The Big Part of Walmart's Eco-Impact the Bentonville Behemoth Forgot

Zol87/CC BY-SA 2.0

With Walmart releasing its latest sustainability report recently, it was just a short matter of time until one of the mega-retailers many outspoken critics to release, in essence, a rebuttal.

Enter, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's "Top 10 Ways Walmart Fails on Sustainability".

Much of it is ground already trodden by TreeHugger, but there's one part in particular that's worth highlighting again. As the title, and this top 10 list, point to, one of Walmart's biggest environmental impacts is something that doesn't even figure into its sustainability report at all: Its basic development pattern.

From the report:

Despite its public embrace of sustainability, Walmart continues to maximize its land consumption by building vast, low-rise supercenters. Since 2005, Walmart has added more than 1,100 supercenters in the U.S., expanding its store footprint by one-third. Most of these stores were built on land that hadn’t been developed before, including, in some cases, critical habitat for threatened and endangered species.

In many communities, Walmart has chosen to build on virgin land rather than redevelop vacant “greyfield” retail properties. Walmart itself routinely abandons
its stores. The U.S. is currently home to about 150 empty Walmart stores, many vacated when the chain opened a newer supercenter nearby.

Walmart’s development practices have a major impact on the environment, causing problems such as habitat loss, water pollution from parking lot runoff, sprawl, increased driving, and air pollution. Between 1990 and 2009 – a period when Walmart grew from a regional chain to a national juggernaut — the number of miles the average U.S. household logged each year for shop- ping increased by nearly 1,000 miles.10 For the country as a whole, that’s an extra 149 billion miles on the road each year and about 50 million metric tons of added CO2 emissions.

Yet Walmart’s sustainability program does not address land use at all. Its 2012 Global Responsibility Report doesn’t even mention these very significant environ- mental issues.

Tags: Urban Planning | Walmart

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