Environmental Stewardship: Our Green Mission

Since we opened our first store in 1980, we've not only been passionate about healthy food, we’ve been passionate about a healthy planet. From team members who made something happen in their own home stores to executive leaders who made historical decisions that put planet before profits, we’re always trying something new in green. We work on it every day.

The 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

While every store location does things a little differently, we are united in striving to honor this golden rule of environmental stewardship, whether in company-wide or localized efforts. 

Reduce

Our stores are taking the initiative in many areas to reduce our impact on Earth and its resources, including:

  • Implementing paperless ordering systems to reduce paper waste
  • Supporting carpooling and public transportation for team members
  • Installing flushless urinals and low-flow toilets
  • Evaluating the need for printing, and when we do print, insisting on recycled paper, and using water- or vegetable-based inks and solvent-free printing processes when available
  • Composting, which has reduced landfill waste by up to 80% in some regions and resulted in zero waste in several stores

Reuse

We reuse material of all kinds whenever possible, including:

  • Encouraging the use of reusable grocery bags by providing affordable bags
  • Installing rain-water collection systems to reuse rain water for non-consumable purposes
  • Implementing the use of reusable and compostable plates and bowls in our dining areas
  • Using reclaimed wood, bricks and other materials in constructing new stores

Recycle

Beyond recycling cardboard and paper, which has long been a regular practice in every store, office and facility, other examples of recycling initiatives include:  

  • Replacing disposable batteries with rechargeable ones
  • Holding company and community recycling drives for electronics
  • Using recycled paper with a high percentage of post-consumer waste
  • Providing receptacles for glass and plastic recycling in our dining areas
  • Providing collection boxes for cell phones, ink jet cartridges and wine corks
  • Utilizing our delivery trucks to backhaul compostable waste to regional facilities where it is turned into compost, which is donated to community gardens or sold in our stores

Alternative Energy

Wind Power

In January of 2006, we made our first landmark purchase of renewable energy credits (RECs) from wind farms to offset 100% of the electricity used in all of our stores and other facilities in the United States and Canada. In 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, we did it again! This green action and others earned us the Environmental Protection Agency Green Power Partner of the Year 2006, 2007 and 2010. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency recognized us for our green power purchases with a Green Power Leader­ship Award in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Our investment in wind energy supports the clean energy industry and helps us avoid nearly 551,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution. That's an environmental benefit equivalent to not consuming 1,200,000 barrels of oil or avoiding the annual electricity usage of 65,000 average-sized homes*. Learn more about how national wind RECs work.

*For more details on these calculations and clean energy in general, visit the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Energy page.

Solar

As of 2015, we had 25 stores and facilities supplementing traditional power with solar power, and there are more in development. A typical solar installation can:

  • Produce and save more than 2.2 million kilowatt hours over 20 years
  • Result in more than 1,650 tons of CO2 emissions avoided, the equivalent of removing 440 cars from roadways
  • Reduce the impact on our country’s power grids

Electric Vehicles

As of 2015, we had 45 electric vehicle charging stations at our stores, and 31 more in progress.

Biodiesel

We are gradually converting our truck fleet to biodiesel fuels, reducing CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. Our fleet is also being fitted with aerodynamic aprons to cut down on wind resistance resulting in less fuel consumption. These trucks also use a fuel-saving (and emissions-cutting) system that allows the engine to be turned off completely at loading and delivery, rather than remain idling.

Green Building

Green building techniques conserve natural resources by reducing the use of virgin raw materials and minimizing the amount of toxic resins and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) off-gassed by traditional building materials such as laminates, paint and carpeting.

In addition to reclaimed materials, new store construction includes innovative materials such as MDF (medium density fiberboard made from 100% recovered and recycled wood fiber), Marmoleum (a natural linoleum product); and FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Certified Wood.

We are proud to have more than 45 stores that have been or are in the process of Green Globes or LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. Our store in Brooklyn, NY, is on track to receive LEED Platinum certification.

As of 2015, twenty of our stores had been awarded the Environmental Protection Agency’s GreenChill certification. We have the most natural-refrigerant stores in the grocery business.

Community Support

A significant number of our individual stores’ Community Giving Days benefit nonprofit environmental organizations with a percent of store sales. In addition, team members often participate in local cleanups or regularly volunteer their time to nonprofits. 

Product Sourcing and Packaging

Product Sourcing

We go to great lengths to source products using specific standards or purchasing guidelines which emphasize environmental health or include an environmental component:

Product Packaging

Many of our stores offer bulk purchasing – as little or as much as you need – which reduces packaging and shipping weight. In addition, our own Whole Foods Market™ and 365 Everyday Value® brands’ bottled body products, vitamins and supplements are in bottles made from at least 50% recycled plastic.

We are in the process of replacing traditional plastic and paper prepared-food containers with compostable fiber packaging made from renewable resources such as bagasse (made from sugar cane pulp and wood fibers). These are either unbleached (free from chlorine and dioxins) or lightened with non-elemental chlorine bleach, which does not have the same environmental detriments as industrial chlorine bleach.

Palm Oil Pledge

Whole Foods Market is concerned with the social and environmental impacts of palm oil production in tropical rainforest ecosystems around the world, and our company supports the protection of rainforests, communities and our global climate.

We are proud to report that 100% of Whole Foods Market’s 365 Everyday Value® brand food items containing palm oil, palm kernel oil, palm fruit oil and palm shortening are produced using Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified sustainable oil products. We are fulfilling this pledge through the purchase of Identity-Preserved, Segregated and Mass Balance palm oil.

We acknowledge that many stakeholders believe that the current RSPO standards do not adequately address the impact of palm production on peatlands, High Conservation Value Areas, High Carbon Stock forests, human rights, and the principle of free, prior and informed consent, and we are actively engaged in a multi-stakeholder initiative that seeks to build on the RSPO standards by more deeply addressing these issues. Whole Foods Market calls on our peers in the food industry to join us.