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Chatting with a Whole Foods Eco Czar

whole foods newtonville ma

Last week, I had the opportunity to talk to Lee Kane, the Eco Czar for Whole Foods Market's North Atlantic Region.  I learned all about the various green initiatives going on at Whole Foods and how hard they work to be a truly sustainable grocery store.  

What does an Eco Czar do?

"Anything that has to do with the environment falls under my umbrella," explained Lee.   The Eco Czar also supervises the Green Team for individual stores.

Four regions have Eco Czars.   Lee was the first Whole Foods Market Eco Czar, which he has been since 2003.  

Green initiatives at Whole Foods Market 

Waste reduction is a huge one.  "We work very hard to get to zero waste," Lee told me.   They currently divert 80% of their waste by composting and recycling.   Additionally, they work to use as much sustainable and responsible packaging as possible.  For instance, the salad bar containers are made of bulrush, a renewable resource harvested annually in the wild.

Whole Foods has also eliminated the use of plastic bags and they encourage their reusable bag program.     In addition, they use green cleaning supplies and paper goods, try to keep their energy usage down, and more.  

However, they are always looking for ways to improve things on the energy side and lessen their carbon footprint.  

Whole Foods Market has always worked hard to be green, since they began in the 70s.  It has always been one of the store's 7 core values, and it's not a new initiative or greenwashing like you might see in other stores and brands.  

The "Greenest Grocery Store in the World?"

Recently the Dedham, Massachusetts Whole Foods Market gained some noriety after GreenBiz dubbed it "The Greenest Grocery Store in the World."  This location is one of the stores in Lee's region.   Some of the green features in this particular store include:  structural steel made from 100 % recycled materials, a white roof, and the refrigeration system's rejected heat is reclaimed and used to heat water.

** A special thanks to Ava Fantasia of the Walnut Street Whole Foods Market in Newton, Massachusetts, for helping to connect me to all sorts of great people in the community, including Lee Kane!