Use net zero energy, create zero waste, and promote responsible packaging: We will dramatically reduce energy use and install commercial solar, take responsibility that all of our packaging can be reused or recycled, and keep our waste out of the landfill.
Continued energy savings through new infrastructure
Last year, we were thrilled to announce the energy savings brought about by the remodel of our Carrboro store: electrical use was down 50 percent! This year we’re installing a new HVAC system in Carrboro, so we should see another significant reduction in energy use. The Daikin VRV (Variable Refrigerant Volume) heat pump system is about 40 percent more efficient overall than a conventional heat pump system. Case studies have shown the system to be 60 percent more efficient while cooling in the summer. The system also allows for “free cooling” using outside air during moderate weather, such as in the fall and spring, further reducing energy use.
We’re also working on adding doors to the coolers in our Southern Village and Hillsborough stores, similar to the closed cases in Carrboro. Case enclosure should cut electricity use by about 75 percent. A third project involves replacing the fluorescent lighting tubes in the display cases with LED tube lights; the energy savings here is 55 to 60 percent.
Introducing the zero waste planning group
As part of the discussion of Weaver Street Market’s behind-the-scenes plans for the upcoming year, a group of employees met to discuss our zero waste and energy goal. They identified several next steps for moving forward with the goal:
- Improve our kitchen and bakery waste diversion by developing best practices for recycling and composting.
- Identify examples of effective disposal bin signage and install the signs in our cafes.
- Monitor our progress toward zero waste with tracking software, using the weights of our diverted materials from our haulers.
Sustainable packaging is coming
We are always searching for the most sustainable packaging for our prepared food. There’s no perfect solution, but we continue to search for the best option, in line with our co-op goal of zero waste. Through the years, we’ve tried various options, from recyclable #5 to compostable PLA plastic. We’re currently exploring a biodegradable paperboard container made with a parchment coating that allows it to be compostable. (Soiled paperboard containers, like pizza boxes, are not recyclable but can be composted in the collection bins in our stores.) The paperboard results in less greenhouse gas emissions and is made from a renewable resource, unlike plastic.
It’s the little things
In our continued effort to “go green” in the office, we’ve started sending new owners their coupons electronically. This saves paper and envelopes, as well as person-power, plus we can link the new owners to helpful tips and update the emails seasonally. Our finance department now pays 80 percent of our vendors electronically. Although this only saves us about 100 envelopes per week, it also saves time, postage, and labor, and it decreases the carbon footprint to get the check to the vendor and then to the vendor’s bank. In 2017, we are switching our biweekly employee newsletter from a paper format to electronic. We’re always looking for new ways to conserve.
Some reminders for our wonderful shoppers: our stores serve as drop-off sites for plastic bags and wrap, household batteries, and corks—three items that you can’t recycle in your curbside bins. The bins for these items are near the door in each store—just ask if you cannot find one. And remember that we can compost paper plates and to-go boxes, as well as all food waste (including bones). We ask customers to separate their compostables into the bin in the café. Compostables go to Brooks Contractor to be made into fertile soil.