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Whole Foods Market Switches To Wind Power

Whole Foods Market is a “natural foods” grocer based in Austin, Texas. On Tuesday they announced that they will be buying 458,000 megawatt-hours of wind credits per year, enough to cover all 173 of their stores throughout North America. This move makes them the largest corporate consumer of renewable energy in the United States.

Whole Foods regional president Michael Besancon said, “It’s a sales driver rather than a cost. All of those things we do related to our core values: help drive sales, help convince a customer to drive past three or four other supermarkets on the way to Whole Foods.”

On October 1, 2005, the EPA listed Whole Foods as the eighth-largest renewable energy customer, but this new purchase will put the company at #1, pushing the U.S. Air Force down to #2 and Johnson & Johnson down to #4, while the EPA themselves drop to #3.


Whole Foods Market began as a health-food store in Austin, Texas, but has expanded and diversified so that now it carries both healthy foods like a large selection of organic produce and not-so-healthy foods like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Their clientele at a store in Plano, Texas, is primarily wealthier SUV-driving professionals who pay a little more for what is mostly available at their local grocery store, primarily because Whole Foods Market’s image is that of a company that treats their employees and suppliers well and is committed to shared values, but also because Whole Foods is a one-stop shop, with a larger selection of healthy and high-end choices than most grocery stores.

Besancon said as much when he described this new committment as a “sales driver.” Some might wonder what the net impact on the environment would actually be if they succeed in encouraging customers “to drive past three or four other supermarkets on the way to Whole Foods,” given how much gas those SUVs consume.

It reminds me of a Thomas Dolby song, Wind Power: Switch off the mind and let the heart decide / who you were meant to be.

I expect to see marketing material trumpeting this changeover on my next visit to Whole Foods Market (which will be soon, I should disclaim), and based on past marketing campaigns from Whole Foods, it will almost certainly be detailed enough to explain to consumers how they, too, can support renewable energy like wind power.

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  • Dave Nalle

    Damn, that explains a lot. Right when this happened the Austin Clean Energy program went to a raffle system – clearly Whole Foods is getting preferential treatment ‘first dibs’ on the wind power Austin is generating, and putting the rest of us back on fossil fuels.

    Dave

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    Actually, though I didn’t include the company name in the article, Whole Foods is accomplishing this by buying credits from a company in Boulder, Colorado: Renewable Choice Energy. So I’m not sure that the Austin program changes is related.

    I also didn’t include — because I couldn’t track down info on all 50 states — the fact that most Texans (and resident of six other states) can already choose “green” power from Green Mountain Energy, doing basically what Whole Foods is doing. They don’t hook the turbines up to your house, but they produce enough electricity for the grid to offset your use, so the overall effect is the same.

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    Interesting article, Phillip. This concept of buying indulgences ‘green’ credits is something I have seen in areas other than renewable energy (I believe I saw something in regards to being carbon neutral but I might be mixing that up a bit).

    I think it would be/will be great when there are more energy choices available to more people. I think what Whole Foods is doing is great. Money talks. Whole Foods is speaking to their values with this decision. Good for them.

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    I am not endorsing this or encouraging anyone to do anything but I believe the news article I read on carbon neutrality was in regards to THIS organization.

  • http://andiwastheecho.blogspot.com Trish

    This might work. Corporate ethics and responsibility is definitely something I consider when shopping/spending money. They could influence my buying habits.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    I have to add that my stock in Whole Foods Has just exploded in value over the last couple of years. It’s a damn fine company which combines excellent management with ecological responsibility.

    As for renewable energy, I’m skeptical about the green credits thing. I’m putting money aside to eventually make my house solar powered instead. That seems like a much more direct way to address the problem with additional side benefits like being off the grid if there’s ever a problem. Plus with the shifting of the north magnetic pole we may never have another cloudy day here in Texas.

    Oh, and I think that one reason that they’re having to raffle the green credits here in Austin is that with the rise in oil prices the green energy is now actually cheaper than what they’re producing the old fashioned way.

    Dave

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    I was going to post on this a few days ago, but, you know, got lazy…

    Anyway, good article!

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    Dave:

    That’s actually one of the few positive things about rising oil prices: They make “green” alternatives relatively affordable, which will boost private-sector development of these resources. The free market saves the day again!

  • Dave Nalle

    Yep, RJ. And I think they’re going to drive a big boom in the sales of Hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles, which is a great thing.

    Dave

  • Bennett

    Phillip – Really good coverage of this story!

    Dave – Do it man! Texas should be one big “off the grid” enclave. I’ve read about it, and with the newest tech converters and such, a weekly check on the batteries seems to be the biggest chore.

    The ability to sell the kwh back to the power company certainly shortens the payback of investment.

  • Healthy

    With so many people concerned about natural and organic foods these days, it’s useful to stop and really take a look at what “natural” and “organic” foods really are. We all know that natural and organic foods are better for us than highly processed or artificial foods, but do we really know which foods are natural and organic?