Kiwi supermarket giant Foodstuffs has reduced energy use and carbon emissions at 200 of its stores through what it calls "an environmental silver bullet".
The company says it has slashed its greenhouse gas emissions by up to 45 per cent in its new and refurbished stores – and energy use by an average of two per cent per year across the entire business – since forming an alliance with the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA).
Its savings have come from a many-pronged attack – the replacement of fluorescent lighting with LED bulbs, movement sensor technology and real time electricity monitoring all contributing.
But the decision six years ago to use CO2 as a natural refrigeration system rather than alternatives that have a much bigger greenhouse gas effect has also played a part.
"There is rarely a silver bullet in this world when it comes to environmental impacts, but this was one," says Mike Sammons, Foodstuffs sustainability manager.
Although a CO2 system contributes a 10 per cent energy saving over the use of synthetic gas, the real gain is in the decrease in emissions which, in this case, has resulted in a 45 per cent reduction in the carbon footprint from the Pak'nSave and New World stores using the CO2 system.
"We were the first supermarket organisation to trial natural refrigeration in the southern hemisphere," says Mike Sammons, Foodstuffs sustainability manager.
Foodstuffs formed the alliance with EECA at a time when emissions were on an upwards trajectory and transport and waste costs were burgeoning.
The company's supermarkets are a major electricity user, consuming one per cent of the country's total generation, while the energy used in running the stores makes up around 40 per cent of Foodstuffs total emissions.
The consolidation and back-loading of freight deliveries also helped to minimise vehicle movements and lower transport emissions.
Another high profile initiative was the introduction of 28 zero-emission electric vans into the company's vehicle fleet.
"We were very much aware that electric vehicles (EVs)are the next big disruptive technology, but there was a lack of commercial EVs available in New Zealand. With EECA's help we put together a project to source the Nissan e-NV200 vans from the UK for use in New World, Pak'nSave and Four Square stores," he says.
"The vans are used for online shopping deliveries, or for general staff use and the chargers mean they can do 100km in the morning and another 100km in the afternoon."
The cooperative model adopted by Foodstuffs has helped to spread the energy management culture to its stores: "The good thing about this model is there's always somebody out there doing something slightly different to reduce their energy consumption, says Sammons. "We share that knowledge and roll it out over the rest of the business.
"For example, the Whanganui New World has reduced its energy consumption by 30 per cent; we looked at what they'd done, and replicated it across many other stores."
These initiatives included the reclamation of heat generated from cooling units to heat water, air curtains to minimise the loss of hot or cold air from temperature-controlled areas, and night blinds or refrigeration curtains used during non-trading hours.
# EECA estimates that many New Zealand businesses could shave up to 20 per cent off their energy costs with smarter energy use. Go to the EECA business website to access a variety of tools and tips on how to start and to learn about funding options.