How green is your supermarket?

'Why are Britain's supermarkets making such an effort to promote themselves as "green"? We hear the results of a study into the way the big retailers and their suppliers are trying to reduce their carbon footprint.'

From Radio 4's 'You & yours' - click on this Beeb link and listen from 34 minutes into the programme, 3-4 mins piece. I don't live in the UK so I'm curious, how green is the supermarket that you use?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01nbt9d

According to the study's results, M&S and Sainsbury's at top, Co-op surprisingly near the bottom.

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  • Ken68Ken68 Forumite
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    Perhaps it was grantable. Certainly tax deductible, maybe both.
  • Most company seem keen to promote themselves as green or sustainable , so much so the words have become meaningless.
    Use of ad lines such as
    "more sustainable"
    "more energy efficient"
    "greener"
    All are easy to achieve, but give no real idea as to the environmental impact of an action or product.
    Very much like the 'lower fat' ads. though i beleive there is some rules of definition in that case.
    I'm always annoyed by the fixation on saving plastic bags by supermarkets or shoppers , as if it's a major step towards environmental protection when it's really very low in that league and almost a meaningless gesture.
    cheers Jim
  • Ken68Ken68 Forumite
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    I suppose this is 'green'. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-19978400
    54 acres on prime arable land.
  • Ken68 wrote: »
    I suppose this is 'green'. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-19978400
    54 acres on prime arable land.

    It may be.
    54 acres, while I wouldn't want to weed it, is not a lot of land.
    While clearly the 54 acre park could be used to grow (for example) 500 tons of wheat a year with a profit of perhaps 25K, is relatively small compared to the total food demand in the UK.

    On the wider picture.
    People using a nearby park, not driving extra will reduce carbon emissions.
    As may a better located supermarket.

    The whole 'greenwash' is largely misleading and hard to measure.
    Indirect costs, such as the carbon cost of growing crops that are not harvested due to cosmetic defects, for example are seldom counted.

    Working out the entire carbon emissions of a nontrivial operation is hard!

    Take for example, building a wall.
    It may take a skilled drystone waller 5 days, with a helper to source the stone, whereas a wall built from blocks could be put up in 2.

    On the one hand, you have the emissions from concrete and block manufacture, and on the other hand you have 'nothing', other than local transport of the stone.

    But.
    You can't neglect the details. The drystone waller and helper took 10 man-days, not 4.
    Per worker carbon emissions is about 25 tons/year, so the cost of an extra 6 man-days is 400kg of carbon.

    Doing a true complete carbon analysis for a buisness is _hard_, when you go into the costs of all the suppliers, and has many questionable assumptions that lead to different answers.

    (For example, what fraction of online shopping customers who shop sometimes online commute by car, bus, or walking?)
  • Ken68Ken68 Forumite
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    In addition to asking for a community offering maybe the council could also request a ban on air mile fruit and veg.
    Or instead of a park, maybe fund 54 acres of allotments.
  • Ken68 wrote: »
    In addition to asking for a community offering maybe the council could also request a ban on air mile fruit and veg.
    Or instead of a park, maybe fund 54 acres of allotments.

    'Ban air miles' is an easy slogan.
    It seems obvious that it must use huge amounts of fuel.

    But...
    You don't actually care about fuel used in the air (or road, ...)
    But the total amount of carbon emitted growing and getting it to the shelf.

    If locally heated greenhouses are used, or inefficient farming, the total resource used by importing may be lower.
  • The_Green_HornetThe_Green_Hornet Forumite
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    Ken68 wrote: »
    In addition to asking for a community offering maybe the council could also request a ban on air mile fruit and veg.

    Maybe we should go back to using sailing ships for the transportation of exotic foreign produce.
  • Ken68Ken68 Forumite
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    I don't see how any supermarket can be called green, when they build on an expensive site and bribe their way thru the planning process with a non productive leisure park or whatever.
    And it's not green to be selling cigarettes and alcohol and sugared up confectionary and twenty types of bread and fatty foods etc. and of course out of season foods.
    Putting the local small shops out of business aint green.
  • Ken68 wrote: »
    Putting the local small shops out of business aint green.

    That's the fun bit.
    It can be, depending on how you define green.
    Certainly, people walking from their houses to do their shopping is a nice goal.
    But, small shops in many ways may be lots less efficient, using lots more energy to carry on their trade.

    Heating, staffing, some sorts of pollution (frequent start/stops of a car to go between little shops), costs of small deliveries, may all mean a small shop is far less green than a large one.

    The only way is to do a proper life cycle anaylses of the whole process, and that depends on what metrics you want to use.

    How do you weigh local employment over helping out third world farmers, over transport costs, over global warming, ...

    For example, I consider myself 'green' - and if I was dictator, my first step would be to sign a massive nuclear building program to increase our nuclear stations some 20 fold, and close all the fossil plants, and switch everyones heating over to electricity.

    This would be contraversial with some.
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