Walgreens invests in new HVAC units, LED lighting to drive energy efficiency

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Walgreens invests in new HVAC units, LED lighting to drive energy efficiency

By Marianne Wilson - 02/14/2020
State & Randolph Flagship Store in Chicago
State & Randolph Flagship Store in Chicago

Walgreens Boots Alliances is putting the spotlight on its global sustainability initiatives including progress in energy efficiency.  

The company’s 2019 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report details its work around the world to improve healthcare access, offer support programs for patients with cancer and reduce its carbon footprint. 

“Our purpose at WBA is to help people live healthier and happier lives,” said Ornella Barra, WBA’s co-COO and the chairman of the company’s corporate social responsibility committee. “Everyone deserves the opportunity to fulfill his or her potential, regardless of where one lives. That’s why we mobilize our incredible employees and invest resources in issues that impact our patients, customers and society.

Some of the highlights with regards to energy-efficiency progress in the U.S. Walgreens division include:

• Investments in fiscal 2019 included $146 million in HVAC units and LED interior lighting retrofits across nearly 2,000 stores, with energy-saving per store of 45% to 50%;

• Recognition by the Department of Energy Advanced Roof Top Unit (RTU) Campaign for achieving the greatest number of high-efficiency RTU installations and advanced RTU control retrofits for a large portfolio owner. The company installed more than 4,300 RTUs with high-efficiency units and controls, for an annual energy savings of 39M+ kWh;

• Ongoing installation of wireless lighting control systems in its stores, with the systems providing an additional 25% reduction in energy use; and

• Ongoing replacement of refrigeration equipment with installations that use lower GWP refrigerants. Across Walgreens stores, all new immediate-consumption refrigerators, which are smaller beverage units near check-out counters, use natural refrigerants. (The commercial market in the U.S. presents challenges in regard to conversion of walk-in refrigerated cases to ultra-low GWP refrigerants.)

Waste Management
Walgreens brought the zero-waste to landfill program to its corporate campus in Deerfield, Ill., following a waste stream audit by recycling consulting firm the Astor Company. The program involves single-stream recycling plus cardboard recovery, a six-fold increase in recycling containers with improved signage, employee education about the program and food waste composting from cafeterias. 

Learnings from the corporate campus and the distribution centers will be used to expand recycling at Walgreens stores, where the bulk of the business’s waste is generated. Walgreens has begun to develop zero waste to landfill pilot programs for stores and is testing ways to simplify preparation of cardboard for pickup and to collaborate with other businesses to contract recycling vendors. 

In addition, as part of its HVAC and LED upgrades, Walgreens required that all materials from the retrofits, including refrigerants and copper, be recycled. In the case of HVAC equipment, this required developing an engineering procedure for contractors to follow to ensure materials were properly handled so that energy efficiency improvements did not undermine waste reduction efforts, the company explained. 

In initiatives outside of the U.S., the report highlights Boots’ new eco-friendly store in the Covent Garden section of London, which opened last summer. The 28,524-sq.-ft. store is of the first Boots UK outlets to offer new brown (or unbleached) paper carrier bags made from 100% recycled paper, alongside reducing plastics in beauty and household as well as water bottles.

The new Boots features a refill station for personal care products such as shampoos, hand wash and body wash, and a “rehydration station” where shoppers can fill their water bottles for free or buy a ‘bottle for life’ and refill it in-store. The store also prioritizes environmentally-friendly products, eco-beauty tools vegan products. 

“In building the Covent Garden store, we wanted to design the Boots retail experience of the future, one built with sustainability front of mind,” said Sebastian James, managing director of Boots UK and Republic of Ireland. “As a global business, we view sustainability holistically, from our supply chain to the in-store experience we deliver for customers. It’s all connected to our desire to operate as a responsible and best-in-class company.”