Retailers gear up for Earth Day with environmental contests, food samplings, exhibits and more
From implementing sustainable seafood policies to building LEED-certified stores, food retailers are increasingly doing their part to help the environment.
As Earth Day approaches, many are publicizing their efforts by running themed contests, sampling events, promotions and giveaways.
Among the programs:
• Lowes Foods ran an Earth Day Reusable Bag Contest. All those who submitted designs for Lowes' reusable bags between March 9 and April 5 were entered into a contest to win free groceries for one year.
• As reported, Harris Teeter is planning an Earth Day recycling cookware promotion with Bradshaw International's Good Cook bakeware line. Shoppers will receive a 50% discount on a new Good Cook pan when they recycle an old one.
• Safeway sponsored the Feb. 25 PlayGreen eco-festival at the University of California, Berkeley campus. Safeway displayed its environmentally friendly brands, including Bright Green, O Organics and In-Kind.
• C&K Market, Brookings, Ore., partnered with Coca-Cola to offer a free reusable Ray's bag with the purchase of the new Dasani water “plant bottle.” The bags have C&K's “Ray's Food Place” banner logo emblazoned on them.
• Last Saturday, Wegmans Food Markets planned to set up stations around each store highlighting earth-friendly products, including Ecolution cookware and EarthBoxes, a sustainable gardening container.
Such efforts come at a time when a growing number of retailers have made sustainability a major part of their corporate responsibility initiatives. Many embrace Earth Day as a time to underscore their commitment to the planet.
Some food retailers are partaking in the Earth Day Network's “A Billion Acts of Green,” an Earth Day promotion in which individuals and businesses share ideas on how to save the planet.
This year, Earth Day (April 22) falls two days before Easter. Since Easter will be the primary focus of promotional efforts the weekend of April 23-24, some retailers have switched their Earth Day celebrations to April 16.
Everything Natural, a single-unit natural and organic store in Clarks Summit, Pa., chose to do just that for an event tied to the Earth Day Network's “Billion Acts of Green” campaign.
On April 16, Everything Natural will host an open house featuring educational exhibits on how local buying affects the environment and the importance of protecting local waterways. About 1,000 customers are expected to attend, store partner Barry Kaplan told SN.
Participating agencies include the Lackawanna River Corridor Association, which promotes the restoration and conservation of the Lackawanna River, and the Countryside Conservancy, which protects land and water near the Tunkhannock Creek Watershed.
“While we focus on natural and organic foods, we also branch out to other environmental issues so that we're not so self-serving,” said Kaplan.
As more and more Americans lead green lifestyles, such efforts are a valuable way to build customer loyalty, said Joan Michelson, interim vice president of marketing and communications for the Washington-based Earth Day Network.
“People like to shop at places that do the right thing for the planet,” Michelson said. “It's a key value proposition.”
Along with in-store events, retailers promote their green initiatives through Facebook, websites and other tools. Giant Eagle uses its website to tout its Giant Eagle-brand “Eco Light” half-liter purified water bottle. Containing about 50% less plastic, the bottle is lighter and requires less energy to produce.
“One of the most environmentally friendly bottles ever,” Giant Eagle states on the website.
Likewise, a section of wegmans.com is dedicated to Wegmans' earth-friendly store brands, such as its compact fluorescent bulbs, which use about 75% less energy than standard lighting.
Also in the spotlight are the retailer's store-brand paper towels, facial tissues, bath tissue and napkins — all of which are certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.
The SFI label is an assurance that products originated from forests that weren't illegally logged or have an exceptional conservation program, according to Jason Metnick, senior director, market access and product labeling.
Wegmans' paper products received the certification, in part, because they are made by a family-owned paper mill that plants over 30 million tree seedlings each year, generates 100% of its own electricity and uses innovative technology that reduces mill water consumption.
Other products that carry the seal include Wal-Mart's store-brand office supply products, and Sara Lee shipping cases and cartons.
Though the label has been around for 15 years, more consumers — and retailers — are noticing it, said Metnick.
“The market has matured,” Metnick said. “People are starting to ask questions about where fiber comes from and how it's sourced.”
Sustainable seafood practices are another topic of retailer discussion for Earth Day. Lund Food Holdings, Edina, Minn., touts the fact that it sources its wild-caught and farm-raised seafood from fisheries which utilize sustainable practices that preserve and improve ocean ecosystems. Lund has formed partnerships with sustainable seafood organizations including the Marine Stewardship Council, Global Aquaculture Alliance and Alaska Seafood.
“Our sustainable seafood suppliers and producers are certified by third-party organizations that monitor and audit their fisheries to guarantee they are utilizing sustainable practices to maintain an abundance of marine life for future generations,” according to Lund promotional materials.
Hannaford Supermarkets, Scarborough, Maine, recently implemented a new seafood sourcing policy stating that all seafood — fresh, frozen and packaged — must be from sources that sustain seafood availability for current and future generations.
The policy applies to all the supermarkets of Delhaize America, which includes Hannaford, Sweetbay, the Food Lion family of banners and Bottom Dollar Food.
“We want our shoppers to have confidence that seafood they buy from us is from fisheries that are viable and maintained for the future,” George Parmenter, corporate responsibility manager for Delhaize America, said in a statement.
Consumer packaged goods manufacturers are doing their part too.
On Earth Day, Procter & Gamble will launch an earth-friendly smartphone app promoting its Future Friendly products, a title given to brands that save water, energy or reduce waste in the home.
Called “My Carbon Footprint,” the app lets users create a “planet” with its own ecosystem. The planet is based on their responses to 10 multiple choice questions like, “What is the gas mileage of the car you drive in most often?” Once their planet has been established, users can improve the quality of their ecosystem by answering a question of the day.
While there are other carbon footprint apps on the market, many require users to have in-depth knowledge about energy consumption and other topics, according to Jeff Skolnik, executive vice president and general manager, retail marketing, Blue Chip Marketing Worldwide, Northbrook, Ill.
“Ours is more fun and interactive,” he said.
The app provides suggestions on how to lead greener lifestyles. P&G's Future Friendly products, such as Tide Coldwater, are incorporated into those tips. “Brands are integrated when it makes sense,” he said.
Food Lion, Publix Super Markets, Supervalu, Giant Eagle and Hy-Vee are among the retailers supporting the app by featuring point-of-purchase materials near P&G products. The POP materials contain QR codes that shoppers can scan with their smartphone to gain access to the app.