Energy and a Healthy Outdoors
As a co-op that knows that a life outdoors is a life well lived, we have long recognized the connection between energy use, climate change and the health of the outdoor places we love. Healthier outdoor places and a healthier planet can be a global outcome if there’s enough of a shift soon to renewable energy.
We started more than a decade ago on energy, sourcing 20 percent of REI’s power from renewable energy in 2006. Renewable energy was just becoming available—in fits and starts—and we pioneered with early green power offerings from utilities. We also aggressively focused on energy efficiency, as an unneeded kilowatt-hour of electricity is not only the greenest electricity but also the cheapest. Our continual efforts to make our stores and buildings more efficient has had great success: While our co-op has grown revenue 78 percent since 2008, our energy use (in this case, electricity for power and natural gas for heating) has been nearly flat, growing only 4.5 percent. Our buildings use about 25 percent less energy per square foot than they did in 2006.
Then, in fall 2007, our renovated Boulder store reopened to LEED certification and featured an innovative atrium skylight that used solar panels instead of glass. This was the first installation of a building-integrated solar system in a retail store. From 2008 forward we made significant investments in owning and installing large-scale solar electricity systems on our retail stores. The first 11 stores “went solar” that year, and we added 14 more in 2011 and 2012, leading other retailers in the number of states in which we had implemented solar. We’re proud to build some of the greenest retail stores in the country. Most recently, in 2016, we opened our 400,000-square-foot distribution center in Goodyear, Arizona. Designed to produce as much energy as it uses each year, this huge building in the desert is the largest net-zero energy and LEED Platinum building in the country.
Our energy strategy is straightforward: use as little electricity as possible, generate as much renewable energy as we can through our own systems, and then obtain the rest of the electricity we need from other new and innovative renewable sources. With this work, our electricity has been 100 percent renewable since 2013 and we are committed to continuing to source 100 percent renewable energy in the future.
Our approach has paid off—for the environment and for our bottom line. In 2014, we were recognized as an EPA Green Power Leader, and electricity—once our largest contributor to our carbon footprint—has now been zeroed out. Each year, our work on energy is the environmental equivalent of taking more than 7,000 cars off the road. Over the…