REI recently announced a major energy reduction achievement. By retrofitting its data center, REI reduced the cooling energy used to operate the facility by 93 percent. The data center contains servers and backup systems for computers, software systems, the company’s website and point of sales for all of its 132 stores. The retrofit features a rooftop evaporative cooling tower which keeps servers at recommended temperatures, and reduces the need for mechanical cooling, about 8,672 hours a year. It saves enough energy to power six REI stores, or 2.2 kWh a year.
REI partnered with the energy efficiency firm CLEAResult and Puget Sound Energy to complete the retrofit, which was recognized by the Association of Energy Engineers as the Region V Energy Project of the Year for 2013. In addition to installing a cooling tower, the retrofit included:
By examining our operations through a sustainability lens, we’ve achieved financial and environmental benefits and met our goals to increase efficiency, minimize disruptions and reduce our carbon footprint,” said Kirk Myers, REI corporate social responsibility manager. “Being a good steward is reflected in how we care for the places where we play and work. We hope our actions show this is possible and financially prudent, and inspire others to actively manage their energy use.”
REI’s goal is to limit energy use increases through the use of renewable energy and implementing efficiency projects. Although REI’s overall company growth last year was 7.4 percent, the company reduced its operational carbon emissions by 7.6 percent, as the 2012 annual stewardship report shows. The target was 5.2 percent. The company’s overall energy use only increased by one percent from 2011 to 2012. Relative energy use for retail stores decreased from 2011 to 2012, which the report attributes to energy efficiency measures.
REI added rooftop solar power systems to three stores last year and a carport system to one store that already had a rooftop system. The company has solar power systems at 26 locations (25 stores and one distribution center). About 20 percent of its retail locations have solar power systems that generate 15 to almost 100 percent of their power needs.
The company reduced its emissions from transportation, the report shows. The employee commuting emissions decreased by 27 percent from 2011. The product transportation emissions decreased by nine percent. REI also reduced the waste generated. Construction waste from new store openings, remodels and store locations decreased by 168 tons from 2011 to 2012. Total waste in 2012 decreased 53 tons from 2011, a 1.4 percent reduction. The company reduced the waste generated from two of its distribution centers. Its Bedford, Pennsylvania distribution center reduced its waste from 32 tons in 2010 to 25 tons in 2012. Its Sumner, Washington distribution center reduced the waste generated from 69 tons in 2010 to 54 tons in 2012.
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Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.