Green business of the year: Whole Foods Market
For its work promoting natural organic products under the banner “Caring about our Communities and our Environment,” the Whole Foods Market at Park Royal shopping centre has won the West Vancouver Chamber of Commerce’s Green Business of the Year Award.
Entering its eighth year at the Park Royal mall, West Van’s Whole Foods boasts a laundry list of green initiatives that happen in-store and out in the community.
One of the more ambitious earth-friendly in-store initiatives ramping up right now is a plastic bag reduction program that aims to reduce the use of plastic to wrap things like produce to 10 per cent of its current use by September. To do so, the company has been encouraging customers to use the available paper bags which can be recycled or the reusable mesh bags the store has been giving away for free.
“Plastic actually can decay your vegetables faster,” said Whole Foods’ in-store educator Debbie Barnes. “Because vegetables are living, breathing, they give off gas and if you don’t have holes it speeds up decay. Personally I use the mesh bag and I find that my lettuce lasts way longer.”
The 2012 green biz of the year also runs a free battery-recycling program in conjunction with West Vancouver secondary and uses a comprehensive compost and recycling service that has allowed the store to cut its weekly garbage pickup requirement from three times a week to once.
Outside the store, West Van Whole Foods employees are encouraged to take a paid hour or so every four months to go out in a group and clean up garbage in the community, most recently at Ambleside Beach.
There’s also a year-round bike-to-work program.
“How that works is that team members who cycle to work 15 out of 20 shifts get a $20 gift card,” Barnes said. “We also offer deeply discounted bus passes for team members.”
Whole Foods Markets also offer garden-building grants for local schools, Barnes added.
“In our neighbourhood we’ve handed out grants of about $1,000 each to several schools wanting to build gardens — a couple schools in West Vancouver, about a dozen in Vancouver, a couple in North Vancouver and even in Nanaimo.”