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Mitigating Environmental Impacts in Retail Grocery

Mitigating Environmental Impacts in Retail Grocery

Within the complex landscape of the global food system, grocers play a critical role in shaping a more sustainable future. In addition to influencing the behavior of their supply base, they are the primary food sustainability messenger to the consumer. Their efforts to reduce emissions and combat food waste are vital components of this transformative journey. Yet, achieving genuine sustainability requires more than just surface-level changes to marketing strategies; that’s merely scratching the surface of what’s possible.

Let’s dive deeper.

Food for thought

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, global food system refrigeration is responsible for up to 5% of global energy needs and 2.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions, while transport refrigeration contributes as much as 4% to the total greenhouse gas emissions of transporting all freight (refrigerated or not).

With an estimated 1/3 of all food produced being lost or wasted, improving the delivered quality of food is critical to reducing waste.  This starts in the field with proper post-harvest precooling and continues by maintaining optimal temperatures throughout the cold chain.  Temperature fluctuation can be minimized by implementing handling best practices, proper maintenance and establishing reliable backup power in cold storage facilities.  It’s important to note the mere use of refrigeration cannot stop food loss, which is mitigated only by bringing the food to gainful end use. The transport refrigeration links in the cold chain are critical to delivered quality and offer one of the most significant opportunities for sustainability improvement.

The role of sustainable transportation

Establishing and maintaining an optimal cold chain comes at an environmental cost, especially during transit.  In the context of the grocery transport industry, sustainable transportation is of paramount importance, primarily for its potential to significantly reduce the sector’s environmental footprint and promote long-term economic viability.

Implementing sustainable practices within the industry can involve measures such as adopting efficient transportation modes, optimizing delivery routes and employing eco-friendly vehicles.

In the journey for a greener future, grocers can go the extra mile by embracing other innovative technologies such as active diesel particulate filters (DPFs) in their delivery vehicles, called transportation refrigeration units (TRUs). These filters, known for their advanced particulate matter trapping capabilities, significantly reduce harmful emissions from diesel engines, making them an asset for promoting cleaner air quality during transportation.

The impact of transport refrigeration units (TRUs)

Understanding the ramifications of transport refrigeration unit (TRU) emissions is crucial in grasping the full scope of their impact on public health and the environment. The detrimental effects of diesel particulate matter (DPM) and black carbon exposure are far-reaching, affecting air quality and potentially contributing to respiratory issues and other health complications. Acknowledging this impact emphasizes the urgency of implementing effective measures to minimize these emissions, not only for the sake of environmental preservation, but also for safeguarding public well-being.

Cold storage back up power

Simultaneously, recognizing the indispensable role of dependable backup power and streamlined cold storage management systems not only ensures the integrity of perishable goods during transportation and storage but also contributes significantly to reducing overall emissions.

Generator sets (gensets), commonly used as backup power sources, can be significant contributors to local air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in areas where they are heavily relied upon. By installing DPFs in gensets, organizations can significantly reduce the release of harmful particulate matter, consequently curbing the overall environmental impact. Additionally, implementing DPFs on gensets is a practical approach to meeting stringent emission regulations.

Regulatory standards setting the tone

The standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state of California for diesel engines have played a crucial role in shaping the direction of emissions control, particularly regarding transport refrigeration units (TRUs). In the United States, the EPA created a tiered system for reducing emissions from diesel engines based on engine size (HP) and use case (on-road and off-road). California adopted the Airborne Toxic Control Measure for diesel TRUs to reduce particulate matter (PM) emissions and resulting health risks. The ATCM was amended in 2010 and again in 2022 to meet and adapt to Ultra-Low Emission TRU (ULETRU) standards.

The value of environmental mitigation

Good news. Consumer responses to sustainability-focused businesses have been favorable, further emphasizing the significance of integrating eco-friendly initiatives within the grocery industry to meet evolving consumer expectations and preferences. In addition to contributing to the preservation of the environment, voluntary sustainability efforts have proven to be instrumental in fostering a deeper sense of trust and loyalty among consumers, effectively solidifying a brand’s position as a key player in the sustainable grocery industry.

Creating awareness and driving change

In the pursuit of an increasingly environmentally conscious consumer base, the importance of transparent reporting of Scope 1 and Scope 3 emissions cannot be understated. Scope 1 and Scope 3 are greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions categories defined by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, a widely used international accounting tool for government and business leaders to understand, quantify, and manage greenhouse gas emissions. These categories help organizations identify and measure their carbon footprint and environmental impact.

Additionally, there has been a need for robust consumer education initiatives aimed at facilitating a deeper understanding of the impact of one’s grocery choices on the environment. The systematic communication of brand sustainability initiatives, encompassing critical components such as sustainable sourcing and packaging reduction, serves as a powerful tool in the reshaping of consumer perceptions and preferences, thereby solidifying the position of sustainability-focused grocers within the market.

The journey toward a more sustainable future

At the end of the day, grocers are now tasked with the responsibility of organizing sustainable practices and initiatives aimed at fostering real and impactful change. In collaboration with industry leaders such as Rypos, the pathway towards a more sustainable and environmentally conscious grocery industry isn’t just a possibility, but rather a reality.

Take the first step today by reaching out to Rypos and becoming a catalyst for transformative change within the retail grocery landscape.

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