Pushing Sustainability’s Envelope

February 20th, 2011 | Posted by tjones in Current Events | Environment | Green Products | Sustainability | Water Conservation

An interesting article coming from the Environmental Leader this week.

The United Kingdom’s fifth largest grocery chain, the Co-operative Group, has announced its extremely forward-thinking “ethical operating plan,” encompassing 47 different goals, divided into eight key areas: democratic control, ethical finance, co-operative movements, global poverty, young people, responsible retailing, and environment.

The Co-operative Group’s environmental initiatives are amongst the most aggressive in the industry, and perhaps in the corporate world, generally.  According to the ethical operating plan’s website, nature conservation, pesticide reduction, waste and packaging, and water health are all concerns of the company, but it’s climate change that takes center stage for the entire ethical operating plan.  The carbon reduction efforts are even referred to by the Co-operative Group as “the toughest operational carbon reduction targets of any major business.”

The targets that the Co-operative Group has set out aim to reduce their carbon emissions by 35 percent by 2017 from their 2006 baseline.  According to Environmental Leader, the Co-operative Groups has already made a substantial amount of progress towards this goal by reducing their carbon by 20 percent since 2006.  Ultimately, the company seeks to become carbon neutral by 2012 — next year.  The number one UK retailer Tesco seeks to achieve this goal by 2050.

The retailer has also set out a number of environmental initiatives that aim to set new industry standards and benchmarks.

Here are a few of the Co-operative Group’s environmental initiatives, and some of the green product solutions that Green Depot can provide to the homeowner or consumer looking to reduce their environmental footprint, as well.


– Water health: the Co-op aims to reduce its water consumption by 10 percent by 2013.

Oxygenics TriSpa Low-flow Showerhead offers three pressurized settings, and reduces the amount of water used from an average of 2.5 gallons of water per minute, to 1.75 gallons per minute all while maintaining an average pressure of 60 pounds per square inch.  Compared to mainstream showerheads, this saves up to 30% of the water used during a shower, and the pressure is adjustable.

– Waste: the Co-op promises to ensure that the majority of its operational waste is reused or recylced, rather than deposited in a landfill.

One of the biggest contributors to waste in NYC’s landfills is compostable vegetable matter.  Indoor composting need not be the smelly nightmare many apartment owners fear it will be, with the NatureMill Home Composter.  It fits under a kitchen counter, and using gentle electric warmth  to speed up the decomposition process, ensures a steady supply of compost all winter long for the spring garden.  Additionally – it’s odor-free.

– Deforestation: the Co-op will use sustainable sourcing for palm oil by 2011, and soybeans by 2015.

Lumber that is not sustainably harvested is another major contributor to deforestation.  Green Depot carries FSC-certified wood products.  The FSC vets forest managers and lumber production companies to ensure that their methods are sustainable before going to market.  Certification criteria require that logging methods preserve biodiversity, reduce environmental impacts, maintain the rights of indigenous communities and forestry workers, include a long-term forest management plan, comply with laws and international treaties, and that logging practices do not destroy forests, protect the habitats of endangered wildlife, and that profits from commercial forest endeavors are shared equitably with forest communities.

– Pesticides: endosulfan and paraquat will be entirely banned from the Co-op’s products.

Chemicals and pesticides have become nearly omnipresent in our water supply, and this is a problem.  In certain concentrations, they can pose serious risks to human health.  Prolab Inc’s Pesticides in Water Test Kit monitors water for hazardous levels of pesticides. Pesticide ingestion and inhalation can cause internal organ damage, cancer, and prove fatal in extreme circumstances. The World Health Organization estimates that half of the ground and well water in the U.S. is contaminated with pesticides, resulting in 20,000 deaths each year.

– Packaging: a reduction of packaging weight by ten percent by 2012, and reducing the usage of plastic bags a further 15 percent of their 2006 baseline, on top of the sixty percent that they have already achieved.

Plastic bags are actually a major environmental nuisance, and contribute greatly to the size of the Pacific Trash Vortex.  The Baggu brand bag is a reliable solution.  It’s the same shape as a standard plastic grocery bag, but is reusable – its lifespan is designed to replace 300 to 700 disposable bags, and fits the contents of two to three of those bags.  They are lightweight, and often come with a zippered container pouch.

For a plethora of green products, including green building materials, visit http://www.greendepot.com and http://www.ecohaus.com.

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