Wal-Mart Stores announced it will open the first of 4 new stores that promise to "use 25% less energy than its supercenters that were in operation in 2005," beginning January 23 in Romeoville, Illinois. It plans to meet the goal by adding "energy conservation measures focused on the refrigeration system and water heating and cooling" to the new stores, as well as including "white roofs, low-flow bathroom faucets, LED lights and an advanced daylight harvesting system."
The move stems from two experimental stores it opened in 2005 in McKinney, Texas and Aurora, Colorado, where they experimented with the likes of wind turbines, PV panels, water-cooled refrigerators, and xeriscape gardens. Wal-Mart's CEO, in the recent past, has said their goal is to ultimately use only renewable energy sources and produce zero waste. Also in 2005, Wal-Mart announced goals to increase their truck fleet's fuel efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce solid waste, all within the next few years.
Is this a good sign towards progress in America? Does the world's largest retailer care about environmental stewardship or do they simply realize the economic benefits that will result from cutting their own energy use? Even if they don't care, will their moves have a trickle down effect in promoting energy conservation to the nearly 100 million American customers that visit their stores each week?
Wal-Mart is aiming for a reduction in their own energy consumption - in both electricity and fuel forms. Slightly off topic, is it okay that this new store in Romeoville, IL (~30 miles from Chicago), will be the 8th Wal-Mart in a 10 mile radius? Maybe that's Wal-Mart's brilliant plan: reduce America's fuel consumption by strategically placing stores on every corner. It might work.