SUNBURY, Pa. — Weis Markets here is pursuing two new environmental initiatives under the auspices of a regional Environmental Protection Agency umbrella program.
Weis plans to participate in the EPA's SmartWay and WasteWise programs under the Sustainability Partnership, an initiative launched by the EPA's mid-Atlantic Region III division in 2009 to serve as an umbrella in that region for all of the EPA's voluntary programs. (The region includes Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.)
This umbrella concept is not offered by the EPA's other regional offices or on a national basis, though the latter is under consideration, said David Iacono, manager, Sustainability Partnership.
Weis was already a member of the EPA's GreenChill refrigeration and Energy Star programs when it joined the Sustainability Partnership last December to promote “the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and lessening our carbon footprint,” as well as “reducing our energy consumption,” said Patti Olenick, sustainability specialist, Weis Markets. “We felt we could benefit from a partnership with EPA and they would in turn benefit with Weis Markets as a business partner.”
Weis is the only food retailer among 47 mid-Atlantic organizations in the partnership, said Iacono.
The Sustainability Partnership offers companies a single point of contact at the EPA for its various programs, as well as technical assistance, educational materials, and help in collecting environmental data. Following Weis' success with GreenChill and Energy Star, the chain's Sustainability Partnership contact, Tom O'Donnell, “suggested additional programs, and what would be in our best interest, as we continue to strive toward becoming a more sustainable company,” said Olenick. This led to the chain's interest in SmartWay and WasteWise.
EPA's SmartWay program, launched in 2004, identifies products and services that reduce transportation-related emissions, and partners with companies to reduce fuel consumption. Weis is looking into the SmartWay Program “to help us evaluate our current initiatives and document our sustainability efforts in regards to our transportation fleet,” said Olenick.
Weis' newest trucks are equipped with exhaust after-treatments called Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR), which reduces the nitrogen oxide emissions to almost zero levels. Newer trucks all have extended cab fairings to improve aerodynamics and increase fuel mileage, as well as aluminum wheels and fuel tanks to reduce the overall weight of the truck and increase mileage. The chain recently purchased trailer skirts that can provide up to 5% less fuel consumption. “All of these efforts led Weis to register with SmartWay as a means of tracking the success and measuring the results of our transportation program,” said Olenick.
The EPA's WasteWise program, started in 1994, promotes the prevention and recycling of solid waste and other materials. Weis is focused on managing the food waste sector of the municipal waste stream. “A retail grocery store is a big generator of organic waste and EPA and Weis are looking at ways to reduce the amount of food waste generated, recycle food waste manage food waste better than just disposal,” said Olenick.
The Waste Wise program will enable Weis to evaluate “the effectiveness and economics” as it expands its food-waste diversion program. In particular, the chain is in the beginning stages of evaluating composting programs to divert food from the waste stream.
WasteWise offers a free data management and reporting system called Re-TRAC that companies can use to track waste generation and reduction activities.
“The food waste stream is a significant part of what we'd like to tackle,” said the EPA's Iacono.