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Re: [carfree_cities] Peirce: ‘GREEN’ WALM ART: AN OXYMORON?

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  • Todd Edelman, Green Idea Factory
    (See original story below) WalMart etc. could do all that low-energy stuff with the assistance of private environmental consultants. The best position for ED
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 25, 2007
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      (See original story below)

      WalMart etc. could do all that low-energy stuff with the assistance of
      private environmental consultants. The best position for ED and NRDC to
      take on this would be a more distanced, holistic and objective one,
      showing the extreme damage that WalMartisation has caused in the
      long-term (and projected in the future) and within that its total
      effects on transport. This would probably create a more realistic
      picture which is many steps back, with "greener" trucks and stores a few
      steps forward. They should at least try to put the genie back into the
      bottle.

      These big environmental organisations - and this applies to big groups
      in small countries like where I live, the Czech Republic - have a
      disturbing tendency to pretend that the fact they can meet with WalMart,
      etc. (Tesco in Europe, etc.) means that they should meet with them. They
      need to resist this urge if they know that the way the resulting
      performance - as it were - is viewed by the media and public. They also
      need to not have any delusions on how much they are influencing the
      companies. WalMart etc. can hire those private consultants but - I say
      the following all the time - knows exactly what it is doing when it
      mentions big environmental groups in its communications, or uses them
      for its communications, e.g. :
      <http://walmartstores.com/GlobalWMStoresWeb/navigate.do?catg=610>

      To show another example of what I think viewed in context IS
      greenwashing, very often the big companies show themselves in a green
      light because they do something like create bicycle paths in the
      immediate vicinity of an automobile factory, to imply at least that that
      somehow counters the global impact of the factory:
      <http://www.tpca.cz/en/tpca-and-the-region>

      At a minimum the big enviro groups need to take clear issue with
      statements like this: "...For example, by inventing [!] trucks that get
      twice the mileage of our current vehicles, we [WalMart] will radically
      reduce emissions and fossil fuel, but we'll also save millions of
      dollars at the pump..." (from
      <http://walmartstores.com/GlobalWMStoresWeb/navigate.do?catg=345>), as
      "invent" and "save" are magic words.

      WalMart, etc. is the car on the country road at night, and the deer in
      its path is the recognised - at last! - environmental group, its eyes
      fixated its headlights.

      - T

      J.H. Crawford wrote:
      >
      >
      > NEAL PEIRCE COLUMN
      > For Release Sunday, June 24, 2007
      >
      > © 2007 Washington Post Writers Group
      >
      > ‘GREEN’ WALMART: AN OXYMORON?
      >
      > By Neal Peirce
      >
      > WalMart has been harvesting kudos for its dramatic “green” promises.
      > Even Environmental Defense and the Natural Resources Defense Council
      > have gone on record praising the massive retailer’s intentions to
      > reduce electricity usage in its stores 20 percent by 2013 and to
      > double the fuel economy of its trucks by 2015.
      > But author-activist Stacy Mitchell has tossed a firecracker into the
      > WalMart-environmentalist lovefest. In a Grist magazine article and
      > subsequent interview, she acknowledges that WalMart’s commitments are
      > no mere “greenwashing” -- that they will in fact save substantial
      > electricity, oil and carbon impact.
      > But the green moves miss the mega-point, insists Mitchell, author of
      > the recent book “Big-Box Swindle.” WalMart along with such chains as
      > Target and Home Depot divert customers from close-in neighborhood or
      > town shopping to the outer fringes of metro areas.
      > In fact the big retail boxes have displaced tens of thousands of
      > neighborhood and downtown businesses and focused the necessities of
      > life into huge stores that draw car-borne shoppers from large areas.
      > Longer and longer drives are necessary to buy milk or bread, pick up a
      > container of paint or a lawnmower part.
      > A principal result: shopping-related driving grew by a stunning 40
      > percent, three times as fast as driving for all purposes, from 1990 to
      > 2001 (the last reported period). By 2001, Americans were logging over
      > 330 billion miles going to and from the store. A conservative estimate
      > puts the current figure at 365 billion miles, producing 154 million
      > metric tons of CO2 annually.
      > Mitchell estimates that since WalMart accounts for 10 percent of all
      > U.S. retail sales, its share of the driving-caused emissions is 15.4
      > million metric tons -- and likely more because the chain leads the way
      > in auto-oriented store formats and locations. And that figure is in
      > addition to the 15.3 million metric ton figure the company itself
      > reports as the “carbon footprint” for its U.S. stores and trucks’
      > power needs.
      > “By embracing WalMart,” Mitchell insists, “groups like NRDC and
      > Environmental Defense are not only absolving the company of the
      > consequences of its business model, but implying that this method of
      > retailing goods can, with adjustments, be made sustainable.”
      > NRDC’s Jon Coifman agrees this country’s current sprawling development
      > form is “extremely” detrimental environmentally, pushing oil
      > consumption and carbon emissions up significantly. But it’s “not a
      > useful or viable option,” he suggests, “to wish the big-box genie back
      > into the bottle.” NRDC has never issued a press release on the counsel
      > that it is giving WalMart on technical CO2 issues. But it believes,
      > says Coifman, that if the goal is lowering carbon impact wherever
      > possible, “you can’t not deal with the largest single business
      > enterprise on the planet.”
      > The dilemma the enviros face is that the big-box companies’ intend to
      > keep on sprawling out to new store locations. Despite some recent
      > slowdown, WalMart plans to keep expanding by a rate of several dozen
      > super-stores a month. If its goals are fulfilled, Mitchell estimates,
      > the company by 2015 will have expanded its domestic footprint by
      > 20,000 more acres. The new land will largely consist of CO2-absorbing
      > fields and forests, turned by the construction of the stores and their
      > parking lots into generators of surface oil and other petrochemicals
      > that get swept into nearby lakes and streams during heavy rains.
      > The same amount of retail space, notes Mitchell, could be absorbed in
      > an existing city or town fabric for about a fifth of WalMart’s typical
      > land consumption. Auto trips would be shorter, many more errands done
      > on foot or by bike.
      > Which raises the question: how much new retailing do we need? The
      > American landscape is already littered with thousands of dead malls
      > and vacant strip shopping centers. As Jonathan Miller writes in
      > PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ yearly advisory to investors, “The most
      > over-retailed country in the world hardly needs more shopping outlets
      > of any kind.”
      > When I caught up with Stacy Mitchell last week, she was in Augusta,
      > Maine, ecstatic about just-approved state legislation to slow down
      > big-store expansion. Before approving any store 75,000 square feet or
      > larger, Maine towns will be obliged to commission an independent
      > economic study of the impact on jobs, public services, and the
      > community’s downtown, followed by a public hearing.
      > The pathbreaking Maine bill was pushed by the Institute for Local
      > Self-Reliance, with which Mitchell’s affiliated, helped by a coalition
      > of 180 small business owners. Not surprisingly, it was opposed by the
      > Maine Merchants Assn. (including WalMart and Target) and Maine Chamber
      > of Commerce.
      > So here’s the intriguing future issue: How will major environmental
      > groups choose sides as grassroots constituencies mobilize state by
      > state to actually halt the march of WalMart and its sister big boxes
      > across the American landscape?
      >
      > ----- ### -----
      > J.H. Crawford Carfree Cities
      > mailbox@... <mailto:mailbox%40carfree.com>
      > http://www.carfree.com <http://www.carfree.com>
      >
      >


      --
      --------------------------------------------

      Todd Edelman
      Director
      Green Idea Factory

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