Cutting the ribbon an the new sustainable Walgreens on Chicago Avenue.                                                RoundTable photo

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Walgreens dedicated their newly renovated location – one that promises a net-zero use energy consumption as well as net-zero carbon emissions – at 635 Chicago Ave. on Nov. 21.

The store is one of two net-zero energy stores of any kind in the country, said Walgreens Manager of Sustainability Jamie Meyers during the store’s dedication ceremony.

She said, “If you walk into any retail building in the country, you have a 1 in 2 million chance of it being a net-zero energy store, which means you’re either in this Walgreens or a bicycle shop in Las Vegas.”

Among the store’s features are LED lighting that dims in response to natural light; 849 solar panels on the roof; two turbines harvesting wind energy; and retractable windows that allow for more use of fresh air on temperate days. Additionally, mechanical upgrades to the Chicago Avenue location can supposedly reduce refrigeration, cooling and heating needs by 50 percent. Walgreens’ goal is for the location to generate more energy than it consumes.

“It was about three or four years ago that we started thinking about a net-zero energy store, one with a sustainability strategy put into place,” said Mark Wagner, president of store operations and community management for Walgreens.

“The technology didn’t yet exist, and we had to look around the world to bring it alive.

The reason we wanted to do this was respect for the communities in which we serve and respect for the environment.”

The store was renovated on an “incredibly accelerated” schedule, Mr. Meyers said. The concept was put forward in September 2012, and ground was broken in April 2013. Mr. Meyers said Walgreens would not be disclosing the full cost of the refurbishment.

Third Ward Alderman Melissa Wynne thanked the retailer for recognizing “the hard work that City Staff and the citizens of Evanston do to be green and be sustainable, led by our Mayor, and spurring us on. This is a visible example of what all of us can do to make us a more sustainable community, and we are thrilled and so proud to have you here in Evanston.”

Tom Land, manager of Environmental Programs for the Environmental Protection Agency, presented the store’s platinum-level certification in the EPA’s GreenChill program, which encourages retailers to operate more efficient refrigerant systems.
“The refrigeration system is unique in so many ways,” said Mr. Land. “It makes us very excited, because it is not going to leak substances that deplete the ozone layer and [perpetuate] climate change. This is the second store to run on CO2 as a refrigerant in the United States.”

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said that the store was essentially a model, not just for Evanston but for the entire world, of how a business could make the effort to combat climate change and help preserve the planet for future generations.

“I assume you knew that when I campaigned for mayor first – four-plus years ago – I promised to try to put wind turbines into the lake to provide energy for this community, and, well, at least we have two on Chicago Avenue now,” Mayor Tisdahl added, thanking Walgreens for being “brilliant enough to realize Evanston was the place” to build the store.

Among those also present for the dedication were Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, State Representative Robyn Gabel, and Aldermen Jane Grover and Donald Wilson.