From: Mary Jo Harrod, Public Information Officer, Kentucky DEP
Published October 9, 2012 10:21 AM

Green Success: Sustainable Business and Healthy Living

Good Foods Market & Cafe in Lexington, Kentucky, is a locally owned cooperative business, with 120 employees and 5,500+ members, that has set an amazing example of a commercial establishment focusing on sustainability, local, natural, organic and whole foods. Store Manager Dan Arnett and his staff have examined the store’s day-to-day operations to determine ways to cut energy and water usage, use biodegradable items in the cafe, recycle and find other methods of greening the cooperative. For one project, Arnett requested that the city place seven 15-yard recycling bins next to the rain garden behind the building for store and neighborhood use.

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"This has been so successful that the bins have to be emptied three times a week. Enough material was diverted from the landfill to cut down on internal costs," says Arnett.

One of the business’ biggest storm sewer problems is cigarette butts, which pollute the water and damage habitats. Receptacles for those butts are in front of the store because Arnett believes in making personal responsibility easy.

Stormwater drains in the parking lot have signs stenciled on the pavement that read "drains to stream" as a reminder not to pollute the waterways. Metal plates in the pavement have an insert to catch debris as the water flows through. The inserts are cleaned monthly and lined with absorbent material to filter the water and catch oil, grease and antifreeze, which is then treated as hazardous waste.

On the exterior of the building, bike racks (made from bicycle frames) encourage bicycle usage. Store windows are covered with a reflective film, causing infrared rays to bounce off and assist with climate control and glare.

Inside, low-VOC paint was used. Signs in the store and sustainable shopping guides encourage environmental stewardship. Classes and tours tie together healthy living and
sustainability.

Energy efficiency was a top priority, so most of the coolers use LED lights. There are no incandescent bulbs, and screwout fluorescents are being phased out. Programmable thermostats were installed to create a more energy-efficient facility. The floor tiles, which came from Lewisport, Ky., are made of recycled content. Before the tile purchase, transportation costs for the tiles were considered.

In the café, where there is a hot buffet and salad bar, the utensils are compostable and biodegradable—made from potato or corn starches. Customers are encouraged to recycle compostable trash. The to-go boxes are made of 100 percent post-consumer content and environmentally friendly, water-based inks were used during the printing.
The cash register tapes are BPA-free. Only organically grown lettuces are used. One-third of the produce in the café and store is locally grown, depending on the season.

Arnett is pleased with the results. “It’s better than break even and cheaper than not doing it, but we would make these green improvements even if they cost us.”

As a result of the effort to recycle as much as possible from the store and provide neighbors with plenty of opportunities to recycle, two million pounds of paper, plastic,
metal and glass are recycled each year from these bins. Being a member of KY EXCEL, the state’s voluntary environmental leadership program, has also helped the business make many more contacts in its efforts to be green. Arnett admits there are challenges to all of the green projects.

"There is illegal dumping at times, and it takes more work to source. Sometimes the product packaging costs could be inflated. There are more limited options for the green products. Don't look at recycling as trash, but as a waste stream collection center. First do a waste stream audit to see what you are dealing with. Then determine what you, the city and a third-party (consulting or a different waste service) can do."

For further information see Case Study and Library.

Store image via Kentucky DEP.

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