At home, we all keep our refrigerators closed and we turn off lights and televisions when we're not using them, right? That's just common sense! Until recently, though, larger energy-saving projects like upgrading to more efficient windows or installing solar panels weren't attractive to the majority of homes, especially if they competed with projects that would enhance a home's appearance or provide additional space like an extra bedroom or bath. Other than on your bill at the end of the month, many of the results of energy investments can't be easily seen. Also, we weren't connecting our increasing demand for energy with the increasingly negative stress on our planet. When we turned up the thermostat, we didn't see the oil or natural gas that was burned to provide us with heat or the dirty coal that generated much of our electricity - and we didn't see the air pollution it caused either.
Just like in our homes, many commercial businesses were approaching energy efficiency the same way. There's only so much money to go around for improvements and, in most cases, projects designed to generate additional sales or remodeling that improved appearance edged out energy investments. Even so, environmentally conscious businesses like Whole Foods Market did things to encourage recycling, mass transportation and using less packaging through our bulk foods departments.
Well, the times, they are a' changing. For our homes, we are looking for the Energy Star Label when buying new appliances. We've started installing new windows, more insulation, and weather-stripping. And, of course, we are switching to compact fluorescent type bulbs that last up to ten times longer and only use a fraction of the energy. (If you haven't done this yet, please do at least one bulb! If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified bulb
, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars!)
And in the commercial world, business leaders are starting to take notice as well. Whole Foods Market is making energy efficient changes and sharing our successes with others to encourage more businesses to make change as well. Of course, switching commercial lighting in a 40,000 square foot store is a bit different than changing the light bulbs at home (and the costs are a lot more too!). But we understand the benefit and are making it happen. We are switching many of our stores' lighting to high performance, energy efficient sources that last longer. Retrofitting just one of our stores saves enough energy to light 200 homes or remove 30 cars from the road - and we've implemented lighting retrofits in dozens of stores so far. Other initiatives include switching out motors for various equipment to more efficient types, putting some of our cold product behind doors instead of in open cases (the equivalent of closing the fridge!), and upgrading automatic controls to switch things off when not in use. In new construction and remodels, we are using higher insulation levels, reducing our heating and air-conditioning needs, and switching over to cleaner, on-site alternative energy sources where possible.
In one region of the country alone, we've saved more than 9 million kWh…that's enough energy to power over one thousand homes and remove hundreds of cars off the road. We are continuing down this path and encourage other commercial businesses to do the same. In fact, the EPA estimates that if the energy efficiency of commercial and industrial buildings in the U.S. improved by 10 percent, Americans would save about $20 billion and reduce greenhouse gases equal to the emissions from about 30 million vehicles.
Collectively, we've made these energy efficiency upgrades for economic reasons as well as environmental ones. But, the economic crisis and recession could threaten our ability to continue to make these investments. Though it is good for business and good for family budgets to invest in energy efficiency and on-site renewable energy, money and credit are tight. As a business, we need to find innovative energy partners to help in finding ways to continue on this path.
That's why we are committed to playing a leadership role in working with our partners and suppliers who are making investments with us. From innovating new ways to pay for capital upgrades, to sharing ideas and resources, we've got new recipes for success. Utility rebates and resources, tax credits, leasing and purchase power arrangements, and "pay out of savings" programs can all work to help alleviate the cash and credit crunch. With ingenuity and your support, we can develop new ways of getting these projects done.