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Monday, August 29, 2011

Nice, green profile on a leading convenience store

Great to find companies that are distinguishing themselves on sustainable business.  Our thanks to WisBusiness for sharing this story with us.  We will profile Kwik Trip stores on a future show.

In the meantime, if you see one of the stores, stop in and let them know you saw them, and support them, through Renewable Now.  Here's the link:

Part of the story: " If you stop to gas up and get something to eat at a Kwik Trip store, pause to look around for a moment.

The signs might be somewhat inconspicuous, but you very likely could be standing in one of the “green” stores that is making La Crosse-based Kwik Trip a national leader in sustainable energy convenience stores.

“Many of our guests (how Kwik Trip refers to customers) probably don’t even see the initiatives that have been taken, but we believe they and the community as a whole are benefiting from them,” said David Ring, community relations coordinator for the company.

Roughly half of the convenience stores in the country that have qualified for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification of the U.S. Green Building Council are owned and operated by Kwik Trip.

The company has constructed 12 such stores and has 14 more in the planning stages. Changes to existing stores to make them more energy efficient also are on-going.

Kwik Trip spokespeople emphasize the greening of their stores is being done “because it is the right thing to do,” but also because it makes business sense.

“There’s certainly a balanced approach,” Ring said. “What makes sense for the environment, and is it cost effective?”

Leah Nicklaus Berlin, development coordinator for Kwik Trip, said most of the green initiatives have payback periods of five years or less. “Anything under five years is a no-brainer,” she said.

Initiatives are across the operations of the chain, following the vertically integrated structure of the company as a whole. Low-energy lighting, low-flow toilets and sinks and more efficient motors for coolers and other machinery in the stores cut energy use and save money.

Most of these efforts are planned to go into most, if not all, Kwik Trip stores, and there are more than 400 of those and counting. In Iowa, Kwik Trip operates as Kwik Star.

Kwik Trip has started to recapture water from its car washes and reuse it through a reverse osmosis process. That, along with the changes in sinks and toilets, projects to save 4.7 million gallons of water a year.

“That’s the equivalent of washing 87,000 cars or filling 316 backyard swimming pools,” Ring said.

LED (light-emitting diode) lighting has already shown savings. Canopy lights in new stores save about $3,946 per year. Changes to coolers and freezers are saving $375,291 per year across the stores.

Berlin said energy management systems, which can be monitored from the La Crosse headquarters, are being installed in many stores. “That allows a monitoring of energy efficiency throughout the company,” she said.

Other initiatives include skylights and additional windows for day lighting, heat recovery water heaters, refrigeration waste heat recovery, using more concrete than asphalt in lots to allow for less lighting and heat, and recycling efforts.

Berlin said making new stores energy efficient might add as much as 10 percent to building costs, but the payback more than makes up for that extra cost.

Discussions on greening of the chain started about three to five years ago, according to Berlin. “We felt it was the right approach for our customers and the community as a whole,” she said. “But, we also felt it has to make sense from a business standpoint. It has to be cost effective.”

Ring said some initiatives are in very early stages. For example, 14 stores in Wisconsin, eight in Minnesota and three in Iowa have electric car re-charging stations. The chain also is offering ethanol blends, biodiesel and natural gas at some of its stores and plans to increase those.

I wonder if the next thing this inventive company will offer is charging of batteries for EV owners?  Be a great next step in their progression.

Again, from a business side of green, a very good example of how a company, in the crowded field of convenience stores, turns ecological advantages into economic gain.

Also, our best wishes to those on the East Coast of the US as they struggle to recover from the devastation of Irene.

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