It was a delight this morning to attend the opening of the innovative Woolworths ‘greenest store yet’ at the new Palmyra Junction shopping centre in Claremont, Cape Town. This funky green space is surely the greenest food market in South Africa.
What makes this store different from others? It seems it was built green from the ground up. Woolworths collaborated with the building contractors to ensure that various eco principles were incorporated in the design of the 1200 m2 of pure shopping delight, such as:
- There are automated doors to help maintain the interior temperature, as well as provide natural ventilation.
- Reclaimed heat from the store’s refrigeration system and heat pumps provide under-floor heating.
- Skylights allow maximum use of natural light, while fully automated lighting adjusts to light conditions in the store. It was cool to experience an illustration of the skylights opening slowly (depending on good weather outside) and the internal lights gradually switching off inside. So no energy is wasted on lighting when natural light is available.
- LED, rather than fluorescent, lights are used for bulkheads and external signage. Internal spot lights are also energy-efficient LEDs.
Pioneering eco refrigeration
The store is equipped with a CO2 refrigeration system, first introduced at their Grey Owl, Midrand, store last year. CO2 is much more environmentally friendly than the synthetic gases generally used in refrigeration. It has zero impact on the ozone layer, a greatly reduced impact on global warming and it also uses less energy. Woolworths has pioneered the use of CO2 refrigeration in South Africa.
Eco-friendly refrigeration also features in the truck delivering fresh produce to the store. This truck is part of a trial Woolworths is running. It uses liquid nitrogen refrigeration to maintain the cold chain during transport. Like CO2, liquid nitrogen refrigeration is much more environmentally friendly than conventional truck refrigeration systems and much quieter.
The introduction of this system is allowing Woolies to run an environmentally friendly supply chain from farm, through distribution centre, to ‘green’ store. Communication is at the core of the green approach.
Shop monitors communicate energy and water usage
If any clients are left wondering how this all impacts on the store’s footprint, they are fully informed by a live online energy metering system, which constantly monitors and displays the amount of electricity being used on a screen on the wall in the shop front. This aims to ensure that optimal use of electrical energy is achieved.
Thanks to an LED display, customers will actually be able to see just how much electricity the store is using at any time.
Then there are stories on all the walls depicting the store’s green processes and the Woolies commitment to a lower footprint in general. How the fridge works is revealed on its side. How free range eggs are sourced is explained on the shelf. All possible questions are answered in bold writing.
Municipal water usage is also monitored remotely. To help reduce their water consumption, the store also has a system for using harvested rainwater for its toilets.
Woolworths is also making it easy for customers to be more ‘green’ with a handy recycling drop-off point in the shopping centre parking lot for paper, plastic, glass and tins.
This is the future
According to Justin Smith, sustainability manager, new systems and materials implemented at this green store will also be used in all future Woolies stores. Some shops will even be retrofitted this way, as this makes both environmental and economic sense.
‘Climate change and energy efficiency are two of the very real challenges facing all of us today. Woolworths is committed to continually working to increase the energy efficiency of our operations, as well as reducing our carbon emissions in meeting our Good Business Journey goals. This store, we believe, marks an important milestone towards these goals, and we look forward to exploring and implementing more new technologies in future,’ said CEO Simon Susman.
Woolworths Palmyra Junction will be open weekdays from 09:00-19:00, Saturdays from 08:00-19:00, and Sundays from 09:00-19:00.
I have to don my green hat to Woolworths for their commitment to educating their clients, taking the lead and walking their talk. Walking into an eco store, after being involved in the greening of our society for the past 20 years, is truly a dream come true.
By Elma Pollard