Whole Foods Store as a Sustainabile Showcase Facility

By Paul Baier of GreenBiz

Image source: bookgrl/Flicker CC license

The Whole Foods store in Dedham, Mass., may just be the greenest grocery store in the world.

This showcase facility demonstrates leading energy and sustainability practices to Whole Food customers, employees and investors, as well as the local community. Showcase facilities are a powerful learning tool for companies that are implementing sustainable business practices.

Whole Foods isn’t the only leading company utilizing showcase facilities. The Procter & Gamble manufacturing plant in Auburn, Maine, for example, is a zero-waste facility. The Empire State Building, managed by Malkin Holdings, uses 100 percent Green Power.

When I toured the Dedham Whole Foods store, my expectations were naturally high, but I left impressed.

What is so remarkable about this particular store? The store is notable because of the actual implementation of so many leading sustainable and energy practices in construction, facility operations, store operations and culture:

• All structural steel is made from 100 percent recycled materials and the building uses a white roof
• Renewable constructions materials include Marmoleum surfaces and Trikeenan wall tiles
• 90 percent of the store’s energy needs are met by a 400kWh fuel cell and 80 kWh solar panels
• The refrigeration system’s rejected heat is reclaimed and used to heat water
• Kitchen exhaust systems are on-demand and do not run continuously
• Skylights and automated lighting reduction control are used extensively
• 80 percent of store waste is reused
• Grocery bags and cash register tape are made from 100 percent recycled paper
• The store has innovative programs such as wine cork recycling and the promotion of multiple containers for meals and lunches.  Customers can come in and try sustainable cleaning products before they buy them in an in-store cleaning and sink area

Sustainability is evident in the building, operations, products, company culture, employees and customer interaction.

Yes, the store is a newly constructed facility and this gave Whole Foods the opportunity to incorporate sustainability into the design from the ground floor. But, the company’s investment in sustainable facility and operations went much farther than many new builds.

Kudos to Whole Foods.

Seeing does lead to understanding. In the world of 100-page CSR reports and a sea of thousands of Tweets, the physical experience of a showcase facility is powerful.

Company leaders should not underestimate the profound influence of showcase facilities, be it a manufacturing plant, office, warehouse, retail outlet or fleet. Showcase facilities play a critical role in the important but difficult process of culture change toward sustainability.