Sustainable Table: Albertson’s

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ASHLAND, Ore. — A grocery store was named “Ashland’s Business Conservationalist of the Year” in 2012, and their efforts to produce zero waste are paying off in more ways then one.

The Albertson’s store in Ashland went through a green remodel one year ago. One of the many things they changed to be more energy efficient was the lighting in their coolers.

“They actually power down when no one is on the aisle,” explained Store Manager Paige Vaughan. “That’s really helped with energy savings.”

Automatic lights may be one of the more noticeable changes, but it certainly isn’t the only one. The store faces competition from four others in town, three of which manager Paige Vaughn says fall into a different category.

“They are more of the whole foods organic total store. I think of Albertson’s as your traditional grocery store,” Paige said.

To connect with what some would call an un-traditional town, the store’s parent company “Super-Valu”, funded a green remodel.

“We were embraced so much because of it,” said Joan Johnson, the Customer Service Manager.

A year ago, Albertson’s added motion sensors; LED lights; more efficient coolers; doors on more of it’s coolers; and 22 composting bins.

“100% composting in our produce department,” Paige said. “So, everything that’s unsalable to our customers gets composted.”

The store also created a more intense tallowing effort.

“Anything that’s got fat in it; cheese, meats, salads, dressings, anything like that, can all go in the tallo bin,” said Kris Wilson, the Deli Clerk.

That “waste” is picked up by companies then used to create dog food, soap and candles.

“It’s a lot more organized now,” Kris remarked. “We have a lot better control of what goes where. It used to be everything went into one big bin, it didn’t matter what it was.”

“Garbage is an expense and it’s part of business, so anywhere you can save money it’s better for your bottom line,” Paige said.

The bottom line has seen an extra $14,000 in savings.

“In return we want to use that money to invest it into our company and to drive better adds and better pricing,” said Paige.

While it could help you at the check out, Albertson’s zero waste effort is also helping the environment, and customers have taken notice.

“People love it, people love it that we are a green store they ask questions all the time,” said Joan. “They really appreciate the fact that we are trying to improve the environment and not leave a carbon footprint.”

While shrinking their carbon footprint, Paige says they are leaving a larger impact on the community too.

“We donate that to the Ashland Food Bank so those items stay here locally in the community,” Paige said.

The store has also gone plastic-less, except for collecting them. Last year, they donated three benches to Ashland schools after the students met their challenge.