Are There Any Eco-Friendly Shopping Malls?

Are there any eco-friendly shopping malls?. zhu difeng/Shutterstock

Q: As I gear up to perform the year’s most daunting task, holiday gift shopping, I realize that I should be supporting small, local businesses, but for the sake of my own sanity, I make most of my purchases during one or two trips to ye olde shopping mall. After all, isn’t it better, carbon wise, to get everything done in one fell swoop? Also, I should note that I’m not big on shopping online.

So, are there any eco-friendly malls out there? Ones that emphasize green retailers and are housed in waste-, water, and energy-conscious buildings?

Wants to see green while spending green,

Nadine — Charleston, S.C.

Hey Nadine,

Some good news and some bad news: I dug around and found that there are indeed a few shopping malls that are marketed as being eco-friendly, but you’ll have to travel to Singapore or Dubai to shop at them.

Before I discuss these far-flung retail outposts, I wanted to address a point you made about driving to a nearby mall once or twice rather than driving all over to patronize local businesses. That does make sense from a carbon emission standpoint but I have to ask: Are there any retailers you could hit up that are within walking distance? What about a centralized businesses district that you could drive to and then hoof it around? Although going just to the mall is certainly convenient and time-efficient, I’d see what other non-mall alternatives are in your area if you haven’t already.

I looked into what Simon Property Group, Inc., the American shopping mall behemoth with 320 properties in the U.S. as of 2007 is doing on the sustainability front. I came up empty-handed after a look around Simon’s website – surprising that the website of the largest public real estate company in the U.S. is sans a “green” section -- but did locate a Ceres sustainability report from 2008 on Simon. Here’s a summary of the findings:

Simon Property Group began implementing energy reduction programs for the company-controlled portion of energy use at its mall properties in 2004, resulting in cost savings of $12 million annually. The company reviews mall energy management systems quarterly and it considers energy price volatility, costs and the value of carbon emissions reductions in its annual budgeting process. The company is currently considering renewable energy purchases. Simon Property has not set GHG reduction targets and it does not disclose its annual energy use reduction targets. Board oversight of energy and climate risk management appears to be minimal.

Not too shabby but there’s definitely room for improvement. Also, Simon’s ranking of 38 out of 100 on the Ceres climate change scorecard is average. Other large real estate firms scored lower than Simon while Whole Foods Market and Apple scored a 27 and 28, respectively. Ouch.

Now on to eco-malls abroad: The City Square Mall in mall-crazy Singapore wears its green leanings on its shoulder with a slew of eco-features including waterless urinals in the restrooms, dedicated hybrid parking, rain sensors for landscape irrigation and real-time displays of the building’s energy performance for shoppers’ information. To top it off, The City Square Mall also features a 49,000-square-foot urban park that’s “designed to provide a learning experience about ecology and the natural environment.”

Elsewhere, notable projects include the LEED Gold certified Mirdif City Centre in Dubai, Malaysia’s 1 Utama Shopping Centre and the BREEAM certified Gordion Shopping Centre in Turkey. Much closer to home, Abercorn Common in Savannah, Ga., is LEED Silver certified.

So there you go, Nadine. And one last thought: If you do end up doing your big mall shopping trip as usual, invite a friend or two and share your car. Just make sure you have enough room in your trunk for all that loot.

— Matt

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