Between the Devil and the Deep Green Supercenter
Wal-Mart building two experimental green stores
Mega-giganto retailer Wal-Mart is conducting an experiment. No, not the world-domination experiment, a different one: It’s constructing two “Supercenters” with green-building features designed to reduce energy and water use. The first, in Texas, will have solar cells embedded in skylights; runoff waste water will be captured and reused; heat from refrigeration units will warm water for the bathroom sinks; waste oil from the garage and food-service areas will be burned in a radiant floor-heating system; energy-efficient LED lights will illuminate the low-paid, uninsured, non-unionized Wal-Mart “associates” on the floor below. After three years, the results of the experiment will be assessed by independent agencies and shared publicly, and the most successful elements will be used in other Supercenters and likely in other big-box retail stores. “The No. 1 rule in retail is to get people in and have them hang around for a while,” said Rick Fedrizzi of the U.S. Green Building Council. “In green spaces you have a sense of well-being.” The move is, suffice to say, unlikely to mollify Wal-Mart’s critics in the environmental and labor movements.
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