Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Weekly Green Report

Environmental news, information and ideas for the natural & specialty foods industry

Going Green: The Retail Environment

Plastic grocery bag recycling and reusable bags...Last month (July, 2007) California implemented a new law which requires all supermarket retailers who have stores over a certain size to place recycling bins in their stores so shoppers can return plastic grocery bags to the store to be recycled. The law additionally requires these retailers to offer reusable grocery tote bags for sale in their stores. California grocers supported the legislation--participating in the writing of the legislative bill. The California Grocers Association (CGA) reports the implementation of the law is going well.

Many of these retailers were already selling reusable canvas grocery bags in their stores prior to the law going into effect. The California grocers like the fact that by selling the reusable tote bags they might be able to reduce their purchases of paper and plastic grocery bags--thus saving money. In the penny-profit retail supermarket industry even saving just 10% on disposable grocery bag purchases can amount to real money for retailers, especially those that operate hundreds of stores in the state like Safeway Stores, Inc. and SuperValue, Inc's. Albertsons.

More on reusable tote bags...The Publix supermarket chain in Florida also recently began selling reusable canvas grocery bags in all their stores. Publix is selling a canvas bag for $1, which is at the chain's wholesale cost. Numerous retailers have been selling these reusable canvas grocery bags for a number of years now. Whole Foods Markets, Inc, and Wild Oats Markets, Inc.sell the tote bags in all their stores. They also offer a number of choices--ranging from an inexpensive basic bag to more upscale versions. The HEB grocery chain in Texas offers canvas tote bags for sale in it's stores as does Lund's in Minnesota, Giant Foods in Washington, D.C., Safeway in Colorado, Washington State, and most other states where they have stores. Many other large chains, regional chains and independents are also are selling the bags or planning to begin doing so this year.

This isn't a fad and will continue to grow. In countries like Germany, France and Italy (to name just three) it is common practice for consumers to use reusable canvas tote bags regularly. These consumers often shop at multiple retail outlets--the bakery for bread, the butcher shop for meat and fish, the green grocer for fresh produce, and then the supermarket for everything else. They carry their canvas tote bags with them to each retail outlet rather than getting their goods packed in a paper of plastic bag at each one.

Environmentally savvy retailers...Welcome to Ritchies Supermarkets and Liquor Stores: Ritchies, a 4-store IGA-affiliated independent retailer in Seaford British Columbia might well be nicknamed the "Environmental Grocer." Ritchies has created an entire environmental philosophy for their retail operation including a mission statement. You can read all about it on their website:http://www.ritchies.com.au/enviro.html. Among Ritchies environmental principles are recycling, reuse, sustainability, conservation, anti-animal cruelty and more. They also communicate environmentally friendly products to consumers in their stores with special shelf tags and signs. They hold environmental events for the community, partner with local environmental groups and more. Ritchies has learned that green marketing can pay economic dividends and be good for the environment at the same time--a win-win proposition.

Europe's largest organic supermarket...Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Markets, Inc. opened an 80,000 square foot super store in London, UK last month. The store is being touted as Europe's largest organic and natural foods supermarket. The store also is being touted for it's environmentally friendly initiatives and policies. Read more about those here:http://www.greenlivingtips.com/blogs/95/Europes-largest-organic-supermarket.html. In addition to it's internal environmental initiatives and policies, the store offers over 10,000 organic items for shoppers to choose from.

European grocer bringing it's brand of green to the U.S...British retailer Tesco, which has plans to build 100 stores in the U.S--focusing first in Southern California, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada-- is touting it's U.S. convenience-type stores as eco-friendly. They are using solar panels in some stores, full in-store recycling programs, building the stores for maximum energy efficiency, and incorporating other eco-friendly design and behavioral practices. They also will not use trans-fats in any of the food service items the prepare in-store or buy from vendors, offer organic foods, and buy local products whenever they can.

The stores, named Fresh & Easy, are a convenience-store type format but much more upscale. At about 10,000 square feet the stores feature extensive prepared foods offerings, which is a hallmark of Tesco's stores in Europe. They also offer numerous specialty items and unique offerings not available in the average U.S store of similar size. Tesco spent $13 million to install a solar energy system in their recently completed distribution center in Southern California. Tesco says 100 stores are currently in the works, with the first stores to open in Southern California in October-November of this year. For additional information you can read this article from the New York Post business section. http://www.nypost.com/seven/05012007/business/green_grocer_business_suzanne_kapner.htm

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