Many c-stores are finding a win-win by instituting environmentally-friendly initiatives that also reduce costs and attract customers.
By Erin Del Conte, Senior Editor
In 2018, many consumers, especially Millennials, are serious about eco-conscious choices, from product purchases to water usage and light bulb selection, while cities are following suit with plastic bag and straw bans. Savvy c-stores know that eco-friendly choices, from reducing energy to managing water usage also help reduce costs and resonate with earth-conscious customers.
United Dairy Farmers (UDF), headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, with nearly 200 UFD c-store locations in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, knows firsthand that a commitment to energy efficiency is not only good for the environment, but also benefits the bottom line.
UDF teams with Springridge Partners to manage its engineering needs. Nearly two decades ago, it began monitoring energy by adding an Emerson control system to each store to track refrigeration, HVAC and lighting. Today, UDF features control systems at all its c-stores. The control systems alert UDF to any system failures quickly, allowing it to use preventative maintenance to avoid a full failure, thus saving on energy and labor.
“We create set points and alarms. If, for example, the refrigeration system is not operating properly, and it goes down as the temperature creeps up, then the control system will send an alarm to the store manager and the maintenance staff so somebody can fix it right away,” said Matt Diepenbrock of Springridge Partners, who acts as the chief engineer for UDF. “For example, if we see the compressor temperature starting to creep up bit by bit or it alerts us that the amps have increased 5% in a short period of time and it looks like the compressor is getting ready to fail, we can swap it out now so it doesn’t go down in an emergency.”
The control system allows UDF to determine how much energy the chain is using, and make necessary adjustments. “You can’t manage anything you don’t measure,” Diepenbrock said.
One such adjustment was to upgrade the stores’ lighting. All new UDF stores now feature 100% LED lighting. When UDF upgrades an older store from T-12 florescent lighting to LED, it sees roughly a 75% savings on lighting costs.
“LED typically uses one-fourth the energy of a typical T-12, but it also allows us to decrease maintenance dollars because we’re not replacing lights as often. We save a tremendous amount of labor hours in not needing to replace the lights,” Diepenbrock said.
UDF is also exploring daylight harvesting, utilizing light from windows to reduce the amount of overhead light needed on sunny days. Diepenbrock estimates the stores could turn the LEDs down by 30% on sunny days.
Most recently, UDF rolled out Emerson’s new SiteSupervisor to its newest store location in Sharonville, Ohio, allowing it to view the store’s energy usage remotely and see any changes in real time.
“The technicians can log on, see what’s happening, talk to the store manager and decide whether they need to go to the store or not,” Diepenbrock said. This allows employees to make the best use of their time instead of driving out to a store for a false alarm.
“The new Emerson SiteSupervisor is a continuation of our strategy to integrate technology into our operations,” said Brad Lindner, UDF’s CEO. “This particular technology will allow our team to be more proactive in addressing issues before they become emergencies and it allows us to maintain the quality of our products at a very high level.”
What’s more, the system is expected to assist UDF in its plans to continue reducing the energy it uses in its operations.
“By allowing our team to analyze the trend data, we are able to make intelligent decisions regarding set points, equipment selections and food quality. We will continue to look for new ways to leverage technology in other areas of our business to increase both awareness and engagement of our staff as a whole,” Lindner said.
Tim Clifford, director of maintenance for UDF said the SiteSupervisor will give the team “unparalleled access to the energy management system.”
“Our staff will be able to access various levels of data via their phones, iPads or computers in the store. We anticipate that our maintenance staff will be more proactive and better able to manage their time by having these new tools available to them,” Clifford said. “It will also allow them to troubleshoot issues much faster in order to minimize product losses and maximize the quality of our fresh foods.”
UDF plans to roll the SiteSupervisor out to all store locations, once it finishes making the necessary adjustments. The maintenance department welcomes the new technology.
“Our (maintenance) staff is excited about having these new tools available to them. We have been preparing for this over the past two years, and we believe that technology integration will allow us to have an even bigger impact on the overall operation,” Clifford said.
MEASURING FOR SUCCESS
Measuring progress helps evaluate next steps. Diepenbrock conducted a high-level energy study at one of the chain’s 10-year-old stores in 2016-2017. “I put current transformers on every wire in the panel and tracked power usage for an entire year. We learned a lot about what we actually spend our power on.”
