CSN EXCLUSIVE: Going Green, Saving Green

Installing solar panels on its warehouse roof is just one part of Cooper-Booth's ongoing efforts to limit carbon emissions and reduce costs.
A group of technicians standing at the edge of a solar panel rooftop array

MOUNTVILLE, Pa. — Cooper-Booth Wholesale Co. has been around long enough as a business to see firsthand how shipping, transport and product storage have changed across the United States.

Originally founded in 1865 as Booth Tobacco Co., the organization expanded out from its roots in tobacco products to become a general wholesaler that distributes name-brand merchandise throughout the Mid-Atlantic. Its partners now include The Hershey Co., Mars Wrigley, Johnson & Johnson Services Inc. and BIC USA Inc., among many others.

[Read more: The Hershey Co. Recognized Among Most Ethical Companies]

But with that expansion comes warehousing and transport, and as anyone involved in inventory management knows, those mean carbon emissions. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, medium- and heavy-duty trucks, such as the tractor trailers used for shipping goods, account for about 23% of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions made by the transport sector. A 2019 paper from the "Journal of Cleaner Production" concluded that warehousing alone could account for up to 11% of GHG emissions in the worldwide logistics and supply chain silo.

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Concerned about reducing its carbon footprint, the management team at Cooper-Booth started exploring steps the company could take to directly affect its own emissions, zeroing in on what has become a popular choice for commercial operators and residential homeowners: solar panels.

"After conducting thorough research and analysis, we recognized the significant environmental benefits, financial benefits [and] incentives from the government, as well as the tax advantages, of transitioning to renewable energy sources," said Barry Margolis, Cooper-Booth president.

The 14-month project to install solar panels on the company's warehouse and convert the power to a green energy source is now reaching completion, with the system expected to come fully online this spring. That said, the process has had some ups and downs.

"We encountered some additional costs associated with building renovations such as the age of the roof and electrical updates to accommodate the solar panel installation," Margolis said. "However, these expenses were outweighed by the long-term benefits, including reduced energy costs … and enhanced brand reputation as an environmentally conscious company."

Sunlight reflecting off of a rooftop solar panel array

Cost-Saving Benefits

Cooper-Booth strives to live up to that reputation not only with larger projects like the warehouse solar system, but also in utilizing more environmentally friendly practices every day. 

The company currently employs reusable shipping totes, along with recycling all discarded cardboard. It also started to recycle the heat from its compressors to warm the company's primary building during the winter, cutting energy costs during a time of year when they normally spike.

In fact, many of the environmental decisions the company has made don't just stem from a principled stance but from practical concerns.

"Given the substantial rise in utility costs over the past two years, cost reduction and control are paramount to our operational strategy," Margolis said. "In the short term, embracing sustainable practices enables us to immediately curtail operational expenses, boost efficiency and comply with regulatory standards."

Longer term, he cited ways such adaptations could allow businesses to remain agile in a competitive and changing industry. And the reputational boost doesn't hurt either.

"We view these efforts as integral to our long-term environmental vision for the company, fostering a culture of sustainability and responsible business practices," he said.

As for other plans that will build on the foundation the company has already laid, Cooper-Booth will continue to look at new green initiatives, especially any that can assist with efficiency and sustainability.

"We are [also] exploring opportunities for warehouse automation equipment, software to enhance our transportation department, and technology integration to better serve our customers and adapt to evolving industry trends," said Margolis.

He offered some advice for other companies looking to follow a similar route.

"To fellow [c-store] industry peers … considering green initiatives, I would emphasize evaluating the potential benefits, costs and feasibility of implementing renewable energy solutions and other eco-friendly practices," he said. "Keep your eyes open for federal/state and utility incentives. The program only makes economic sense with the right incentives."

[Read more: Mars Furthers Sustainability Journey With New Venture]

Companies interested in pursuing solar panel installation can find more information on the Department of Energy's website. There are currently two primary federal income tax credits available for installations on commercial sites: the investment tax credit, which reduces the federal income tax liability for a percentage of the cost of a solar system installation, and the production tax credit, which is a per kilowatt-hour credit for electricity generated by solar and other qualifying technologies for the first 10 years of a system's operation. 

Depending on the state, there may be additional incentives. Companies should check with their local state resources or energy departments to determine what tax credits or rebates may be available to them.

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About the Author

Koprowski Headshot

Amanda Koprowski

Amanda Koprowski is the associate editor at Convenience Store News. She is a new member of the team, having joined the company in December of 2022.

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