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PCC Interview with Diana Chapman, 3 January 2013

Interviewed by Cynthia Pruitt and Hank Landau
Compiled from interview, notes and PCC Website

ed exterior 350On January 3, 2014, Hank Landau and Cynthia Pruitt met with Diana Chapman, Puget Consumers Coop (PCC). Diana started out by explaining that PCC has nine Stores in the Puget Sound Region. In addition, two new stores are planned; one for Greenlake Village this year and Columbia City next year.

The Edmonds PCC opened in 2008 and is PCC’s largest store at 25,000 square feet. It is the first grocery store in the country to be certified both LEED Platinum and Salmon Safe. (The Redmond PCC store was the first grocery store in the nation to be certified LEED gold.) [1]

PCC started making improvements slowly to increase its stores’ sustainability (for example, they started by remodeling one classroom and then installed window glazing). In remodeling the older Albertson's grocery store building in Edmonds PCC recycled 97 percent (109 tons) of the removed building materials.

In addition, the building originally had more square footage than PCC needed. That extra space is now used as a commissary to prepare uniform quality deli food for all nine stores.

Energy Conservation and Environmental practices at Edmonds PCC have included:

  • The space and hot water heating as well as refrigeration systems are all interconnected using the same refrigeration loop so waste heat from the refrigeration systems is used by the other functions.
  • The white reflective thermo plastic poly olefin roof (TPO) reflects sunlight and reduces costs and energy requirements for cooling compared to conventional roofs.
  • The store is recycling 160,000 gallons of rainwater per year for use both in the rain gardens (in the parking areas) and for flushing toilets. The rainwater is cleaned via an impressive array of pumps and filters. (During the remodeling they managed to save thousands of dollars by purchasing a used cistern for $500 – a recycled product from another site in Puget Sound.)
  • An electric vehicle charging station was installed in the parking lot ahead of its time.
  • Low energy lighting is used throughout the store.
  • In two eastside PCC stores food scraps are being recycled to produce liquid fertilizer using a process (WISERG) developed by two Microsoft engineers. This eliminates the need to haul waste away and provides a product which is sold in the stores. It also provides a way to measure "shrinkage" (products which could not be sold).
  • There are 35 skylights with special glazing that allows 65 percent of the visible light to enter while blocking 64 percent of the sun's heat. This approach is energy efficient and, in addition, it makes the organic products look more natural and inviting.
  • The store uses nightshades to keep cool air contained in the product display cases after closing.
  • The deli switched from round to square bowls (for salads, meats, etc.) to maximize cooling efficiency in their display cases.
  • They use LED lights in the food displays to save energy.
  • Because they handle organic foods and must maintain the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s rigorous standards they clean the floors using a soapless floor scrubber that uses “excited water.”
  • Recycled materials are used throughout the store.

Diana explained that it has been particularly satisfying that the Edmonds store has done so well. The community has welcomed PCC in addition to the media’s interest in the store and these improvements.

Diana went on to explain that the sustainable practices are consistent with PCC’s culture. Plus, these practices save energy and money. And they have fostered an element of pride in the employees which contributes to low turnover and less costs for hiring new employees and training. They have found a huge benefit in their customer relations. Focusing on sustainability has been an especially good fit.

Finally, Diana assured us that, yes, they would do more of these kinds of improvements in the future. Her recommendation to others who are considering energy and sustainability improvements is to go slow and deliberately. More information can be found on their website; pccnaturalmarkets.com

[1] LEED is a voluntary rating system developed by the Green Building Council. Salmon Safe is a certification for practices that protect water quality and habitat for salmon.

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