Larchmont, NY—Have you ever thought about making big changes to your store to make it even more "green." One NY grocery store recently used innovative technology to benefit the environment, which in return has benefited their bottom line.
The DeCicco & Sons franchise began in 1972 in a tiny storefront in the Bronx, and eventually grew into a larger chain of grocery stores with several locations focusing on gourmet and natural/organic goods. Their newest store in Larchmont, NY, was created with the idea of "going green" in mind. In an interview with co-owner John DeCicco, Jr., he fills us in on just how much going green has impacted the family business:
What initially made you open up a sustainable "green" grocery store?
JD: Essentially, I have two children who both studied the environment a lot more than I did when I was younger. They would come home from school with books and would really push being green at home and in the business as well. Also, last year, we partnered with Con Edison on a demand-reduction project. We were trying to get businesses to reduce their electrical use.
How have you gone green?
JD: We have a CO2-based refrigeration system that is HFC (hydrochlorofluorocarbon) free. So if the refrigeration system leaks, it doesn’t harm the ozone layer because it’s basically powered by carbon dioxide, so trees can convert that back to oxygen naturally. Most grocery stores in the country use harmful refrigerants and HFC. God forbid they leak, which they usually do, they eat away the ozone layer. Our system is completely computerized and controls the amount of refrigerant that goes into the cases inside the store. So instead of having them on all the time, this computer system controls all of the valves to only give the amount of CO2 necessary. We have night curtains, which reduce the electrical use by about 60% at to save energy.
We have all LED lighting, which only uses about one-quarter of the electric lighting that we’re using in the other stores. We have a new high-efficient heating and cooling system from Carrier and a 100 kilowatt solar panel system on the roof to generate renewable energy. We’re basically making 80% of our energy ourselves.
We used reclaimed wood and bricks from demolished buildings in Boston and old barns in upstate New York. Even our tap handles are made from recycled metal. All of the cement in the store was made from this new product called positive cement, which is basically creating cement from crushing glass. We also heat the store with all the energy from our refrigeration system because it's constantly generating heat.
Was it difficult making this transition?
JD: It was difficult to understand it because there’s only about eight of these CO2 refrigeration systems in the whole country, so it’s really new. I think that the most difficult part was getting our vendors and installers to understand it as well, so it was definitely a lot of training. Now that we do have a better understanding, we're able to help our service people and teach them.
What are some of your shoppers’ feedback on these new improvements? Has it helped business at all?
JD: I think so. Everyone is appreciative of what we’ve been doing in the store like reusing paper bags and using recyclable paper and salad bar containers instead of plastic. There has been a lot of publicity on the store being green so I think that has helped shoppers appreciate our efforts in these communities as well.
Published on WholeFoods Magazine June 2016 (Online 4/27/2016)