With 33 grocery stores across the Southeast and Midwest regions of the United States, Earth Fare is in the business of providing healthy, local, organic, and hormone-free food to its highly educated and environmentally conscious customer base. But a look beyond its product offerings reveals a facility design that’s just as in tune with the environment as the organic tomatoes on its shelves.
Jeff Jones, the company’s vice president of construction and engineering, has been working in grocery stores since he was 16 and building them for the past 25 years. He recently joined Earth Fare to spearhead its rapid expansion—nine new stores in 2015—and to continue its practice of implementing sustainability initiatives across new and existing stores.
“Earth Fare’s tagline is ‘Real Food for Everyone,’” Jones says. “We want to make sure healthy food is accessible and affordable. And we also want to build a sustainable facility that aligns with those values.”
Gallons of hot water produced daily from reclaimed condenser heat
Projected percentage growth in 2015 (with nine new stores)
Square footage of highly efficient building footprints
Percent LED lighting in new Atlanta store and all new facilities moving forward
Shoppers in an Earth Fare store are likely to appreciate the robust produce section and educational wellness department. They may also notice the chemical-free, low-maintenance polished concrete floors or the many skylights bringing in natural light. But equally impressive are the things they won’t see: Earth Fare pairs its daylight harvesting with LED lighting and dimming technology to realize significant reductions in energy consumption. “With the added natural light, we can be at 70 percent lighting, and the customer can’t tell the difference,” Jones says.
Refrigeration units use high-efficiency condenser fan motors, and they are able to generate 100 percent of their hot water using reclaimed heat from those units. Since most Earth Fare stores employ open-joist ceilings, destratification fans are used to push air back down and minimize heat loss through the roof. All of these features are managed by remotely accessible, computer-processed controls that allow for custom climate management and accelerated troubleshooting.
As Earth Fare expands, the grocer is looking to implement even more sustainability initiatives. A beta store opening July 2015 in Decatur, Georgia, will use glycol in both refrigeration and the HVAC system. “We are also looking to shy away from traditional compressors and use scroll compressors,” Jones says. “Our system in Decatur, Georgia, will be all scroll compressor technology.”
Another new store in Atlanta will be Earth Fare’s first using 100-percent LEDs for both interior and exterior lighting, while in North Carolina, Jones is exploring solar power opportunities for existing facilities. And as always, Earth Fare is planning to continue the education of its customer base. “Starting in 2015, we will be showing more messaging to educate our customers on the environmental and sustainability initiatives that we are putting into our stores,” Jones says. “Earth Fare wants to bring all these initiatives together to reach a broader base.”
One unique aspect of Earth Fare’s approach to sustainability is its number of LEED-certified stores. It has zero. “We focus on sustainability, but the LEED certification is a cost where we don’t see a payback for our customers,” Jones says. Pursuing LEED certification can be time-consuming and costly, and those costs simply don’t fit into Earth Fare’s goal of “Real Food for Everyone.” By focusing on what matters—its customers—Earth Fare is able to provide healthy food at affordable prices while contributing to positive environmental change.