BriarPatch addresses climate change with sustainability goals
What do kombucha, dairy, beer, cheese, drinks and dips have in common?
All these products are stored in refrigerated cases that are being retrofitted with glass doors this month as part of BriarPatch Food Co-op’s long-range sustainability goals.
“While we all love the ease and convenience of shopping and stocking open cases, the amount of energy, time and money saved by adding glass doors to refrigerated coolers just makes sense. As part of the busy Facilities Team here at BriarPatch, I am thrilled to see this project finally take shape and look forward to helping reduce the store’s energy usage,” said Dave Thomas, Facilities Manager.
Adding doors to existing refrigeration cases can decrease the energy demand of a cooler by up to 70% and is expected to decrease the store’s total annual energy use by 12%.
In a few weeks, new self-serve meat cases will also be installed with closing doors. With the new coolers in place, temperatures will stay consistent and optimal, extending the shelf-life of perishable foods and ultimately saving food from going to waste.
Adding doors will also preserve the longevity of the equipment and cut maintenance costs by decreasing fan motor workloads and reducing the accumulation of dust and dirt buildup.
Now that cold air will stay in the cooler cases rather than escape into the store, customers can leave their sweaters at home and enjoy more comfortable shopping temperatures. The glass door retrofit will take place when the store is closed so there will be no impacts during store open hours.
BriarPatch is part of a movement.
Earlier this year, BriarPatch announced ambitious 2025 Sustainability Goals to address concerns of Global Climate Change.
“Our 2025 Sustainability goals are an opportunity to demonstrate that reducing our environmental impact is integral to operating a healthy business,” said the Co-op’s Sustainability Coordinator Lauren Scott.
According to National Cooperative Grocers, food production including agriculture, manufacturing, transportation and waste, is responsible for 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Fortunately, food co-ops across the country are poised to be catalysts for change, prioritizing and building a more sustainable food system.
BriarPatch is a part of this movement and is an active participant in the Climate Collaborative. Climate Collaborative is a consortium of 694 retailers, distributors and businesses committed to elevating climate action in the natural foods industry. As a member of the Climate Collaborative, BriarPatch has pledged to lower emissions by increasing energy efficiency, reducing food waste, transitioning toward sustainable packaging and supporting climate-friendly agricultural practices and policy.
The Co-op’s commitment to Climate Action is rooted in the store’s First Ends Policy: To act as a leader among local businesses and food co-ops nationally and contribute to environmental stewardship through its business practices.
“The energy and resources that flow through a grocery store are exponential compared to other businesses our size. We see this as both a challenge and an opportunity toward meaningful climate solutions,” said Scott.
Making local progress toward sustainability
Since 2017, the Co-op has reduced its annual refrigerant use by 58%. By 2025, the aim is to cut use by an additional 50%. Natural refrigerant systems are in the current plan for the second store in Auburn, too.
Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants represent the largest single source of greenhouse gas emission at BriarPatch. By 2025, BriarPatch has pledged to be Carbon Neutral, producing net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2020, beyond reducing refrigerants, BriarPatch made considerable progress toward sustainability by generating 50% of the store’s energy use onsite with a 295-kilowatt solar carport and diverting 60% of total waste from the landfill by working with local farms and recycling single-use gloves, flexible plastic film and waxed cardboard.
Last Fall, the Patch completed a LED lighting retrofit for the entire store and parking lot. This energy efficiency measure reduced store energy use by nearly 20% in the first quarter of 2021.
The Co-op strives to keep food out of the landfill by donating edible food that cannot be sold to local hunger relief agencies like Interfaith Food Ministry, Food Bank of Nevada County and Hospitality House. Food waste that is not fit for donation is picked up by local farmers three times a week to feed animals or build compost. In 2020, the Co-op began offering food waste diversion for people who dine at the store.
For those who want to wean themselves from plastic, look for re-usable bags and containers in the Produce and Bulk Departments. The plastic wrap for the Co-op’s bulk cheese was recently replaced with biodegradable cellophane made from wood-based fiber. Staff continue to work with farmers to identify sustainable packaging like Readycycle berry containers.
By 2025, BriarPatch plans to reduce use of in-house single use plastic by 40 percent. This summer, the Patch will host a virtual film night and share tips and tricks on social media to help shoppers reduce their consumption of plastic during the global campaign, Plastic Free July. Stay tuned!
Learn more about The Co-op’s 2025 Sustainability Goals:
Learn more about BriarPatch Food Co-op: https://www.briarpatch.coop/
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