Patti Olenick 2017-04-05 01:42:15
When it comes to sustainability initiatives, it’s easy for companies to talk the talk, but walking the walk is often met with hurdles abound. Operating a successful sustainability program is more than just a general commitment to recycling and conserving energy. Pennsylvania-based retailer Weis Markets is one such company that has hit the ground running. Weis Markets is a local company at its core, having longstanding partnerships with local Farmers and food processors in the communities in which it operates since it first opened its doors in 1912. In 2008, the company made a firm commitment to operating its stores with a greater focus on improving efficiencies and reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. It set a goal of reducing GHG emissions 20 percent by the year 2020 — a goal the company surpassed five years ahead of schedule in 2015, reducing emissions by 22.1 percent. Through local sourcing, improved store designs, involvement in national sustainability programs, a robust chain-wide recycling program and community commitments that give back, Weis continues to lead the pack in sustainability efforts among grocery retailers. Green Design For Weis Markets, sustainability often begins from the ground up with the construction of new stores. The newest flagship location in Enola, PA is a crowning achievement in sustainable design. The store features LED lighting and skylights to provide natural light and reduce electric lighting needs. This design feature, known as daylight harvesting, allows the stores to be naturally lit during daylight hours. Supplementary LED lighting is set on a sensor, which automatically turns on when natural light is insufficient, such as during overcast periods or evening hours. This daylight harvesting practice saves the company an average of 50 percent in lighting costs. The store also features sustainable concrete flooring, made locally within 300 miles of the store. The concrete flooring is easy to clean, requiring only filtered water, which eliminates the need for harsh cleaning chemicals. The flooring is also extremely durable, with a much longer lifespan than most other commercial flooring options. Energy efficient enclosed refrigeration cases for dairy and cold meat and bagged salad refrigerated cases lightens the load by maintaining stable temperatures and decreasing energy consumption, while increasing product integrity. National Sustainability Programs For ongoing educational opportunities and ways to improve sustainability efficiencies, Weis Markets participates in national programs that provide counsel on best practices. Weis Markets is a proud participant in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s GreenChill program, which Monitors refrigerant usage to help reduce the overall environmental impact on the ozone layer and climate change. Weis Markets has an emissions rate of 7.3 percent, which is significantly less than the grocery industry average of 25 percent. Weis Markets realized sustainability efforts would only be successful if each store takes responsibility for their own role in overall progress. To that end, it enrolled all of its stores in the Grocery Stewardship Certification Program, a national program to help grocery stores reduce their environmental footprint through continuous improvement and associate engagement. Energy Conservation Efforts Energy conservation continues to be a key part of Weis Markets’ overall program. The company completed 112 retrofit projects in 2016, for a savings of 9,317,343 kWh. Projects included updating LED lighting and adding doors to closed refrigeration cases. Weis also updated its Energy Awareness program from a classroom style education to an online Learning Management System, allowing for a broader reach to all associates and greater abilities to share its conservation message. Beyond Traditional Recycling One of the core pillars of the Weis sustainability program is an ongoing focus on reducing waste - with a goal of zero waste — and conserving natural resources. Recognizing that the protection of the environment is a responsibility that falls to everyone, Weis Markets works to provide associates and customers with products and processes that allow them to participate in efforts to recycle and reduce waste. Weis Markets also began its own closed-loop recycling program in 2009, recycling postconsumer waste to make brand new products. Food waste, plastic bags and waxed cardboard are diverted from landfills to make new products that are cycled back to store shelves, significantly cutting landfill waste, conserving resources and providing quality products for customers. The hallmark of the closed-loop recycling program is the process that cultivates Weis Choice Compost made exclusively from the instore waste and food scraps collected from more than 70 Weis Markets locations. The collected waste is sent to American Biosoils Compost in Skippack, PA, where it is converted into compost to be sold in Weis Markets stores chain-wide. Weis Choice Compost is certified by the U.S. Composting Council for use on trees, shrubs, flower and vegetable gardens, as well as lawns, and is enrolled in the USCC’s Seal of Testing Assurance Program, which requires regular testing for quality assurance. Weis Markets recycles waxed cardboard through a partnership with Enviro-Log®, which creates fire logs containing 30 to 40 percent lower particulate matter emissions than regular firewood. And, its award-winning Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) meat trays used for select Weis fresh meat products are the industry’s first closed-loop 100 percent recyclable MAP meat trays, developed in partnership with Clearly Clean Products of Orwigsburg, Pa. The trays are made from 80 percent recycled #1 plastic and are easily recycled by customers after use. Looking ahead, Weis Markets knows that this type of work is never truly done. It maintains its commitment to developing a corporate strategy that will entrench them as a socially responsible company and ensures they are conducting business with a strong, sustainable future in mind. For more information on Weis Markets and its sustainability efforts, visit WeisMarkets.com/sustainability. ■ Patti Olenick is sustainability manager for Weis Markets. In 2016, Weis Markets recycled more than 73,716,000 pounds of materials. There are more than 20 different waste streams that are recycled throughout the company operations and stores. Cardboard: 51,266,000 pounds Plastic bags: 1,572,000 pounds Mixed paper: 1,214,000 pounds • Includes everything from copy paper and newspaper to store signage and paper packaging Food waste (composting): 7,924,000 pounds Food donations: All Weis Markets stores donate baked goods to local food pantries, churches and food banks. Weis has also begun a meat donation program, with more than 50 stores currently participating. Lastly, the Company donates reclaimed goods to local charities.
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