UDF is embarking on this same study by Springridge Partners at a new store and expects to see a lighting cost drop of 70% due to LEDs, lighting controls and lighting layout. It’s also looking into ways to further reduce water usage, and landscaping changes to reduce irrigation needs, as well as considering how water quality impacts maintenance and life of equipment.
“We are currently reviewing the refrigeration system design to further reduce our energy usage and optimize our defrost cycles on the refrigeration equipment,” said Diepenbrock. “We are also looking at changes to our refrigeration boxes to further reduce the energy requirements, increase product quality and to protect against losses.”
Des Moines, Iowa-based Yesway, which operates 150 c-stores in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska, plans to acquire, improve and rebrand 500 c-stores over the next several years. It looks to add LEDs to both the interior and exterior of acquired sites.
“Exterior LEDs are efficient, and help bring a modern element to the forecourt to attract more customers. LEDs deliver energy efficiency and savings on our utility expense, and when strategically placed in cooler doors, have the added benefit of better showcasing merchandise to drive sales,” said Derek Gaskins, Yesway’s senior vice president of merchandising and procurement. The chain also adds LEDs to the cold vaults and modernizes the HVAC and cooling systems of newly acquired sites, which “delivers utility savings, and creates a better environment for our team members and customers alike.”
“In the regions we operate…improved HVAC systems have the potential to deliver major efficiencies to our rebranded Yesway stores,” Gaskins added.
Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven Inc. partnered with GreenPrint LLC in August of 2017 at its stores in Portland, Ore., Seattle, and Madison and Milwaukee, Wis., to launch its RENEW reduced emissions fuel program.
“For every gallon of fuel purchased in the 7-Eleven RENEW program, an investment is made in reforestation, green-scape projects, wildlife protection and renewable energy projects designed to help reduce car emissions. The local, regional and global certified carbon reduction projects are designed to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere,” said Jason Murray, 7-Eleven’s zone vice president for the North Pacific.
One year in, 7-Eleven has now planted 70,000 trees and offset 24,000 metric tons of carbon emissions, and is now expanding RENEW to 142 additional fuel stores and 698 non-fuel locations in California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, Canada, this September.
“7-Eleven believes it is important to bring innovation and sustainability options to our customers. This program’s proven success in several states helps us meet our 2025 corporate responsibility targets.” Murray said. “RENEW furthers our efforts to reduce our environmental footprint and offers customers an opportunity to make an impact on the environment, while they pump. RENEW furthers our ability to make a difference in the communities where our customers and employees live.”
This year 7-Eleven will plant over 100,000 trees in the U.S. through a partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation, and at least 10,000 trees in Canada with Tree Canada. 7-Eleven also has a “Plant it Forward” campaign where customers can plant a free tree for themselves and a friend.
“We are seeing growth in sales at participating fuel locations, which can be attributed to the community support of the RENEW program,” said Murray.
“We believe that corporate responsibility is a pillar of what makes us a thriving organization. We take our responsibility as a global citizen seriously. Our corporate responsibility goals include several environmentally-based programs including our goal to reduce 7-Eleven’s energy footprint in stores and offices by 20% by 2025.
We decreased energy use (via LED lighting, energy management systems and high-efficiency HVAC units) in stores by 21% over seven years and shifted to renewables i.e. purchasing 100% wind energy in all Texas stores in competitive energy markets and introducing sustainable coffees,” said Murray.
Twice Daily also partnered with GreenPrint to launch its Thrive program, which has been live for three months, at all 54 Twice Daily locations in Kentucky and middle Tennessee. Thrive has already offset almost 26 million gallons of fuel, planted over 4,000 trees and offset a little over 12,000 tons of CO2.
“The Thrive program is offsetting guests’ cars’ carbon emissions by up to 30%,” said Dawn Boulanger, vice president, marketing for Tri Star Energy. “The Thrive program is allowing us to further our reach in and around middle Tennessee by allowing our guests to help our environment without changing their fill-up habits.”
Twice Daily Thrive is nationally partnered with the Arbor Day Foundation, through which it will plant 25,000 trees in the first two years; GROW Enrichment, through which the team also plants trees; and the Nashville Tree Foundation to give away 800 trees at eight local farmer’s markets this fall during “Tree Fest.”
“We constantly hear from guests that they love what the Thrive program is bringing to the local areas,” said Boulanger. “We’re also finding exciting ways to be more involved in our local communities.”
In addition to the farmer’s market, Twice Daily’s Thrive is the Fuel Sponsor of the Pilgrimage Festival, in Franklin, Tenn., and will be offsetting 100% of the festival’s fuel usage.