It's not hard to see that Kowalski's Market in Woodbury caters to customers who enjoy organic and or "natural" produce. The store highlights its "natural path" selections near the front of the store.
But there's plenty of other environmentally-friendly aspects to Kowalski's everyday operations that might not be apparent to customers upon first glance.
From recycling used food and trash to donating some of that food to local food shelves, the Twin Cities grocery store chain founded by Jim and Mary Kowalski in 1983 has always had a commitment to sustainability, said Woodbury Kowalski's store manager Dan Klassen.
"It's kind of ironic, because people are all the sudden talking about sustainability, but Jim and Mary were doing this stuff more than 20 years ago," Klassen said.
Those efforts were recently recognized by the city of Woodbury when Kowalski's was one of a half dozen businesses in town to receive the first annual "Environmental Excellence" award.
The Woodbury Sustainability Committee developed the award to highlight businesses organizations and individuals that are "making Woodbury a more sustainable community through innovative programs and practices that demonstrate environmental leadership," a city press release stated.
Other business recognized at the May 2 annual Town Business Meeting were: McDonald Construction, P.M. Bedroom Gallery, Sam's Club, Slumberland and Opus Northwest and Red Development.
According to the city, Kowalski's internal recycling programs result in more than 90 percent of the business's waste being recycled.
Recyclables include paper, cardboard, plastic, glass, and cans in addition to grease from the deli, and food waste that is converted to animal feed.
The store also offers plastic bag recycling for the community as well as reusable bags that can reduce the use of paper and plastic bags. In addition, the store partners with Second Harvest to donate usable products from the bakery and deli in addition to meat and produce.
Klassen said the store's food shelf donations started when the original Kowalski's Market on Grand Avenue in St. Paul began a pilot program for donation of food that is too old for sale, but still consumable.
"We use it for good, rather than just fill up our trash with is and not think about it," Klassen said.
A 'market approach'
Woodbury Mayor Bill Hargis presented the Environmental Excellence awards to the businesses and said recognition allows the city to encourage other business to follow suit.
"We want to be a green and environmentally conscious city and part of that is to find a way to encourage business to make some of those efforts," Hargis said. "We'd rather use a market approach to encourage people than a regulatory approach. We feel this is one way to accomplish that."
Hargis said each of the businesses awarded have demonstrated tangible positive environmental affect on the community through how they operate, including Opus Northwest and Red Development, which employed innovative storm water management practices to their plans for the Woodbury Lake development.
"A lot of these developments are well thought out and as a result improve the quality of our storm water runoff," Hargis said. "And a lot of these businesses are finding there are long-term financial incentives to some of these green practices.
"Their efforts are making Woodbury a better place to live."
Making the effort:
The city's sustainability committee recommended six businesses for its first annual "Environmental Excellence" awards presented May 2. The winners were:
Kowalski's Market - Waste Reduction and Recycling
Kowalski's internal recycling programs result in 94.3 percent of its waste being recycled. Recyclables include paper, cardboard, plastic, glass and cans in addition to grease from the deli, and food waste that is converted to animal feed. The store also offers plastic bag recycling for the community as well as reusable bags that can reduce the use of paper and plastic bags. In addition, the store partners with Second Harvest to donate usable products from the bakery and deli in addition to meat and produce.
McDonald Construction - Residential Green Building
McDonald Construction has built the first home in Woodbury that will be certified as a "Minnesota GreenStar" home. The home, located in the Dancing Waters neighborhood, features several sustainable design elements including eucalyptus flooring, dual-flush toilets, remnant countertops, high efficiency systems, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and extensive use of recycled products. Certification will be finalized once the landscaping is installed in early spring.
P.M. Bedroom Gallery - Innovative Storm water Management Practices
P.M. Bedroom Gallery is being recognized for installation of one of the first underground infiltration systems in Woodbury. The system, located under the existing parking lot, is designed to manage all of the storm water runoff from the roof and front parking lot on site.
Sam's Club - Electronics Recycling
Sam's Club hosted two electronics recycling events at the Woodbury store in 2006 and 2007. The two events helped to divert more than 27 tons of electronics that may have otherwise been sent to a landfill. Some of the items that were collected included computers, CPU cores, monitors, TVs, VCRs, DVD players, cell phones, and printers. The store initiated the collections on its own as a service to customers and the community.
Slumberland Furniture - Innovative Storm water Management Practices
Slumberland Furniture - Larson Enterprises, along with their design team, incorporated low impact design through the development of rain gardens, infiltration areas, pervious pavers and a storm water pond to handle storm water on site.
Opus Northwest, LLC & Red Development LLC - Innovative Storm water Management Practices
The Woodbury Lakes development incorporates 18 rainwater gardens and eight infiltration basins to handle storm water on site, a white roof on the facility to reduce cooling requirements, pedestrian access with bike racks, and extensive landscaping with more than 10,000 trees, shrubs, and perennials. In addition, a large amount of the construction materials came from regional manufacturers.