Publix looks to ensure that its trucks are filled to capacity with the correct products and that they are efficiently routed to stores, according to Brous. The overall goal is the judicious use of fuel and energy.
Solar energy: Publix has been actively working with the Florida Solar Energy Center and several companies proficient in solar integration. More specifically, the chain has been conducting Photovoltaic (defined as "voltage produced when exposed to radiant energy') Feasibility System Pilots to determine how best to integrate them into retail operations.
"We have been researching photovoltaics for some time and are hopeful that we will be able to incorporate solar energy into our overall energy management strategy," says Brous. "Our first photovoltaic installation will likely be at Publix GreenWise Market stores."
A partnership for this initiative was recently forged with the Florida Power and Light Co. Currently, solar energy testing is underway at three retail locations-two of which are new Publix GreenWise Markets and the third being a traditional Publix store location. In addition, the company has joined the State of Florida in its Solar Incentive Program, which will bring solar power to the Publix corporate office.
Recycling: The company's goal in recycling is to "employ and explore options for the reduction, reuse and recycling of materials," explains Brous. Broadly speaking, this includes, but is not limited to: recycling store-generated material destined for landfills, working closely with suppliers in an effort to reduce materials, promoting reusable and recyclable materials and increasing the use of recycled content where practical.
In 2007, the company-wide recycling rate was 42 percent, with Publix actively working to improve this figure. Last year's totals included the recycling of 216,772 tons of cardboard (which helped save approximately 3.7 million trees) and 1.5 billion gallons of water, as well as saving 650,000 cubic yards of landfill space.
In addition, the chain recycled 7,469 tons of plastic, which, combined with cardboard recycling, saved approximately 2.5 million barrels of oil. To obtain such a high recycling rate, Publix explored ways to recycle traditionally less recycled materials such as fat, bone, meat scraps, bakery waste, damaged produce and rotisserie grease.
A current initiative in Florida is already underway.
"Several Publix stores in Broward County are participating in a food waste recycling project," says Brous.
"If successful, the total amount of waste eligible to be recycled from our retail operations could increase from about?42 percent to 80 percent."
Energy conservation: Publix aims to make reductions wherever practical in the area of energy consumption, fuel, water and materials through several methods.
On the ground, stores will be built that are more energy-efficient, with an emphasis on reducing energy consumption in existing stores. Water use will be curtailed as much as possible, while still maintaining the highest standards of sanitation and food safety in the industry;
On the road, Brous reinforces earlier statements: "[We are] reducing fuel use and emissions through fleet modifications, training and optimization of loads, routing and delivery schedules. Evaluation of the use and sale of alternative fuels [is accomplished] wherever practical."
Education: Brous stresses the need to "promote sustainability with customers, associates and suppliers, within the retail industry."
Publix plans to achieve this by offering environmentally-friendly products (such as reusable shopping bags), providing customers and associates tips for practicing sustainability at home and working with suppliers to identify sustainable product and packaging options
With such a wide range of activities, what can be left for a responsible eco-company to do?
"We will be looking more into the recycling of tires and rain water harvesting in manufacturing plants," says Brous.