Just a few weeks ago the United Nations group, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, concluded that things are worse than anyone predicted. This is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change and the report held some dire warnings. The ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, and water supplies are under extreme pressure. As heat waves, heavy rains and hundred year droughts become the norm, our precious coral reefs are disappearing and many species are moving towards extinction. You can view the slide presentation of the report here. The New York Times piece titled “Old Forecast of Famine May Yet Come True” elaborates on the impact climate change will have on the world’s food supplies. With this ominous news and dire forecasts, do we just get used to it and get ready? Or do we get going and demand change?
On April 10th we will celebrate the one year anniversary of Ceres and the BICEP coalition launch of the Climate Declaration. This Climate Declaration brought together companies and individuals to demonstrate support for national action on climate change. UNFI was one of the 33 founding signatory companies who declared that climate change is real and our company cares and is ready to take action. UNFI has gone beyond merely signing the declaration and is actively implementing real change to reduce our emissions and environmental footprint. We are doing this through tangible sustainable business initiatives that benefit the communities we do business in.
At UNFI we realize that promoting organic agriculture is one substantial way to protect the health of our soils and waters while reaping the benefits of carbon sequestration through organic farming methods. We also believe in sustainable growth as we encourage more consumers to eat organic food and more farmers to cultivate it. UNFI has built multiple LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings and is pursuing LEED® certification on several new projects.
At our Aurora Colorado facility, 100% of all office equipment and appliances are Energy Star rated and 100% of wood installed is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified. The total water use has been reduced by 50% when compared to a typical building of similar size and function.
Our Lancaster, Texas facility is LEED® Gold Certified, and 20% of all building materials are made with recycled content. This facility has achieved energy reduction and lighting power reduction of 30% and 18%, respectively. Water use reduction of over 35% has been attained by using motion-sensor activated flow controls and a rainwater recovery cistern.
The Ridgefield, Washington facility also has LEED® Gold Certification. This is the first refrigerated warehouse in the country to be awarded LEED® Gold certification! Our energy reduction is almost 30% when compared to a typical building of the same size.
We have additional LEED® Certified facilities in York, Pennsylvania and Providence, Rhode Island. Additional certifications are planned for facilities in Aurora, CO, Racine, WI, Hudson Valley, NY, Prescott, WI, and Gilroy, CA.
At UNFI we recognize the importance of investing in renewable energy to support a sustainable future. Our solar panel arrays are among the largest in the states in which they are located and have avoided thousands of tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
Our newest solar project, in Moreno Valley, California, has a 4,676 panel array that went live in 2013. Its predicted annual output is 1,692,338 kilowatt-hours of clean energy, which will avoid carbon emissions equivalent to those from 114 U.S. households.
UNFI’s corporate headquarters In Providence, Rhode Island boasted the largest solar array in Rhode Island when it was installed. This array produces an annual output of 171, 00 kilowatt hours of clean energy.
Our Dayville, Connecticut system’s output will avoid over 7,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide over its 25-year lifespan.
Rocklin, California has the largest solar array in our portfolio. This nearly 7,000 panel system occupies four acres of rooftop space and has saved the facility more than one million dollars in electricity costs since its activation. More than 1,200 metric tons of CO2 were avoided in its first year of operation.
I am honored to work for a company that takes responsibility for the environmental impact we have as a business. We care about the environment and strive to play a role in changing the spiraling course of climate change through human impact. It is not only through the food we distribute, but also the way we do business, that creates positive change. We believe we can build a better world for future generations. We also realize that reducing our carbon emissions and investing in renewable energy alone won’t solve the problem. UNFI signed the BICEP climate declaration one year ago as a leader in climate action, demanding that our representatives in Washington take up the same pledge. We need strong policies in place if we are going to right the course, before it is too late.
Won’t you do your part by signing the declaration and encouraging other individuals and businesses to do the same? Climate change is not a fantasy and no longer something to be debated. We can feel it every day in the wind and the rain and the heat. We see it in our pocketbooks as food prices rise. We feel it in our hearts when we look into the eyes of our children and promise them a better future. It’s time to take action.