More than ever before, consumers are saying no to companies that are harmful to society or to the environment. But when it comes to being eco-friendly, which British supermarket is the best?
Our nation’s supermarkets don’t always have the most fantastic reputation when it comes to looking out for the environment, but here’s a fact that might surprise you: Marks & Spencer is building the UK’s largest solar panel system and Sainsbury’s is Europe’s number one operator of rooftop solar panels. That’s right, even big businesses are going green with most of the seven biggest supermarkets scrambling to improve their green credentials to attract customers and reduce running costs.
With the festive season in full-swing, shoppers can do their bit for the environment by buying from companies with an excellent track record on green issues. It’s not at all true to suggest that all big businesses are as bad as each other, some really do put a lot of thought into protecting the environment. Buying green shouldn’t be hard, so we’ve put together a no nonsense list of the UK’s five greenest supermarkets.
1. The Co-operative
With a history of fair trade commitments and environmental awareness, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the Co-operative comes in at number one. Last year, their impressive £100m new headquarters were declared the “world’s greenest building” ahead of a grand opening by the Queen. On the back of their 2009 Environmental Leadership Award for fair trade cotton bags, this company is raising the bar when it comes to sustainable shopping.
2. Marks & Spencer
Marks and Spencer supermarkets have done a whole lot to lessen their environmental impact in recent years and building the UK’s largest solar panel system is a fantastic step forward. The new system built above their Castle Donington centre will provide enough electricity to power their entire online sales department. Not only that, but the retailer stocks more than 5,000 fairtrade, organic and eco-friendly products. This high street darling has also claimed to be carbon-neutral since 2012.
Another company with an impressive history when it comes to being environmentally friendly, 100% of the electricity used in Waitrose stores is based in renewables. Unlike many other supermarkets, Waitrose also protects the environment by sending none of it’s leftovers to landfill. The stuff that is still edible they donate to charity, whereas they use the inedible food to generate even more green energy through a process called anaerobic digestion.
This supermarket is a real environmental success story, considering that it was languishing near the bottom of eco-friendly league tables only ten years ago. But since then the supermarket has really upped its game, in large part due to common sense energy saving measures such as solar panels, automatic lighting and greener refrigerators in all its new builds.
Another company that has responded to public opinion and shifted gear to become a greener grocer, Sainsbury’s has been cutting its carbon emissions every year since 2005 in an attempt to reach carbon neutrality. Sainsbury’s opened its most environmentally friendly branch last year in Leicester North, which proudly boasts a ‘triple zero’ rating, that’s zero carbon emissions, zero landfill waste and zero impact on the local water supply. If Sainsbury’s is able to replicate this success across its older stores too, there’s no doubt it’s environmental rating will climb even higher.
If you’re lucky enough to live near an independent, they’re probably even greener!
Lastly, let’s not forget about locals! If you are fortunate enough to have an ethical independent shop nearby, consider showing your support at Christmas. Local retailers, which are great for shopping little and often, are a good way to drive less and waste less too. Not only that, but you can support your local economy at the same time.
The reality is that most of us do a good portion of our shopping at supermarkets, but now you know that big businesses aren’t all as bad as each other. Remember, choosing where you spend your hard-earned cash is an excellent way to do your bit for the environment. By making an informed decision with your Christmas shopping, you are essentially voting with your trolley for a cleaner, greener 2015.
About the author
Lee Rolison is an enthusiastic installer of renewable energy technology in the South East. He is deeply knowledgeable about the latest trends in green energy, and works with Complete Renewables to install solar panels, ground source heat pumps, and other green solutions.