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2005-07-19
McKinney, TX. Wal-Mart Goes “Green”?

Wal-Mart has discovered the environment. Yes, that same environment its been damaging for more than four decades. The giant retailer now is repairing its ways, by making token concessions to environmentalists. First Wal-Mart announced the "Acres For America" plan to donate 1 acre in environmentally sensitive areas for every 1 acre it develops in somebody else's neighborhood. This week, the company touted the opening of its environmental-friendly store in McKinney, Texas -- a community that fought the superstore bitterly back in 2002. The "green" superstore is all sizzle and no steak. It has a 120 foot windmill that pumps stormwater into a retaining pond where "aquatic plants purify the water"; it has rubber sidewalks made from recycled tires, and rubberized mulch that won't break down; it has small wind turbines and solar panels to light its unnecessary signs at its unnecessary store (McKinney already has a nearby Wal-Mart discount store.) The "McKinney Experiment" has large trees in the parking lot to replace a small fraction of the trees it has destroyed; it has special paint to reflect heat from the building; it has "pervious concrete" that lets the water (and the solvents) through to the ground; it has "specially constructed wetlands" that outdo the natural wetlands. Many of these energy saving features of course are designed to lower Wal-Mart's facility costs. "These stores will operate as laboratories," explained CEO Lee Scott, "helping us to learn the best ways to use wind and solar power in our store designs... " But the residents of McKinney who fought the superstore were probably hoping that the sun would dry Wal-Mart up, and the wind would just blow them away.

What you can do: A local radio station in Dallas asked me today how Wal-Mart could really help the environment. "They could start," I said, "by tearing down the 38 empty Wal-Marts that now dot the Texas roadsides. Then they could stop building redundant stores every five miles in Texas. Then they could throw away their 200,000 s.f. prototypes and build nothing bigger than 50,000 s.f. -- and build them on two floors -- leaving the freed up land as open space. They could locate their stores inside downtowns where water and sewer lines already exist. They could build stores so pedestrians and bicyclists could use them. They could do a lot of things that don't require fancy high-tech rubber sidewalks. Like most things Wal-Mart does, it is a token gesture, meant to distract from the fact that this company is sitting on 28 million square feet of dead space, and plans to add another 45 million square feet of superstore this year -- stores that no one really needs. Wal-Mart's "green" store has environmentalists seeing red.










 
 
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