Sainsbury’s is the third-largest chain of supermarkets in the United Kingdom. When its store in Crayford, southeast London, re-opened in September 2010, it had more than doubled in size to become the company’s largest store in the United Kingdom. More space was devoted to clothing, there was a new home and lifestyle section, and the space dedicated to food had grown prodigiously. The most profound change, however, was 600 feet underground – the Crayford branch was the first supermarket in the world to employ geo-thermal energy, which provides 30 percent of its power. Sainsbury’s green policy at Crayford is a model supermarkets should look at if they wish to be more sustainable.
Sainsbury’s green policy
The Earth absorbs almost 50 percent of the sun’s heat, and underground is warm even when the air temperature is cold. Water can be heated in this way to drive turbines. This method is one of the most environmentally-friendly methods of generating heat and more dependable than wind-power or solar panels. Because fewer mechanical components are used and what components exist are sheltered, systems are durable. There is also very little noise, which is one complaint sometimes made of wind farms.
The revamped store has exactly the same carbon footprint as the smaller store it replaced. Sainsbury’s won the Guardian newspaper’s Sustainable Business Energy Award for this venture. The judges said it had “put Sainsbury’s on the radar.” Sainsbury’s will accomplish the same with 100 stores to deliver as much as 100MW of renewable energy by the close of 2016. The company intends to reduce its carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2020 and make heating fully-renewable by 2030.
Sainsbury’s has tested a variety of other green technologies including biomass boilers, energy-saving lighting and chillers, the use of cold air from chiller cabinets to cool other parts of a store, motion sensors to reduce electricity usage, rainwater harvesting and sun pipes. Wood chips or pellets are used in boilers, which is waste wood sourced from within the United Kingdom. Excess food is donated to charity or used for anaerobic digestion where it is unfit for human consumption. Anaerobic digestion produces enough electricity to power 2,500 homes and has a by-product of fertiliser. Sainsbury’s was the first British retailer to voluntarily phase out harmful HFC refrigerant. It works with more than 2,500 farmers to help them reduce their environmental impact. Sainsbury’s is not the only sustainable British supermarket – Morrisons is not far behind.
Sainsbury’s is the largest operator of solar panels in Europe, with 69,500 panels – the size of 24 football pitches – that generate 16MW of power, which is sufficient for 4,100 homes, or 332 million cups of tea. In this manner, Sainsbury’s carbon footprint is reduced by 6,800 tons a year, and utility bills also fall. Justin King, the CEO of Sainsbury’s, said the retail sector should consider solar energy, as supermarkets have the equivalent of a football pitch on their roof, and this is an underutilised resource.
Timothy Chilman used to work in IT. Once, in Sydney, he was turned down for a job because he was “too flamboyant” (“Someone who wears green tartan suspenders to a job interview probably isn’t going to fit in here”). Timothy then became an English teacher. University students in Bangkok complained that he was “too enthusiastic” and company students in Prague complained that he was “too theatrical.”