By Dane Feldman
Whole Foods Market has not only become a household name when it comes to supermarkets, but the company has also made itself wildly popular when it comes to green and organic living.
The supermarket’s website boasts a plethora of information on how to be active in saving our planet. The Whole Foods Market Green Mission states, that they “were the first major retailer to offset 100% of [their] energy use with wind energy credits.” Composting, using compostable flatware and cutlery, “banning plastic grocery bags,” saving “packing peanuts and donat[ing] them to local shipping stores,” and “replacing disposable batteries with rechargeable ones” are just a few examples of the ways in which Whole Foods works towards a greener planet.
Although the market is largely successful in regards to attaining the reputation of an entirely eco-friendly company, they admit to not having “a perfect track record.” In February 2012, WFM was bashed for “surrendering” to the controversial Monsanto company and their genetically modified produce. Supposedly, the surrender came because “2/3 of WFM’s $9 billion annual sales [are] derived from so-called ‘natural’ processed foods and animal products that are contaminated with GMOs,” but the market has not kept entirely quiet about this issue.
WholeFoodsMarket.com provides information on how to avoid GMOs while shopping at Whole Foods. The market has been working since 2009 with the Non-GMO Project, which strives to provide labels on all products that are GMO foods. The market claims in their “FAQ on GMOs” to have “long believed that consumers have a right to know how their food was produced.” WFM also intends to label all products sold in the United States and Canada “to indicate whether they contain GMOs” by 2018. WFM is the first national supermarket to do so.
In March 2013, just a year after Whole Foods’ so-called “surrender,” however, the market teamed up with Trader Joe’s, Aldi, and others to join the newly launched Campaign for Genetically Engineered-Free Seafood.
Whole Foods also pushes to make sure consumers know the impact of other products on the environment through a series of rating systems. Since 2010, there is “a color-coded rating program that measures the environmental impact of its wild-caught seafood,” as well as “an animal welfare rating system for meats and other livestock products,” and even “a rating system for household products, based on the environmental-friendliness of ingredients.” All products that were initially deemed too unfit to sell were then removed from the shelves at the markets.
The bottom line here is that, because WFM has taken the initiative from the start to sell better products and be active in the protection of the environment, consumers demand more of the market. For the most part, Whole Foods has not only delivered on a national—and even international—level, but also on a community level.
The team at Whole Foods understands the value of locally grown produce and therefore focuses on selling a large quantity of their products from local growers. The company even claims that, while “products that have traveled less than a day (7 or fewer hours by car or truck) can even be considered for ‘local’ designation, most stores have established even shorter maximum distances.”
As impressive as this is, some store locations have taken this idea of “local” to the next tier. At a new under-construction location in Gowanus, Brooklyn, a greenhouse will be built on the roof. When the store opens in the fall, the “greenhouse will be the first commercial scale farm of its kind integrated within a retail grocery space.” This greenhouse will not only provide local produce from Gotham Greens, it will also “virtually eliminat[e] transportation costs when compared with more traditional agricultural supply chains that sometimes span the globe.”
The greenhouse is just a small part of the urban farming movement, which is “on the upswing across the country” and the use of the roof is a great way to capitalize on the high costs of city space.
It appears that other Whole Foods Market locations are looking to save on costs and environmental impact by taking cues from the WFM in Gowanus. In the meantime, here’s hoping that other supermarkets and grocers continue to follow in their footsteps towards a greener, more eco-friendly planet.