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Sustainability is moving up on convenience store agendas for several reasons: it makes good business sense, it is cost-effective, and consumers relate to it.
As the demand grows, so does the supply of innovations in the realm of sustainability.
In grocery and convenience store facilities, refrigeration, lighting and HVAC equipment can account for more than 90 percent of energy use. The opportunity to optimize the energy used by the components of each of these systems is enormous. Thankfully, many new innovations enable convenience stores to eliminate waste and optimize energy profiles in ways that were never before possible.
The resulting trifecta is:
- Environmentally responsible sustainability that customers love;
- Reduced resource consumption and lower utility costs; and
- Increased profits from reduction in costs and increase in customer loyalty.
When it comes to sustainability innovations, it seems like the sky is the limit. There are advancements constantly being developed, and companies are making realities out of concepts that not long ago, were the makings of science fiction.
The storefronts of convenience stores have always been important to attract pay-at-the-pump customers to come inside. But now, those large windows can do more than lure in customers; they can help c-stores reduce energy consumption by 20 percent.
New glass technology companies now offer dynamic glass windows whose tint can be controlled from a mobile app or scheduled in advance. By admitting natural daylight and rejecting unwanted solar glare, these smart windows significantly reduce annual energy costs.
The dynamic, controlled windows result in up to a 20-percent reduction in HVAC energy consumption and up to a 23-percent reduction in peak load compared to standard Low–E glass
Making existing devices smarter
A convenience store can invest in smart windows, but it also needs technology that monitors energy usage at the device level in order to optimize the energy consumption, reduce waste and improve the performance of systems.
HVAC, lighting and refrigeration assets can now be monitored with wireless energy sensors. By tracking all of the energy-consuming devices, convenience stores can:
- Get real time alerts about energy consumption and respond quickly to eliminate waste.
- Benchmark similar devices and locations to uncover trends and anomalies that can be corrected with equipment service or behavioral change.
- Transition to a predictive maintenance schedule, which is based on data, to minimize unnecessary service calls and predict costly equipment failure that can be avoided.
- Consolidate historical data and reports for corporate social responsibility initiatives.
Convenience stores using this kind of device-level energy management have been shown to save upwards of 10 percent of their energy costs.
Cool refrigeration systems
Innovations in refrigeration are now making it possible for convenience stores to use open refrigeration systems, as doors on refrigerators have been linked to reduction in sales. New systems use technological innovation like air movement systems, chilled air collection solutions, specialist refrigeration illumination, low temperature refrigerants and patented thermostat replacement.
The result is a fridge that is 54 percent more efficient than a standard open-deck system, and up to 26 percent more efficient than that of a fridge with doors in live environments.
Building sustainable stores
As we look further into the future, we may see convenience stores take after some of their “older siblings” like retail giant Marks & Spencer, which has a store with:
- Walls created out of pre-fabricated hemp panels
- Roof made out of Glulam timber (engineered sustainable softwood) rather than steel
- Toilets that are flushed with harvested rainwater
- Heat provided by a bio-mass boiler
- Maximum use of natural and LED lighting
Most importantly, the store boasts a 42-percent reduction in energy use, and carbon emissions are reduced by 40 percent, as reported by Raconteur.net.
What’s In It for My Store?
Windows that self-time to save HVAC costs, devices that self-monitor to better inform managers about opportunities for energy cost and operational efficiencies, smart refrigerators, and hemp walls. Why should convenience stores take note of these sustainability innovations?
Attracting and engaging customers and employees – Convenience stores are eternally looking for new ways to attract customers to enter the store and purchase anything from soymilk to chewing gum. Investing in sustainable innovations will help lure more customers into the store.
Brand loyalty – Retailers of all types and sizes are finding that consumers are loyal to companies that invest in environmentally-friendly innovations. This increases brand loyalty and, in today’s social media sphere, creates all-important brand advocates.
Cost savings – Energy is a significant expense for convenience stores, and these innovations provide a way to reduce costs and increase profits.
Reporting, rebates and incentives – In some areas, regulations already require companies to report on sustainability and other corporate social responsibility. In other locations, stores may qualify for rebates and incentives for saving resources. In either case, sustainability is a worthwhile investment.
For convenience stores, the future is nothing like the past. These innovations, and others like them, will present opportunities to improve service, reduce waste, and most importantly increase profits.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.