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Today is Earth Day, and it seems appropriate that there is a plethora of environmentally themed stories on the wires…

• Safeway, according to a press release has “unveiled its newest solar-powered grocery stores in Northern California to kick off a week of Earth Day activities and programs focused on the company’s commitment to the environment and helping consumers pursue greener, more sustainable lives.

State and local officials joined Safeway representatives on a tour of the Placerville store's rooftop solar panel installation. It is one of 23 stores in California targeted for renewable solar energy. The Safeway store in Fairfield is also unveiling its new solar power system, which harnesses energy from the sun and decreases the store’s reliance on traditional greenhouse gas (GHG)-emitting fossil fuel energy.”

• Food Lion announced that it will begin selling reusable shopping bags in all of its stores beginning April 22, 2008. The bags are made of a poly woven polypropylene, feature the Food Lion logo and will be available in all Food Lion stores beginning Earth Day for $0.89 each. The company’s Bloom and Bottom Dollar Food stores already offer similar reusable bags.

“There are several reasons why we have made the decision to offer these bags to our customers” said Brian Stokes, Food Lion’s Project Manager. “First and foremost, more and more people are becoming aware of the effect grocery bags can have on the environment. Reusable bags make sense. Second, we purchase millions of plastic grocery bags each year. By reducing the cost of buying bags, we can pass on those savings to our customers.”

• The Business Journal of Phoenix reports that “the Bashas' family of stores and Shamrock Farms will celebrate Earth Day on Tuesday by introducing reusable bags that will be tied to money-saving offers throughout the year … To obtain a free bag, Arizona customers need to take five or more plastic bags to a Bashas' store on Earth Day. Two hundred bags will be available at each store throughout Arizona on a first come, first served basis.”

"We're calling it the 'ultimate green bag,' because it's good for the environment and good for your wallet," Johnny Basha, vice chairman of the grocery store chain, tells the Journal.

• Stop & Shop announced that it have been awarded LEED Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. According to the press release, “This achievement distinguishes Stop & Shop not only as the first supermarket chain, but also the first company in the country earning Volume Certification under the Portfolio Program. Fifty-one existing stores and close to 3.4 million square feet of stores have met the green and sustainable criteria of USGBC. LEED is a third party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.”

• Tesco’s Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets announced that to celebrate Earth Day today, it plans to give away reusable "bags for life" at all Fresh & Easy stores and unveil a dedicated green building Web page.

Fresh & Easy said it will bag customers' groceries in reusable "bags for life" for free on Tuesday. The "bag for life" is larger and more durable than a standard grocery bag and, if damaged, the company will replace the bag for free, forever. These bags are made with recycled material and are 100% recyclable. Fresh & Easy offers its customers two different types of reusable bags, including a $2.50 canvas bag and the plastic "bag for life," which retails for $.20.

Also today, Fresh & Easy will also launch a Web page dedicated to the company's green building initiatives. The site will highlight Fresh & Easy's green building practices and incorporate a real time green energy meter from its 500,000 sq. ft. solar panel on its
Riverside, CA distribution center.

• Wal-Mart has released new consumer research that shows shoppers are considering the environment before making a purchase. According to the statement released by the company, there has been an adoption rate increase of 66 percent from last year in its sustainability Live Better Index, which has been tracking consumers' decisions to purchase five key eco-friendly products since April 2007. This growth in the sustainability index shows that concern for the environment has a growing presence in shopping baskets of the retailer's 200 million annual customers:

- Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs - Average adoption rate of 19.7 percent (up from 13.39% in 2007); Delaware leads the category with an adoption rate of 25.8 percent.

- Organic baby food and formula - Average adoption rate of 4.12 percent (down from 4.31% in 2007); California continues to lead the category with an 8.58 percent adoption rate.

- Organic milk - Average adoption rate of 1.58 percent (up from 1.15% in 2007); Virginia has the highest adoption rate of organic milk at 2.7 percent.

- Extended life paper products - Average adoption rate of 67.5 percent (up from 50.77% in 2007); Minnesota has the highest adoption rate with 78.1 percent.

- Concentrated/reduced-packaging liquid laundry detergents – Average adoption rate of 76.3 percent (up from 22.86% in 2007); Oklahoma leads the category with an adoption rate of 96.3 percent.

• And, in another environmentally themed story, the Los Angeles Times reports this morning: “Conscientious consumers who want to tread lightly are increasingly concerned about their own carbon footprints. They've changed lightbulbs. They covet a Prius more than a Porsche. Now their anxiety over global warming has shifted to the supermarket and dinner table.

“The global food and agriculture system produces about one-third of humanity's contribution to greenhouse gases. So questions about food are shifting from the familiar ‘Is this good for me?’ or ‘Will it make me fat?’ to ‘Is it good for the planet?’

“But what's the right thing to do? It's not just paper versus plastic anymore. Is throwing out leftovers better than taking them home in a plastic container? Is refrigerated better than frozen? A French brie sandwich or chicken salad?

“Sensing this, the country's major food service companies are talking about energy efficiency, waste reduction and, now, how to reduce carbon emissions associated with the food they serve … Food science has begun to look beyond transportation, to the smorgasbord of contributors to carbon dioxide and other gases with even greater atmospheric warming potential, such as methane.”

KC's View:
Kudos to all companies and individuals who are paying attention to environmental issues. There all are important moves…though I would point out (and I’m sure these companies would agree) that while it is important what you do on Earth Day, it is even more important what you do during the days and weeks that follow.