Walgreens To Lower Energy Use 20% By 2020

Posted on January 3rd, 2012 by

Jamie Meyers, a Sustainability Manager for Walgreens, discusses the reasoning behind signing up for the Better Buildings Challenge. The company has agreed to lower their energy use by 20% by 2020.

Full Transcript:

Ben lack: How did Walgreens learn about the Better Building Initiative and why did Walgreens ultimately chose to becomea part of the program?
Jamie Meyers: We were approached by the DOE and they presented the program to us. It really was a prudent decision for us to make. We’re implementing our sustainability program here atWalgreens and we felt that this would be an achievable long term goal for us. It helps us organize our efforts of what we’ve done in terms of energy savings and gives us a goal to work towards.
Ben Lack: With the relationship with the DOE, what does that relationship look like?
Jamie Meyers: It’s actually fairly simple. They are going to be recording our energy usage through Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager and we are beginning the process of looking into and getting our stores entered into the Energy Star Portfolio Manager. It’s one of our goals for this year. They will be looking for reports about every six months to track how we’re doing on our progress. They will act as a resource and share best practices amongst other users and will help us in highlighting some of our energy efficiency projects or pilots that we may do in the future.
Ben Lack: They’re going to help you with the reporting but as far as the project management of the way that you’re going to be reducing energy use, that’s all being done internally.
Jamie Meyers: Correct.
Ben Lack: The goal of the Better Buildings Challenge is to reduce energy use by 20% by 2020 across Walgreens portfolio which currently is comprised of 125,000,000 sq/ft.
Jamie Meyers: That is correct.
Ben Lack: What are some of the low-hanging fruit projects are for Walgreens and what kind of deals are you implementing?
Jamie Meyers: We already have 7,700 stores and a lot of those stores are going to need some major upgrades to the different mechanicals and lighting systems. We will recognize savings from changing out rooftop units, which is something that we’re just starting to do now. And then, we will also most likely see lighting upgrades. We’re currently going through and retro-fitting stores with 25 watt T8 fluorescent lamps which is generating quite a bit of energy savings. We’re also installing energy management systems throughout our chain. We will see energy savings from that. Before we made the decision, we looked at where we’re at, where we would like to go and what savings potential we could see from different systemswithin the building and felt that it was an aggressive goal but not an unachievable goal.
Ben Lack: You have identified some of the common technologies that you will be implementing to make these buildings more energy efficient. How do you start to identify which stores get the retrofits first?
Jamie Meyers: We look at three main factors; utility rate, spend, and age. Depending on the program, we will make a decision based mainly on one of these three factors although all are part of the process.
Ben Lack: Are you looking at LED lighting at all?
Jamie Meyers: Yes, we are.
Ben Lack: In what applications does that make sense for you?
Jamie Meyers: Over the next 8 years, we believe that there would be an ambient LED lighting retrofit available that will show the energy savings that we need to see. We are currently testing out several different types, both ambient lighting and spot lighting, but we think that will definitely contribute towards our 20% saving as we move forward.
Ben Lack: What role does renewable energy play in the plan to reduce energy use?
Jamie Meyers: That has yet to be seen. We have a pretty aggressive approach to renewable energy, particularly solar, but we did not rely on thatwhenwe had our initial discussions on energy saving.
Ben Lack: Are the drivers from these projects mostly fiscal or are there other factors that help to press the advancement of these types of projects?
Jamie Meyers: It’s in a transition period right now. We’re starting to see more and more the benefits of carbon-emission reduction and we’re starting to set internal goals for carbon-emission reduction. Before, decisions were solely fiscal but now some things are occurring because there is carbon-emission reduction along with fiscal savings.
Ben Lack: In what value does Walgreens see in monitoring carbon-emissions reduction?
Jamie Meyers: We see it as being important and part of our culture to promote wellness. We’re very new to this. Our sustainability program is very young, so we’re still in the process of establishing baselines for carbon-emission and then setting goals, but we are starting to see the value and the importance of it. Given ourfootprint, we have the potential to make a very big impact with 125,000,000 sq/ft and we feel it’s our responsibility to do so.
Ben Lack: How far along are you in the sustainability process? You’ve said that it’s a fairly new program.
Jamie Meyers: We’ve always been rather sustainable in our approach to things but never called it sustainability. We’ve always looked at installing the most energy efficient rooftop units. We’re one of the few, if not the only retailer that uses 25 watt T8 fluorescent lamps. It’s always been kind of a mindset of Walgreens, but now we’re starting to pull in the different aspects of sustainability, particularly from the social side, and combining them together and seeing the benefits of that approach.
Ben Lack: Has there been any discussion or any implementation of sustainability initiatives through the existing supply chain of Walgreens or have all of the efforts focused on the organizationaland company footprint?
Jamie Meyers: We actually just had our first meeting the other day with the supply chain about sustainability and began discussions on creating a more robust strategy.
Ben Lack: With this program being such a new program for you guys, what are some of the early learnings that you’re taking away so far?
Jamie Meyers: It’s so new that I can’t really say that we have any. We’re still working with the DOE to establish when we need to have our benchmarks set.
Ben Lack: Do you think the Better Building Initiative Program is realistic in a sense that you will be able to achieve a 20% energy reduction by 2020?
Jamie Meyers: Yes.
Ben Lack: Are you forecasting or planning for an even larger decrease in energy use by that time period or is that the stated goal?
Jamie Meyers: Right now, we’re staying at 20%. As we move forward, we’ll see what we come across and what we’re able to do but will always aim for 20%. If we surpass it, so much the better.
Ben Lack: Jamie, why are you in this industry and why does the work you’re doing interest you?
Jamie Meyers: I started out at Walgreens 12 years ago as an architect and I worked on new stores in the Southwest, particularly Arizona and Southern California and actually worked on Walgreens’ first LEED-certified store at Mira Mesa. The architecture industry has been very big into the sustainability a lot longer than others because at first, a lot of people look at it as green building and everything related to that. As I got more involved over the past couple of years, I started to realize that it’s more than just about the environment, that there were social and economic aspects, too. When the opportunity was presented to meto become the Manager of Sustainability, the opportunity with having to work in such a large company with such a large footprint that was one I really couldn’t pass up.
Ben Lack: With Walgreens typically being an anchor in any type of retail location, what types of strategy if any are in play to work out and incentives or arrangements with the landlords to make sure that the types of improvements that you’re putting into your facilities are maximized as much as possible?
Jamie Meyers: We are required to notify the landlord when we do things, usually; they are very excited about what we do.
Ben Lack: Before we let you go, is there anything else that you would like to sharewith our audience?
Vivika Panagiotakakos: While people might not be familiar with the various sustainability programs we’re rolling out, we are getting very positive feedback from the community, lots of questions and lots of inquiries whenever they do see or hear something new.  It’s kind of creating a different way of how they look at Walgreens. Some people might think that’s the place where I go to get my medicine but now, it might be the place where we’re being innovative with solar or expanding job opportunities for people with disabilities. I think people are taking that away and making it a part of their experience at our stores.
Jamie Meyers: Part of our mission is to own the strategic territory of wellness and we look at it not just the wellness of the people within our stores, but the wellness of the people outside of our stores and the environment in which they live. It’s a great compliment to our successful programs in the stores to add environmental and corporate sustainability to really help us own well and let our customers know that, not only are we concerned about you coming to our store and being well within our store, but we want to make sure that we’re minimizing our environmental impact in our communities; basically, creating well outside of the store.

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