Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Can I get a light, man?

So we've all heard the evil horror stories about Wal-Mart and other "big box" stores (at least, I'm pretty sure it wasn't just my mom pestering me about shopping more responsibly.)  Well, I recently read an article that might make you feel a little less horrible about saving money by spending at Wally World... maybe.

Wal-mart has started harvesting daylight and switched to electronic ballasts (more energy efficient that the old school magnetic ballasts commonly used by many big box retailers) in 2450 of their stores, and hopes to add 500 more stores to that number this year.  So basically, these 24-hour shopping playgrounds use far less energy than they ever have before (not to mention they're saving tons... probably literally... of money on their electricity bills, unless their employees generate their energy for them for free in their unaccounted for overtime...ZING!)

In 2007, Wal-Mart also made a giant retailer's step towards "going green."  They made it their goal to sell 100 million CFLs over the year.  This included giving the energy efficient bulbs better shelf space and even using valuable space to set up displays boasting the benefits of the bulbs to eager consumers.  

While Wal-Mart succeeded in their goal, a commendable triumph, I feel as though there may be some ulterior motives behind these switches.  To me, it seems like a giant publicity stunt to get back in the good graces of the American public after all of the nasty news that's been flying around regarding their stores over the past decade, and it conveniently saves them lots of money, something Wal-Mart is notorious for.  Is their idea of "going green" just saving their own green and getting us to spend ours?

I also think the idea of "daylight harvesting" is really ironic for a Wal-Mart because I don't EVER recall seeing any windows, other than the doors, inside any Wal-Mart I've ever been in (and that's quite a few, I have to admit) except for in the green house.  I don't even think their Lawn and Garden section has windows.  It kind of reminds me of a casino, actually.  They don't have windows so you never know what time it is outside, so you just wander up and down the aisles aimlessly shopping for hours completely oblivious to what's going on around you...

Okay, maybe a grim outlook.  But, regardless of their intentions, Wal-Mart's making efforts to lead the Big Box Store World to green change.  Maybe it will help influence other stores and businesses to follow in their footsteps.  And because we all know that Wal-Mart is our safety blanket go-to store for all of our Alleghenian needs, maybe we'll feel a little less guilty the next time we zip up there for the shampoo we suddenly realize we're out of at 2AM.  Maybe.

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