continued and dedicated efforts of our staff to put the correct materials in the correct place. There is only 11.3% of our current waste stream that goes to the landfill. We recycle 88.7%, consisting of 62.7% cardboard (27,120 pounds), 20.7% organics (91,490 pounds), and 5.3% co-mingled materials (23,650 pounds). We do not maintain an exact measurement for the stretchy plastics at this time.