Image credit: Tesco
When supermarket chain Tesco announced it was diverting 100% of its food waste from landfill, some folks complained that their scheme to turn meat into electricity was a waste of decent food. (Others worried about now having to check if their electricity was vegan.) Their request for customers to leave packaging from over-packaged goods at the store was, however, met with a more positive response. And when the chain announced the installation of the largest roof-mounted solar array and carbon labeling of its products, one commenter speculated that it was being prompted by investigations from the London competition commissioners. So how will the launch of a supposedly "zero carbon" store be received?The store, which opened its doors in December in Ramsey, Cambridgeshire, is being hailed by the company as its first "zero-carbon" store. Among its green features are its construction from sustainably sourced timber; use of roof lights and sun pipes for natural daylighting; energy-efficient heating and AC; rainwater harvesting to flush the toilets and run the carwash; and a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant to generate electricity using "renewable fuel". (Currently their leaflet says the plant is running on vegetable oil—no word on whether it is waste oil or virgin.) The store also features LED lighting in the car park, and solar-powered street lights.
Undoubtedly, there are many negative influences from the hegemony of major retailers like Tesco and Wal Mart, and I am sure that for many this will be seen as little more than a publicity stunt. Equally, I'm sure that many others will question specific measures, such as creating electricity from vegetable oil—and that debate is also an important one. But I for am delighted that corporate environmental efforts have moved beyond empty requests to reuse plastic bags, and have started to experiment with innovative and diverse solutions to our energy and resource addictions. Now we just have to keep track of what works and what doesn't.