The grocery business wouldn’t get far without plastics, refrigerators, and semi-trucks. Alas, these anchors of our food supply also produce waste and pollution that contribute to environmental damage and climate change.
Based in Michigan, Meijer operates more than 250 supercenters and grocery stores in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and Wisconsin. The chain is offering clues on how the industry can shrink its environmental footprint.
Here’s a look at three of Meijer’s sustainability efforts:
The plastic in a disposable grocery bag has years of useful life that go to waste in a landfill. The challenge is figuring out how to put that plastic to good use.
Meijer and Dow Chemical have a solution for the plastic bag problem: Adding it to the asphalt in grocery store parking lots. It’s all part of a drive to create a “circular economy” that recycles things like disposable plastics back into the marketplace.
“We are committed to lessening our impact on the environment and are pleased to partner with our customers and Dow in the largest in-state project of this kind to better demonstrate our commitment to a circular economy through recycling and reusing plastic to better ensure a more sustainable future,” said Rick Keyes, president and CEO of Meijer.
Meijer customers contributed 12,500 pounds of post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic that was used in a pilot project at the chain’s superstore in Holland, Michigan. Dow developed a variety of recycled polymer modified asphalt (RPMA) that adds durability to conventional asphalt paving materials.
Meijer is part of the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag, an initiative with CVS Health, Target, Walmart, DICK’S Sporting Goods, Kroger, Hy-Vee, and Walgreens.
Meijer’s skill at reducing refrigerant leaks has earned recognition from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has a program called GreenChill targeting leaky refrigeration systems. Meijer joined the program in 2012 and now has a leak rate that’s 18.2% below the industry average. In the past year, Meijer had the lowest corporate-wide refrigerant emissions among GreenChill participants.
“Refrigeration plays a vital role in ensuring foods are stored at the proper temperature before they’re purchased by our customers, but many people don’t realize it makes an impact on the environment,” said Vik Srinivasan, Meijer’s senior vice president of properties and real estate.
Refrigerant leaks have been implicated in damage to the earth’s ozone layer. Meijer used leak detectors and maintenance best practices to reduce their leakage rate, the company says.
The EPA also gave Meijer two SmartWay Excellence Awards for improving the fuel efficiency of the chain’s truck fleet. “According to the EPA, moving freight accounts for more than 25 percent of all fuel consumed and greenhouse gasses emitted by the transportation sector,” said Tom McCall, vice president of logistics for Meijer. “We’re pleased to do our part to reduce those emissions.”
What are they doing? For one thing, Meijer is testing engine designs that can boost fuel economy by 3.4 percent. That may sound small, but it adds up quickly in Meijer’s network of 750 trucks that travel more than 70 million miles in a year.
Indeed, all of these incremental improvements underscore the value of a commitment to sustainable business practices. Grocers can’t save the world in two years, but they can help create a better world with 20 years of consistent improvements.
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