While going green is always to be celebrated, for one growing retail chain, it goes beyond a value to maintain. For the Cingari Family chapter of ShopRite, sustainability is the metabolism of its fresh structure.
“Oftentimes, when you have too much food, it leads to products that are past their prime,” explained Dominick Cingari, Vice President and Supervisor of Pharmacy, Non-Foods, and Health and Beauty. “That’s why, aside from recycling and composting, Cingari Family ShopRite uses computer-generated ordering technology to ensure that the correct amount of goods are ordered and are in-store at the right time. If you’re doing better upfront, you’ll have less work to do in the backend, which benefits the sustainability initiative in general.”
In 10 years, the company reduced waste of what goes into landfills by over 60 percent while simultaneously opening three stores.
“Even though our stores have grown dramatically in items and sales since then, we’re still down in waste,” he pointed out. “We have a process that we call our ‘Hierarchy of Surplus Food,’ that we follow, and in locations like our Norwalk store, we’ve switched from a physical composting program to using Blue Earth Compost and Quantum Biopower during our renovation.”
This, Dominick shared, is a major upgrade for ShopRite, boosting the quantity of material composted in stores. For example, it is expanding the floral department, and all discarded floral dirt and bags of mulch will now go to Quantum Biopower, along with anything else that’s biodegradable.
“Quantum Biopower uses an anaerobic process to rapidly break food waste down into nutrient-rich compost material, capturing the methane gas that is naturally released during the composting process and turning it into energy to power homes and businesses in Southington, Connecticut. This differs from other composting methods that release methane/greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere,” Dominick said.
The partnership, which began in just one store, has helped Quantum Biopower grow, and in turn, expand to serve more ShopRite locations.
“Eventually, the program expanded to all 12 of our stores as we’ve invested in and encouraged its success,” he reflected. “This is an aspect of our overall culture—we’ve been physically composting since before it was ‘mainstream,’ launching our initiative for Earth Day 2012. Additionally, Cingari Family ShopRite has been donating surplus food to local food banks and charities for over 50 years.”
Practices in sustainable opportunities are so embedded that store associates are a happy and active part of the process. Likewise, the banner relates its efforts to shoppers through signage in and around participating departments, as well as encouraging employees to know and share the story.
“Increasing education and resources allows for everyone to be more sustainable, which is what we’re emphasizing in our stores. I was blown away by the support from the employees, who cheered me on when I first implemented the program,” Dominick said. “We do it because it’s the right thing to do. Sustainability is about people, planet, and profit. If you can’t be profitable and sustainable, you won't be here long.”
As the Cingari Family ShopRite’s sustainability plan for repurposing surplus food continues to evolve, Dominick assured me there is always room to further improve.
“Our timeline is ongoing—we’re always working to reduce all types of waste by any means necessary,” he concluded.
Truly, to be sustainable is to ensure success, and we will continue to report on these key strategies as all aspects of our industry pursue methods to renew, recycle, and remain integral to feeding the world.