Top Ten Sustainability Initiatives of Publix Super Markets

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Publix Super Markets, just known as Publix, is an American supermarket chain that has been listed in the top ten America’s Largest Private Companies as listed by Forbes in 2010. It is the fourteenth largest retailer in the United States based on revenue. Like other super markets throughout the United States, Publix super markets are taking strides to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly, including setting up recycling programs, making sustainable choices in terms of where food is purchased, and promoting the utilization of reusable grocery bags rather than plastic bags. Here are just a few of the sustainability initiatives done by Publix super markets.

1 ) Product Sourcing. While Publix does have a number of exotic products along it shelves from various places around the globe, the supermarket chain is very proud of all the local products they are able to source “just down the street.” Everything from produce to seafood and floral arrangements come from local suppliers that Publix supports whenever possible. Publix is always looking to offer a wide array of products grown throughout the United States that supports local farms.

2 ) Lighting. Publix has incorporated a number of the latest fluorescent technologies in all new store designs to provide more than 50 percent savings in light energy, especially in stores that have older building designs. Currently, Publix is looking to retrofit all existing stores with metal halide fixture components to improve overall lighting quality and reduce energy utilize for lighting by up to 50 percent. Through the use of an energy management system, store lighting is controlled and all non-essential lighting is turned off during all unoccupied hours to increase overall energy savings. Publix is also implementing LED technology for their cooler and freezer application to reduce energy usage anywhere between 50 and 80 percent. More than 500 store are now equipped with LED lighting.

3 ) Refrigeration and Air Conditioning. Publix continues to focus on energy efficient refrigeration as well as air conditioning designs in all facilities and stores. A number of new stores now have a new secondary coolant technology that will significantly reduce the total refrigerant charge. Lower temperature cases in all the stores also utilize non-ozone depleting refrigerant.

4 ) Seafood Sustainability. Publix greatly focuses on its seafood sourcing efforts to ensure they are able to provide customers with the very best in seafood products and large variety while also enabling Publix to be good environmental stewards. Therefore, Publix ensures that all their seafood comes from legal seafood fisheries. Publix also domestically sources all seafood when possible. Because of its efforts, Publix has retained partnerships with a number of nongovernmental organizations, including Ocean Trust, an ocean conservation foundation that offers assistance in locating sustainable fisheries.

5 ) Reusable Bags for Groceries. Publix is always looking to help its customers make the switch from regular plastic bags to reusable plastic bags. For more than two decades, Publix has been offering reusable bags to all customers, such as cotton cloth bags. Starting in 2007, Publix began to sell various other types of reusable bags that were made from recycled material and can be recycled when the material begins to wear out. More than 13 million reusable bags have been sold and even more have been given away to customers. All Publix stores have bag reduction goals and progress monitoring, as well as campaigns that continue to encourage individuals to use reusable bags. Per month, Publix saves an average of more than 40 million plastic and paper reusable bags.

6 ) Solar Energy Usage. Publix is currently working with the Florida Solar Energy center as well as a variety of companies that are proficient in solar integration in an effort to conduct a number of photovoltaic feasibility system pilot projects to determine how photovoltaic systems can best be integrated into all retail operations. Publix, right now, has four photovoltaic systems that are in operation, including one at the corporate office in Lakeland, Florida and stores in Palm Beach Gardens, Boca Raton, and Miami Lakes.

7 ) Recycling Efforts. The recycling rate for Publix on a companywide effort has at almost 50 percent and Publix is looking to raise this percentage by even more. In 2010, the supermarket chain was able to recycle more than 215,000 tons of regular and wax cardboard, as well as 2,790 tons of mixed paper and 8,500 tons of mixed plastic and low-density polyethylene. Through these recycling efforts, Publix has been able to save around 3.7 million trees, 729,000 cubic yards of space at landfills, and 1.5 billion gallons of water. There are in-store recycling opportunities for all plastic and paper products at all supermarket stores.

8 ) Efficient Vehicles. Publix is committed to working alongside truck manufacturers to ensure the highest number of miles per gallon for all delivery vehicles. Through consolidation efforts and efficient truck loading, Publix was able to reduce the total quantity of deliveries in 2010 by more than 9,700. Publix has also looked over all truck routes to see where empty miles on the road could be cut, thereby saving on fuel and energy consumption. A majority of trucks also use dual fuel (natural gas and diesel) for all diesel generators, totally optimize tire pressure, and utilize electric fans. Publix is currently adding a number of gas-electric hybrids to the fleet. There are right now more than 200 hybrids and 400 flex fuel vehicles.

9 ) Packaging. Publix strives to make all necessary efforts to ensure environmentally friendly packaging of all items. Publix recently switched to a brand new vendor, increasing the opportunity to reduce the amount of plastic resin found in the plastic used to create the private label bottled water. This has aided in reducing carbon dioxide emissions by more than 1,100 tons annually. Publix has also worked with a film supplier to look for a sustainable film used to seal all Publix Brand Deli Salads. This new film is made up of 30 percent post-consumer recycled material.

10 ) FSC/SFI Certification. Publix has remained committed to sustainability for many years. The Publix in-house printing services department has received both certifications from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) for all the effort made to support sustainable forestry practices.

Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He is also author of The 2012 Cleantech Directory. He can be reached at shawn@watershedcapital.com.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.