Sustainability can take many forms — from packaging design to food sourcing to building efficiency, which is my focus and what I oversee. Yet for all of the progress in these areas, there is a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes, starting with the technology we use to help improve a product’s or project’s sustainable potential.
There is an abundance of technology out there for us to choose from — all of which is constantly changing, creating its own set of challenges. When it comes to building performance, we examine whether the technology will actually result in substantial energy savings by testing the product under actual “Walmart” conditions. This testing takes time and resources. It is also of tremendous value to have great suppliers who are on the ball and who present valid technologies that have exceptional returns on our investment. These technologies are what help provide a better Walmart experience — for our customers and associates.
Some of the benefits of this sustainable technology might go unnoticed by our customers. For instance, while the heating/cooling and lighting systems in our stores impact customers’ overall shopping experience, and they work well — as ours do — customers are hardly aware of them. Take our daylighting systems, as an example. Most facilities we build today include a skylight/dimming system. As daylight increases, skylights allow us to dim the lights, or even turn them off, which in turn reduces the demand for electricity during peak hours. You probably don’t even notice them. One thing customers are always sure to notice is the temperatures of the freezers and refrigerators. After all, no one wants spoiled milk or melted ice cream — and that’s something that our building automation systems help to better control, down to the very degree needed to make its service optimal.
Many of the practices we adopt for Walmart stores can be replicated in your own home on a smaller level. Here are my tips for enhancing the sustainable performance around your house:
- An easy adjustment can start with your thermostat. We keep the temperature in stores a bit warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter. If you walk into your house on a 50 degree day, 68 degrees may be warm enough for you. Newer thermostats can be adjusted, so that if no one is home, warmer temperatures during hot days exist. On days when you’re home, temperatures can be set to normal cooling.
- Some utilities throughout the country offer home owners what they refer to as a “savers” switch. It cycles your air conditioner on and off in 15 – 20 minute intervals during periods of high demand. The device helps reduce your electric bill, carbon emissions and helps the utility avoid power outages, but it will only increase the temperature in your home two degrees when activated. Some utilities even offer customers incentives to use the device.
Solar panels, which we use in many Walmart stores, reduce the amount of energy produced using fossil fuels and can also be good for your home. They can be used to generate electricity, or in some states, the solar panels can be used for heating water for your home use.
Remember, any money you put into your house to make it more sustainable will have a great payback — for you and the environment.