When searching for the supermarkets with the greenest practices, several obvious criteria come to mind: organic offerings, local fare and sustainably harvested or farmed meats and seafood. Most large national supermarket chains offer these things. Even if you have to look harder for them, they’re still there. So when it came time to make a list of three of the greenest national supermarket chains, candidates had to bring something bigger to the table in order to make the cut.

These three chains have gone beyond the three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) to create a corporate culture of sustainability and environmental responsibility. Not only do they sell organic options, designate local foods and encourage customers to bring their own reusable shopping bags, these three brands are on the cutting edge of cutting back. From reducing carbon footprints and energy consumption to instituting programs that help shoppers make more informed food purchases, our top three greenest supermarkets are doing more to make a difference.

Whole Foods Market — From New York City to Los Angeles, Whole Foods Market is sharing its organic, sustainable and humane mission with communities across the nation. Whole Foods was the first major retailer to offset 100% of its energy consumption with wind energy. Its Sarasota, Florida, store was the first-ever LEED Silver Certified Supermarket. Where manufacturers fall short on labeling, Whole Foods has instituted an “Eco-Scale” rating system to help customers make more informed choices. It even labels GMOs (genetically modified organisms) so that shoppers can know more about the products they are buying.

Safeway — Named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies by the Ethisphere Institute in 2012, Safeway is doing a lot to foster sustainable practices, from seafood harvesting to energy conservation. Safeway’s distribution center in Tracy, California, gets 15% of its energy from on-site wind turbines. Its recycling programs saved nearly half a million tons of waste from landfills in 2011. In the same year, Safeway’s water conservation practices saved 70 million gallons of water. From greener stores to on-site energy production at distribution centers, Safeway’s sustainability practices and energy conservation efforts earn it a spot on our list.

Publix — Publix saves energy by using efficient lighting systems in its stores, reduces waste by recycling and offers shoppers a range of sustainable products from organic and natural items to sustainably harvested seafood options. While some folks may describe these efforts as “low-hanging fruit,” Publix goes above and beyond. The chain opts for local products where available, donates perishable foods to Feeding America locations and, in Florida, has even joined a program that composts organic wastes. No efficiency effort is too small for Publix. Since 2009, the supermarket has reduced truck travel by 1.9 million miles simply by rearranging how it loads its distribution trucks. Publix is also reducing emissions by operating more than 200 hybrid vehicles.

Of course, your local farmer’s market is likely the best place to get the locally raised meats, organic produce and dairy products around. However, when the farmer’s market isn’t a viable option for the things you need, look for local supermarkets that go beyond the three Rs to make a difference in your community just like the three supermarkets above.

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