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Bellingham’s food co-op recognized as U.S. green power leader

126 solar panels collect sunlight on the roof of the Community Food Co-op in the Cordata area of Bellingham on Friday, March 25. The co-op made the EPA’s list of top 30 retailers for green power use in America.
126 solar panels collect sunlight on the roof of the Community Food Co-op in the Cordata area of Bellingham on Friday, March 25. The co-op made the EPA’s list of top 30 retailers for green power use in America. eabell@bhamherald.com

The Community Food Co-op is rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest national retailers when it comes to using green power.

The company made the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of Top 30 retailers that use green power. The list ranks the co-op 29th, having used nearly 1.5 million kilowatt-hours of green power in one year.

The department store chain Kohl’s topped the list, using about 1.4 billion kilowatt-hours in one year, followed by Starbucks, which used about 696 million kilowatt-hours of green power.

The EPA defines green power as electricity produced from solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, eligible biomass, and low-impact small hydroelectric sources. According to the EPA, the amount of green power used by the top 30 organizations is equal to the electricity use of nearly 300,000 average U.S. homes.

One reason the co-op made the list is by having one of the largest solar panel arrays in Whatcom County on the roof of the Cordata store. While it accounted for just under 5 percent of the store’s electricity use in 2015, the amount of carbon dioxide it didn’t put in the air totaled nearly 24 tons last year, said Melissa Elkins, sustainability coordinator at the co-op.

“Green power is only one factor of the co-op’s overall commitment to sustainability, but it is an important part,” Elkins said.

The rest of the energy used by the co-op is purchased through Puget Sound Energy’s green power program and its partner, 3Degrees. Elkins said they chose PSE and 3Degrees to show local support, and the power generated is from the Pacific Northwest.

The co-op also is working on ways to conserve energy at its two stores and bakery. A parking lot remodel at the downtown store will include installing LED lighting. It also will have two electric car chargers and a bike shelter. The parking lot remodel is expected to be completed around the end of June.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz

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