Walgreens opens first net-zero store

Walgreens opens first net-zero store

Who would guess that Walgreens, the largest U.S. drugstore chain, would become an environmental leader?

In its first experiment in net-zero stores, Walgreen is combining several clean energy technologies, which it plans to extend to many of its 8,000 stores.

The first net-zero store, in Evanston, Ill., will get renewable energy from solar, wind and geothermal, along with extremely efficient refrigerators, LED lights and green building materials.

"We are committed to reducing our carbon footprint and leading the retail industry in use of green technology," said Thomas Connolly, vice president of facilities development for Walgreen, in a statement. "We are investing in developing a net-zero store so we can learn the best way to bring these features to our other stores. Because we operate 8,000 stores, we believe our pursuit of green technology can have a significant positive impact on the nation's environment."

If you look closely at an illustration of a store on Lake Michigan, you'll see the location will be giving it plenty of wind. You can see the vertical turbine in front of its name.

Once the store is built, engineers will test its performance for a year to see if it meets the net-zero energy goal. They expect the store to consume 200,000 kilowatt hours a year of electricity and generate 256,000 kWh a year.

Walgreen is shooting for LEED-Platinum certification and plans to enter the Living Building Challenge. They are participating in the Department of Energy's Better Buildings Challenge, which commits the company to reducing energy 20 percent across the chain by 2020. 

Here's how this first store will use 40 percent less energy than conventional stores and generate all the energy it uses on-site:

  • More than 800 solar panels on the roof.
  • Two vertical wind turbines.
  • Geothermal cooling and heating.
  • LED lighting and daylighting.
  • Carbon dioxide refrigerant for heating, cooling and refrigeration equipment.
  • Energy-efficient building materials.

This first store is replacing an old Walgreen store, which is currently being demolished. The new store should open in November, and will also have bike racks, a bike repair station and a place to charge electric cars.

Some of the vendors are Trane, CREE Lighting, Acuity Lighting, Cooper Lighting, CalStar Products, GE Lighting, Geothermal International, SoCore Energy and Wing Power Energy as well as Camburas and Theodore Architects.

This will be the third LEED-certified store for Walgreen. One hundred and fifty stores use solar, one store runs on geothermal energy and a distribution center in Texas uses wind energy. More than 5,000 stores have energy management systems and use LEDs for cooler and freezer lighting. Fifteen distribution centers have achieved net-zero waste. It was one of the first to install electric vehicle charging stations and now 400 stores have them.

In terms of its products, Walgreen is launching a private label green products line that spans more than two dozen personal care and household cleaning products. It is also incorporating organic foods and wellness programs in stores, morphing into "wellness" centers that help people stay healthy. It recently came in third for selling the safest cosmetics in stores.

Illustration of the net-zero Walgreen store provided by Walgreen Co. 

This story is reprinted with permission from Sustainable Business.