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'CSNews' Webinar Highlights Green Benefits

By Linda Lisanti

NEW YORK -- Green initiatives can be applied to every convenience retailer’s operations whether they have one store or 1,000 stores, according to yesterday’s "Get Green By Going Green" Webinar hosted by Convenience Store News and sponsored by McLane Co.

"A lot of people get nervous talking about green because they think it’s not going to be applicable if they have one store or even 25 stores. But a lot of this is applying common sense," said Jay Ricker, president of Ricker Oil
Co. based in Anderson, Ind.

Ricker joined CSNews editor-in-chief Don Longo, Rutter’s Farm Stores president and CEO Scott Hartman, and Stuart Clark, senior vice president of sales, grocery supply chain solutions, for McLane in presenting a variety of information to help convenience retailers operate environmentally friendly, sustainable and profitable stores.

Both Ricker and Hartman agreed lighting is one of the best opportunities for c-stores to embrace green thinking. At the stores or even at home, Ricker said replacing traditional incandescent bulbs with CFLs is an easy,
effective change to make. He also noted that switching T12 systems with T5 or T8 lighting can result in a 35 percent energy cut.

All retailers encounter lighting replacements in the life of a store so it’s a change anyone can make, according to Hartman, who added that not only does new energy-efficient lighting save money, but it also tends to give off a
better quality of lighting.

"We are using a lot of lighting in our stores when it isn’t necessary," Hartman said, noting that motion detector switches are also effective in conserving energy.

In terms of refrigeration, the simplest thing retailers can do, Ricker advised, is to take a look at their practices for restocking the coolers. If store employees and vendors leave the doors open when restocking, that can really tally up on energy bills, he said.

C-store operators can do a lot of green things that have no return on investment (ROI), or they can only do things that produce a ROI. As Hartman explained, choosing just one will shortchange the approach. That’s why Rutter’s focuses on both. "You need a good balance," he said. "You can do the right thing, while also staying in business."

Rutter’s list of green initiatives over the last several years includes:

-- Recycling programs, including a customer contest to design a recycling
-- White solar reflective roofs for cooling;
-- A computer-managed refrigeration, lighting and store climate system;
-- Energy efficient T5 and LED lighting;
-- Lighting motion detectors in restrooms and back rooms; and
-- Tankless water heaters

Like Rutter’s and Ricker Oil, convenience distributor McLane has put in place a companywide environmental initiative aimed at creating more energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable practices throughout its
operations called Green Advantage.

Clark highlighted several process changes underway, such as lowering the highway speeds of its trucks to conserve fuel and reduce carbon dioxide emissions; maximizing the efficiency of loads carried and reducing the amount of total trips; encouraging carpooling among its employees; and working with manufacturers to create more environmentally efficient packaging to reduce corrugates and plastics.

Citing consumer research, Longo pointed out that the poor national economy hasn’t dampened consumers’ interest in buying green. "Surprisingly, only about 20 percent of consumers say they are shopping the natural products channel less, buying fewer environmentally-friendly products, or have decreased their use of organic foods," said Longo. "Indeed, more people are cutting back on visits to the doctor than are cutting back on buying organic."

Although it’s possible the current economic recession will slow the green movement down, Hartman said green is no longer a fad. "It’s here to stay. Just like we’ll come out of the recession, green will come out of the recession stronger. So, embrace it."
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