Bellingham's Community Food Co-op gets an EPA nod for its green power use

By Emily Hamann
The Bellingham Business Journal

Buying renewable energy certificates helped put the Community Food Co-op in Bellingham on a national list with names like Starbuck and Walmart.

The co-op made the Environment Protection Agency’s list of the top the 30 retail stores in the country for using the most green power. The list ranks the number of kilowatt-hours of green power used members of its Green Power Partner program, which includes hundreds of companies throughout the U.S.

At 1.5 million kilowatt-hours of green energy used last year, the co-op is 29th on the list. In the no. 1 spot is Kohl’s clothing stores, with 1.5 billion kilowatt-hours of green power usage. Starbucks, Wal-Mart and H&M are second third and fourth, respectively.

Most of the co-op’s green power comes from renewable energy certificates it purchases to offset 100 percent of its power use.

It buy the certificates from Puget Sound Energy’s green power program and clean power company 3Degrees. The majority of the power it buys comes from wind.

“Wind is something that is really accessible in Washington State,” said Melissa Elkins, sustainability program coordinator at the co-op. “It actually helps preserve rural land, because you can’t build on wind farms, but they can be used for grazing.”

The Community Food Co-op’s solar panels produce 33,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year. [Emily Hamann | BBJ]
The Community Food Co-op’s solar panels produce 33,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year. [Emily Hamann | BBJ]
In addition to the certificates, the co-op does make some of its own energy.

An array of solar panels on the roof of its Cordata store generate about 33,000 kilowatt-hours of energy a year, enough to power three average-sized houses. Although that only about five percent of the store’s annual energy use. Grocery stores are notoriously energy-hungry, Elkins said. “The refrigerators require a lot of power.”

There’s also a small solar power array on the downtown store, but that generates just about enough power to operate the automatic doors and run the cash registers.

Green power is just one part of the co-op’s commitment to the environment.

“We recycle everything we can,” Elkins said. Last year, 92 percent of the co-op’s waste was diverted away from a landfill; around 45 percent of it was composted.

Almost a third of the co-op staff uses alternative transportation to get to work, Elkins said, whether it be public transit, carpooling or riding a bike.

The downtown store’s new parking garage, which is set to open in June, will have electric car charging stations.

Elkins said they’re also planning on putting
another small solar array on the co-op’s new administration building on Holly Street, but they’ll continue to use most of their green power by purchasing renewable energy certificates.

“For us, it’s just an extra little show of commitment to green energy productions in the United States,” she said.

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