Why isn’t Whole Foods on this list?

Via Waylon Lewis
on Oct 2, 2012
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Or Starbucks?

Or Chipotle, or McDonald’s, or Burger King, or Nordstrom, or Sears, or Target, or Barnes & Noble..?

Seriously? What easier way to save money and engender customer loyalty and goodwill and make America energy independent and clean our air?



About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


14 Responses to “Why isn’t Whole Foods on this list?”

  1. Starre Vartan says:

    To be fair, most of the companies on the list (not all, but most) are MUCH larger than the companies you've listed. Walmart is 2nd on the list of the US's Fortune 500 companies, for example. Whole Foods is 264, below Nordstrom's. GM and Costco are also gigantically huge megacorps with thousands of properties the world over over hundreds of acres of space.

    Also, (and this is not to excuse Whole Foods, or any other green company), but perhaps they have invested money in other things (like paying their employees decently? or ensuring that each of their buildings is constructed with incredibly high energy efficiency standards in other ways – using geothermal for instance – that may not be reflected on this list). I'm just saying looking at one factor – solar panels – negates a lot of other good shit they may (or may not, I don't know) be doing. Looking at this list, I would think Wal-mart is great, but really, they are just saving money on their electricity bills by investing in solar – not trying to be 'good guys' (disclosure: I have worked peripherally with the company inasmuch as I have spoken with their people and seen a lot of their media outreach – and I have never, ever once see them do anything 'green' that wasn't about saving money for the company first and foremost).

    I think this is a great question, but just because a company uses a lot of solar, doesn't mean they are a good company (Wal-mart's parking lots have the most incredible footprint and the company has been responsible for literally destroying entire downtown shopping areas.) Has Whole Foods put some health food stores out of biz? Certainly. But to compare the two companies is a bit disingenuous, considering one's a behemoth and the other is still relatively small.

    I'd love to see a well-researched, full-on critique of Whole Foods and what the company is not doing that it could. I think they should be pushed. Lastly I'll say I know a lot of small and medium-sized local foods and body care companies that could probably not afford to be in business if Whole Foods didn't carry their products.

  2. elephantjournal says:

    I agree generally re Wal-Mart–they're huge, as are the first few on the list. But as you get down the list, you see many more random companies, who clearly, internally, decided to go solar. I'd love to see WFM and Starbucks, Target etc join that group.

    This isn't intended as a knock on Whole Foods—as you say, they do a lot right, and I've covered much of that here. But WFM (and Starbucks, and Barnes & Noble etc) are huge companies with many locations and could and should try and walk their talk, energy-wise. This is intended as a kick in the rear: "…what better way to engender good will and loyalty…" …it's just a decision that makes sense, environmentally, as well as business-wise and bottom-line/utility-bill-wise.

    We should encourage our friends and allies, as well as our "enemies" or those we tend to criticize, to improve.

    Honor to hear from you, here, my fave eco-colleague!

  3. Annie Ory says:

    This list is also made up of companies who own their locations. Starbuck's and Whole Foods lease the spaces they use. I would LOVE to have solar for my yoga studio, but I don't own the building, and buying land and building myself would prohibitive for such a small business. Starbuck's itself a big business, but each location is a very small business and if they bought land and built a building with solar for each location they'd be out of business very quickly.

  4. Tom says:

    Before everyone jumps on the solar bandwagon, take a minute to see the larger picture:

    • Fueled by Cheap Chinese Panels, U.S. Solar Use Soars http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443

    "China supplied nearly half the world's solar panels last year, up from one-fifth in 2008. The U.S., which once dominated the solar industry, shipped just 3% of solar panels used globally last year, down from 7% in 2008, according to Paula Mints of Navigant Consulting.

    President Barack Obama's 2009 economic-stimulus package provided funds for loan guarantees to five U.S. solar manufacturers. Two have filed for bankruptcy, including Solyndra, the California maker that borrowed more than $500 million from the federal government. Of the others, two are still developing their technology and haven't drawn any loans, and one has put a factory on hold."


    • A Dark Side of Solar Power http://m.cnet.com/news/a-dark-side-of-solar-power

    "Polysilicon, which is widely used to make solar panels, is in short supply. In the rush to make it cheaply, a Chinese company reportedly is dumping toxic waste into the ground, killing wildlife and endangering human health. […] 'In China, polysilicon plants are the new dot-coms,' writes Ariana Eunjung Cha, reporting that new factories there are set to produce more than twice the amount of polysilicon as is currently manufactured in the world. Silicon tetrachloride can be recycled. But manufacturers reportedly can make polysilicon about two-thirds more cheaply if they ignore environmental protections."


    • China quells village solar pollution protests http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/18/us-chin

    "The protests began on Thursday, when as many as 500 people stormed a compound owned by the New York-listed Jinko Solar Holding Co, official news agency Xinhua reported on Sunday. Protesters overturned vehicles before being dispersed, but they continued to camp outside the factory until the riot police with helmets, vests, batons and shields arrived late on Sunday. Toxic waste from the factory, which manufactures photovoltaic panels, cells and wafers, killed large numbers of fish in a nearby river, and authorities had already ordered the company to suspend operations, the news agency said."

    This specific factory was temporary closed for "clean up" (http://coastalcare.org/2011/09/china-solar-company-pledges-toxic-waste-cleanup/) but quickly reopened:

    • A darker side of Chinese clean-tech http://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/

    "Protests last month exposed pollution problems at a manufacturing site in Zhejiang province which, according to industry insiders, are just the tip of the iceberg. After large numbers of dead fish were found in the river at Hongxiao village in the Zhejiang city of Haining, hundreds of villagers turned on the only local solar-panel manufacturer, Zhejiang Jinko. The scandal saw the factory close for a brief spell for remedial action, but it has since reopened. […] This incident is no anomaly. Energy use and pollution at polysilicon refineries further up the industrial chain are even more extreme, while the large amounts of hydrofluoric acid used at solar-panel manufacturers result in large quantities of fluoride waste. Industry insiders say that rivers near solar-panel factories frequently show fluoride levels at least 10 times above mandated levels, sometimes as much as 100 times or more."

