While Walmart prices might be low, the supermarket's 24-hour expansive retail space might be costing your carbon footprint. In 2005, the company committed to decreasing its carbon footprint by reducing greenhouse gases and relying on renewable resources. Though Walmart has made significant strides to reach its goals, its constant growth and increased power consumption may make it hard for eco-friendly consumers to see the benefits of the cost savings the company offers.
Using renewable energy
One of Walmart's sustainability goals is to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2020. It's an ambitious goal, since the average Supercenter uses approximately 27,274 kWh of energy a day. That's enough electricity to power more than 1,000 homes! And when you consider the 10,818 stores owned and operated by the corporation throughout the world, you're looking at a lot of green power.
So far, the company's massive growth has only hindered its ability to go green. In 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported the company ran on 28 percent renewable energy contributed from solar, wind and biomass resources in 2012. However, the 2013 report shows the company is down to 4 percent renewable energy, possibly due to Walmart's growth across the world. In fact, the company added almost 500 new stores internationally in 2012.
Walmart is starting to make use of its expansive, flat rooftops by installing solar panels. As of May 2013, the company's on-site renewable efforts generated 1 percent of the stores' electricity consumption. It may not seem like a lot, but the systems produce more than 1.7 million kWh of electricity. Walmart has invested in rooftop solar panels around the world, but has recently focused on California. By the end of 2012, approximately 75 percent of the company's California locations used some form of renewable energy.
Minimizing greenhouse gases
In 2010, Walmart announced a goal to eliminate 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from its supply chain by 2015. Though the stores themselves use a lot of energy, the company's supply chain is what really produces the most emissions. With stores in all 50 states in addition to 27 countries, Walmart produces a lot of carbon emissions through the transportation of more than a million different products.
As of May 2013, the company has eliminated 120,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. While for many that number may seem huge, but the company still has to eliminate more than 19.8 million metric tons of carbon emission in the next two years to reach its goal.
Walmart set a lofty goal to reach a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gases from its facilities by 2012. The company's data shows it surpassed its goal in 2011.While Walmart may have met its hard to reach goal, Bloomberg reports that the company's overall emissions stretched from 19 million in 2005 to 22 million tons in 2010, when the most recent information was published. Since the company has continued expanding over the past three years, many believe that number has only grown. In addition, the company is planning to build 15 to 17 million square feet in fiscal year 2014.
Walmart's continued growth could harm the environment
As of May 2013, the company operates more than 4,000 stores in the United States as well as more than 6,000 stores internationally. All of these stores combined equate to more than a trillion square feet of space to operate, power and staff all over the world. When you factor in shipping costs from production plants in China, trucking costs in the United States and the monthly energy consumption from operating 24-hour facilities, it's obvious that Walmart has a huge carbon footprint.
Though the company has made significant improvements on its environmental impact, the sheer volume of its continued growth and emissions might be enough to steer eco-friendly customers away. It's hard to stay green when you buy products with high carbon footprints. Next time you shop, consider how much your quick trip to Walmart will actually cost you.