This week Walgreen Co. opened the first of four drug stores planned this year that are registered to meet certification for environmental efficiency and design.

Walgreens, Mira Mesa, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, LEED, U.S. Green Building Council, USGBC, environmental efficiency, drug store, LED lights, Matt Sesto, LEED Green Building Rating System, Russell Redman

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'Eco-drug stores' being rolled out by Walgreens

June 26th, 2009
Walgreens' new eco-friendly store in Mira Mesa, Calif.

DEERFIELD, Ill. – This week Walgreen Co. opened the first of four drug stores planned this year that are registered to meet certification for environmental efficiency and design.

The new store in Mira Mesa, Calif., near San Diego, is designed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, a certification granted only by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), according to Walgreens.

At the Mira Mesa location, customers driving hybrid vehicles can take advantage of reserved parking. The store also offers bike racks and is close to public transportation.

Inside, skylights and solar tubes enable the sun to light 75% of the store, cutting down on electricity usage and in the process reducing air pollution.

Coolers, freezers and exterior signs all use LED lights, slashing energy use by 50% over fluorescent lighting. The store will save enough electricity to power 19.3 homes per year, Walgreens said. And because LED lights last longer and use less energy than fluorescent lighting, pollution from energy production is reduced, and less waste is sent to the landfill over the lifetime of the project, the drug chain noted on its responsibility web site.

The Mira Mesa store, too, has a "white" roof that reflects the sun’s energy, rather than absorbing it. That helps reduce the effect of "heat islands," which Walgreens said the Environmental Protection Agency defines as densely populated areas that are hotter than nearby rural areas. This impacts summer peak energy demand in communities, air conditioning costs and air pollution, the retailer pointed out.

About 95% of the wood used in the construction of the Mira Mesa store came from sustainable forests, and during construction approximately 75% of the debris was diverted from landfills and recycled, according to Walgreens.

In addition, the store consumes zero gallons of water for landscape maintenance because it uses native and adapted plant species. Besides easing demand on drinking water supplies, this approach improves water quality since these plant species require little or no fertilizer or pesticides, the retailer noted.

"Signage posted inside the store will inform customers about the features that make this location unique," Walgreens market vice president Matt Sesto said in a statement. "We want people to feel good about shopping here and maybe even be inspired to live greener lives."

Registered under the LEED Green Building Rating System, the Mira Mesa store will be reviewed by the USGBC and given a specific level of certification in four to six months, Walgreens said.

This fall, the chain aims to open its next LEED-registered store in Chicago, with two more such locations to follow by the end of the year.

On its responsibility web site, Walgreens said that it is one of 70 retailers — and the only drug store — working with the USGBC to give feedback on the LEED standards.

The company added that its efforts to reduce its carbon footprint also include the use of solar panel systems on 63 of its stores in California, Connecticut, New Jersey and Oregon.

"Walgreens is making great progress on our environmental initiatives in stores chainwide," Sesto commented. "We’re cutting our electricity and water usage, recycling tons of cardboard and shrink wrap each year, and upgrading equipment for maximum efficiency."

The Mira Mesa store is Walgreens' first location in that community. The chain said that it plans to open another nine stores in the area by the end of 2011 and that it now has 19 locations in San Diego County.