    Continued below…

  5. Tom says:

    …Continued from above

    Solar might appear to be "clean" for us over here in the US, but the fact is a lot of waste and pollution is generated by the production and transport of the hardware. Just because we don't see the side-effects, doesn't mean there aren't any.

    Of course Wal-Mart is on that list: they're one of the largest retail importers of Chinese-made goods. Is it any surprise that Wal-Mart has imported a ton of solar products? The problem is, just like when Wal-Mart gets caught selling baby toys with lead paint, the solar products Wal-Mart is importing are being produced in less-than-ethical methods. China is notorious for producing at the absolute lowest dollar, often sacrificing environmentally-friendly measures to ensure the lowest cost of production.

    Even the US Solar companies are being bought-up by the Chinese (likely to gain access to their technologies and resources):

    • Chinese company snaps up solar startup MiaSole http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/bulletin/chinese-

    "MiaSolé, the thin-film solar panel maker that has struggled in recent months, has found a buyer. China’s Hanergy Energy has agreed to buy the Silicon Valley startup for the bargain basement price of $30 million, according to a shareholder letter obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle. […] Meanwhile, Hanergy has taken full advantage of the painful consolidation occurring within the solar manufacturing sector. The company completed its acquisition of Solibro, another CIGS thin-film panel maker, just last week"

    I'm sure it won't be long before the company's tech secrets are sent back to China, the US production facilities are closed, and we start seeing a new generation of thinner/lighter solar panels being shipped from China (with all of the collateral-pollution staying out of sight / out of mind).

    It's a shame that people are never interested in looking beyond the surface of an issue…

  6. macpanther says:

    A proper comparison would list installed capacity as a percentage of total power consumed. I'm also curious about this measure of "installed capacity." That states how much they are capable of producing, not necessarily how much they actually produce.

  7. elephantjournal says:

    Hmmm. Re Starbucks going broke if they added solar to small locations: I have solar on my house, and with rebates and subtracting what I'd be paying without it, I'm already even.

    As for Whole Foods leasing only, that's interesting–had no idea, so thanks.

  8. elephantjournal says:

    Great point.

  9. elephantjournal says:

    From our FB convo: elephantjournal.com Hardly a bandwagon…it's a small, teensy, emerging market that, as all emerging markets, and unlike soy, corn, or oil, needs subsidies. Businesses fail, as Romney likes to remind us re Bain…so it's no wonder than a few solar companies, in an uncertain environment subsidies-wise, have failed. I'd think you'd support this—it will happen, it's only a matter of time and support.
    36 minutes ago · Like
    Tom Frascone Did you miss the part about the massive subsidies US-based solar companies received under the "Stimulus" act? Even with billions of dollars of grants and loans, the US solar companies still failed and the ones that remain are being bought up by the Chinese…
    17 minutes ago via mobile · Like
    elephantjournal.com I wouldn't call them massive, compared with oil, which is well-established and experiencing record profits. I wouldn't call them massive compared to soy or corn etc., which are well established. And it's easy for companies here in Boulder, at least, which did great business and hired tons of people, to then die or fall apart when said "massive subsidies" expire or change after only a few years.

    Startups hate uncertainty, and these subsidies, thanks to partisan hackery, have always been uncertain.

  10. wdb says:

    Whole Foods Marrlet offsets 100% of their electrical usaage with wind credits, i think they are one of the largest purchasers of wind credits in the US

    no secret

  11. elephantjournal says:

    Amen! Great point. We've covered it. We were there at the store where the ceremony was held 7am the morning it started. You can search it on elephant. No secret.

    Doesn't mean there's not 1,000,000s of square feet of heat-gathering roofing that couldn't be used for solar, which is a known technology that works. It's no secret, either.

  12. I'm wondering if that's true of all Whole Foods locations. I live in Austin, where the flagship "mothership" takes up at least 2 city blocks on what is now prime real estate– and I don't think it was before Whole Foods came in. I have a hard time believing that the flagship store is on leased space.
    Also interesting… because Austin has SO MUCH SUN. What good are wind credits when the most available energy "resource" is sunlight? It's sunny literally so often that I never ever check the weather. And it's October. I think it rains maybe 30 days out of the year. Even if Whole Foods isn't in the top 20 of this list, it would be nice to see them setting the ball in motion to be a leader in solar power in Austin. And I'm only speaking as someone who lives in Austin and sometimes goes to that store. I have no idea where they stand in relation to other local stores or national chains, other than this article. And, to be fair, I found this article from the EPA. http://www.epa.gov/greenpower/partners/partners/w

    Whole Foods does a lot of good, as far as I can see, in my local community, and elsewhere. But it's fair to ask why they aren't leading MORE… because there's always room for improvement. Thanks for the conversation.

  13. chad henry says:

    What is "good shit"? Isn't that an oxymoron. Do we really need potty language to appear tough or "street"? This doesn't affect the argument one way or another, just makes me want to quit reading articles.

  14. Libba Letton says:

    Hi, Libba Letton from Whole Foods Market here. A few clarifications: the vast majority of our stores are leased spaces. Regarding this list — if you go to the source article, we're in the top 10 of the next two measurements: top companies by number of systems (we're #10) and top companies by geographic diversity (we're #6). And we plan to do more.