New Stores are Certifiably ‘Green’

Discussion
Aug 11, 2008

By Tom Ryan

In July, Office Depot joined a number of other retailers in opening its first “green” store in Austin. Pre-certified to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards by the USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council), the store uses less energy and water in its daily operations, increases recycling and leaves a much smaller overall environmental footprint than the typical store of its size.

In addition to moral reasons, retailers are “going green” because consumers are demanding green and retailers are recognizing the public relations value. Sustainable design fits with other eco-efforts such as offering discounts to shoppers who bring their own canvas bags and using dry popcorn packing material that can be reused as bird feed. It also supports the sale of an ever-growing array of green products. Finally, many stores undertaking green projects claim there is significant cost-savings potential in the long-term from such projects, mainly from reducing energy and waste.

Office Depot’s 21,000-square-foot prototype features solar tracking skylights to maximize natural light, solar panels, and energy efficient T5 lighting. The store has a reflective white roof; a non-asphalt, concrete parking lot; a polished concrete floor; and carpets with recycled content. High efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning units are part of the pre-certified design as well as an enhanced energy management system. Low flow urinals save on water. The finished building runs a recycling program for collection of corrugated cardboard, paper, plastics, and printer cartridges.

In merchandising, the interior walls feature educational vignettes about how the store and product assortment are both greener. Store associates have been trained to provide tips and recommendations to help customers learn how to green their own businesses. There is also an in-store recycling center for ink and toner cartridges, cell phones and rechargeable batteries.

“Office Depot has an environmental vision to increasingly buy green, be green and sell green,” said Yalmaz Siddiqui, director of environmental strategy for Office Depot. “While we have already achieved dramatic reductions in carbon emissions from our existing facilities, this new store takes us to a completely new level of energy efficiency, carbon reduction and waste reduction. The pre-certification of our prototype further establishes Office Depot as the green leader in the office products industry.”

Among other retailers, the most aggressive at pursuing green building appears to be Kohl’s, which last November said it was aiming for LEED certification for every store to break ground in 2008 – or more than 80 locations. Other companies working on LEED prototypes include Wal-Mart, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Target, Home Depot, REI and Whole Foods.

Discussion Questions: Do you think sustainability will drive the majority of retail design and construction in the future? Should retailers of all stripes be aggressively embracing “green building”? Why or why not?

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13 Comments on "New Stores are Certifiably ‘Green’"


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Mark Lilien
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

Retailers who build “green” buildings aren’t maximizing sustainability. Retailers who don’t build new stores: they’re the ones improving sustainability. Retailers would also improve sustainability by lobbying for the return of blue laws or, like Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A, closing on Sundays. Being open 7 days a week is terribly wasteful. Most American retailers only make money around 4 days a week. Why not have every store open 40 hours per week, maximum, with the staff working 4 days per week, 10 hours per day? Less commuting, less energy wasted by the building. Much better profitability and less stress on the staff and management.

Ellen Sinreich
Guest
Ellen Sinreich
13 years 9 months ago

Retailers will increasingly embrace sustainability for three reasons: green is good for business, consumers will increasingly demand it, and governmental laws and regulations will increasingly require it.

The primary driver, in my opinion will be that green is good for business. Embracing sustainability is a way to create value in every area of the retailer’s business: from marketing and branding to human resources, not to mention the “bricks and mortar” benefits such as reduced operating expenses. As hard data establishing the value creation that results from strategic sustainable practices and green building features becomes more available, retailers that are hanging back today, will recognize that the investment of time and money required to intelligently incorporate sustainability at the enterprise, portfolio and individual property levels will be more than justified by the results.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
13 years 9 months ago
Green is my favorite color. Emerald. Grass. Apple. Especially salsa verde and basil-garlic-pine nut pesto. Mountain Dew, not so much. And, I’m solidly supportive of so-called “green building” as long as it majors on the majors, not on the minors. Conspicuously leading the list of “minors” in this movement is the idea that we can slow, stop, or even reverse so-called global warming. First, the idea of global warming is anecdotal at best (you researchers out there look it up–while some glaciers are shrinking others are growing, etc.). Second, the idea that we caused global warming (if it exists) is unscientific. Not only have similar warming trends been recorded during times before the internal combustion engine was invented, but less than 3% of the greenhouse gases (GHGs) purported to cause it are man-made (70% is water vapor, and most of the rest is from natural sources such as volcanoes and forest fires). Environmental scientists, including those from the U.N., are abandoning the global warming movement daily. Third, the concepts of “carbon footprints” and “carbon credits”… Read more »
Steve Bramhall
Guest
Steve Bramhall
13 years 9 months ago

Going green is great and everyone and every company has an obligation to do it even if the jury is still out on the central cause to global warming. Customers are not willing to pay more. We sell solar products and the positive sentiment is still low because of the pricing for many applications. This will change though as the green momentum picks up and big companies like these lead the way. The problem will be when it really does pick up and costs come tumbling down as products become commoditized, then governments around the world will lose much revenue. Solar is a great answer right now as our sun becomes hotter and flares more. 17 new manufacturers of wafer technology will come on line in Asia next year.

Watch out for PEGs. Personal Energy Generators, sustainable and non polluting. They are coming and likely to hit the commercial offering in the next few years. The impact will be no more need for central distribution of power. How exciting and how green!

David Livingston
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

Retailers should embrace “green” technology only if it means a fatter bottom line. I don’t buy the line about consumers demanding retailers go green. I think the consumer could care less. All the consumer wants is the best value for their dollar.

From what I have seen, retailers have gone green where they know it saves them money. Then they doctor up a press release to make is sound like they want to help the environment. Well thats fine and dandy so long as they are not doing it at my expense. I’m going green by biking to the office more. Not because I want to help the environment, I just don’t want to spend money on gas.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
13 years 9 months ago

Green is definitely the new black. Chains are embracing green because their customers demand it. One major supermarket chain stopped giving out plastic bags all together while some charge 5 cents per bag. The environment will be a driving force in retail and we will see greener prototypes in the coming years.

Max Goldberg
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

Retailers will go green for three reasons: they can reap good PR by being one of the first to adopt green standards, they will be forced to do so by local building codes and/or the building will pay for itself more rapidly. Let’s hope the trend continues.

Anne Howe
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

I think many consumers expect retailers and manufacturers to do as much as they can to reduce their environmental impact on the world. But the expectation does not always translate to the willingness to pay for it. Everyone has to feel a little pain, so let’s spread it out across both big business and the consumer. If retailers can open green stores and not force price increases across the board to pay for it, they should do it. They’ll never win the loyalty of the next generation of Americans if they can’t or won’t do it, based on the research I’ve seen recently.

Kevin Graff
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

For everyone’s sake, let’s hope that the green movement is here to stay. Yes, business needs to make decisions predominantly based on economic return. However, at some point, leaders (whether businesses or individuals) emerge that recognize a more compelling and important vision. This isn’t sappy stuff. It’s the stuff that evolves the way we all think eventually.

More consumers than ever before are willing to pay a little more. And most are becoming more aware, and a little more demanding of a retailer’s performance in the green area.

Check out Mountain Equipment Coop (http://www.mec.ca) and look at how they build their stores and business. Try getting a plastic grocery bag in Canada in the next couple of years–good luck!

Green is good business…and good for all us too (even if some aren’t ready to do their part).

Ryan Mathews
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

I think sustainability will drive architecture and construction and therefore, by default at least, retailing. We may have finally reached the point where people realize how serious these questions really are–or we have reached the point where people don’t want to spend more than they have to on energy. Either way, it benefits sustainability.

Warren Thayer
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

Building sustainable stores saves money which goes directly to the bottom line year after year. A little over a year ago, I interviewed Bob Garrity, senior vp of store planning, construction and conservation at Giant Eagle. When I asked him then why sustainability had become so hot all of a sudden, he said “I think business pushed environmental interests off to the side before because they only thing they saw was expense. Now, so many things you can do save you money. With the cost of energy today, payback is very quick.” I’d say that what Garrity said in April 07 is even more true today. I doubt consumers will pay more for sustainability; haven’t seen any reliable research that suggests they would.

James Tenser
Guest
13 years 9 months ago
The notion that sustainability is somehow in conflict with economics seems spurious on its face. It seems self-evident that operating retail stores that use less energy and create less waste and environmental impact is ultimately less costly to our culture as a whole. The obstacles in the recent past have been rooted in antiquated thinking and our culture’s unwillingness to account for all the real costs of our actions. When wasting water, paper and landfill space costs operators nothing, they have no incentive to conserve. When wasting cheap energy seems less costly than building energy-efficient buildings, operators tend to choose the long-term, variable expense instead of the prudent up-front investment. This mindset is changing as we adjust our economic system to account for the real, life-cycle costs of human impact on the shrinking globe. In that context, a 50-year investment in solar rooftops is starting too look like a pretty good idea for retailers. So are recycling programs for solid materials and waste water. So are energy conservation measures an greener buildings. These are all… Read more »
Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

Designing stores to reduce energy costs saves money on expenses for energy, appeals to a great number of consumers, and has a positive impact on global warming. As long as the decision that is good for the environment creates a positive perception with consumers AND reduces costs, of course design decisions will continue in this direction.

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