Go Walgreens – An In-Depth Look at the Nations First Green Drugstore

Why Waste A Ribbon When You Can Plant A Tree…

San Diego, CA- Walgreens celebrated the opening of the nations first green drugstore yesterday not with a traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony but with the planting of a native tree.

“We felt that planting a tree was much more appropriate then cutting a ribbon and then throwing it away” said Jamie J. Meyers, The LEED AP Project architect who was there for the celebrations.

Walgreens, the nations largest drug store chain is once again changing the landscape for the American consumer, this time for the greener. The store in question was designed from the ground up around the dual mission of efficiency and sustainability. Not only is it the first drug store in the U.S. to meet the USGBCs stringent LEED design standards but the 24-hour store also sells a host of environmentally friendly products.

By exceeding LEED requirements and integrating eco-friendly product lines into their inventory they have taken steps that cannot simply be attributed to the common corporate “greenwashing”

A Serious Commitment…

With this project and future plans for many more like it, Walgreens has made a serious commitment to sustainability. Here are just a few of the things they have built into this store on the architectural side;

-Take for instance the landscaping- They used all native plants which will require no watering whatsoever once they have adjusted to transplanting. Here in San Diego that’s a pretty big deal as we are in the midst of a level two drought emergency…

-They took great pains to reduce lighting energy waste by utilizing 75% natural sunlight during daytime hours. This was achieved with the installation of solar tubes and skylights that shine down from the ceiling. This combined with LEDs in their signs and coolers reduces lighting related energy use by 50%

-They are mitigating storm water pollution from the surrounding buildings by collecting and filtering water as it flows onto their lot.

-Water use is estimated at 50% below LEED standard levels.

-75% of materials were architectural salvage from the previous structure that existed on the lot.

-A white roof was included to reduce cooling related energy use as well as to mitigate the urban heat island effect.

-There are many other green details as well, such as hybrid car parking spaces, a bike rack, and a site chosen in part for it’s close proximity to public transportation.

While other companies such as Wal-Mart and Target have made token gestures to the green movement Walgreens really seems to get it. While there is still room for further improvement, the significant steps they have taken to “go green” far surpass the typical dog and pony show that passes for environmentalism these days in many companies.

At some point the question was seriously posed- “How can we make ourselves more efficient and sustainable?” And someone took the time to find some awnsers. Yet here we find the question that all modern companies will be faced with as energy prices soar and the public becomes more aware of their own effect on the planet. Whether it’s the product they produce, the service they provide, or the goods that they sell companies large and small cannot escape the changes that are occurring in our environment. Those who don’t respond to these changes will end up like Walgreens competitors such as Eckerd; just struggling to keep up with the pack.

A History of Steady Progress

“Walgreens is making great progress on our environmental initiatives in stores chain-wide. Were cutting our electricity and water usage, recycling tons of cardboard and shrink wrap each year and upgrading equipment for maximum efficiency” Said Walgreens Market Vice President Matt Sesto

Walgreens has never been a trendy/flashy company. Quite the opposite, they are a family run All-American company with a long history of steady progress. In many cases they have been among the first to implement innovative strategies like the switch to bar-code scanning technology, and the expansion into film development in the 1970’s. They also were at the forefront of adapting a more convenient, customer friendly format in a time when drugstores were rather limited in scope. Through all these changes however they have always kept true to their identity as, “Americas corner drugstore”.

So when a company like Walgreens outlines a wide ranging environmentally friendly strategy it really means something in terms of their future intentions. As mentioned by Jim Collins (Author of ‘Built to Last’ and ‘Good to Great’) in an article titled Best Beats First;

“they (Walgreens) may be slow- following a crawl, walk, run, trajectory, but when they run, they will run right over companies that believe being first is all that matters.”

So when Walgreens tells me that they plan to build many more new green locations, as well as do additional environmentally friendly modifications to their 6,857 existing locations- I believe them. This store alone is saving enough energy to power 19+ homes a year- imagine what the combined effect will be!

Bringing Green Products “To Every Corner Drugstore In America”

Walgreens unique position as an a nationwide leader in their industry gives them the opportunity to offer and support green eco-friendly products in their vast network of 24 hour store locations. It also puts them in a position to persuade their competitors to do the same. That says nothing as to the opportunities available to them in terms of offering holistic, eco-friendly and organic health products. Again, in interest of fairness this is an area where steps have been taken…but there is still room for improvement. While certain green products have been highlighted and given prominent display positioning- much of their inventory is the same old landfill clogging…”stuff” that plagues America today.

This brings to mind the reason I decided to write this article.  Walgreens, like many other long standing companies today is in an awkward position. While they are struggling to wrap their strategy around the idea of sustainability they are still plagued with a long legacy of conventional, pollutant, unsustainable business practices. Unfortunately that is something which no company can change overnight. This problem can only be addressed through consistent long term efforts. No sweeping initiative or “change program” is going to make meaningful differences in behaviors that have developed over the course of many generations.

The good news however is that with pressure from retail giants like Walgreens, mainstream manufacturers (such as Walgreens own current suppliers) will naturally “follow their leed” and begin offering more green product alternatives. Here are a few of the product lines currently available in their Mira Mesa (SD) Location;

Healthy Times- Organic Baby Food- Definitely a worthwhile green product- especially if your sick of paying for water and starch! Organic babyfood should be in every grocery/drug store in America. I would recommend this product to any parent trying to get their baby off to a green healthy start. They have many options, all organic, all formulated to nurture children’s skin, hair, growth and general well-being. This baby food contains no refined sugars, preservatives or artificial additives.

Biofusion- This is Walgreens own brand of hair care products that incorporates natural ingredients into the formulas. No word yet as to the sustainability or social responsibility of the manufacturing process however the formulas do rely less on chemicals with too many syllables to pronounce.

Burt’s Bees- Here’s an excellent example of a mom and pop cottage industry manufacturer that grew into a nation-wide success…and is now using that success to leverage environmental progress. Not only are their personal care products naturally based (beeswax) their whole business philosophy centers around supporting “the greater good” from their charitable contributions to the encouragement of their employees personal growth opportunities.

Clorox Greenworks- This is Clorox’s brand of green cleaning products which use- in their words ‘environmentally preferable chemistry’ to achieve cleaning results similar to Clorox’s toxic/harmful flagship products. Clorox also contributes to the Sierra Club in the name of this product line. (Get Coupons Here)

Natures Source- SC Johnsons green plant based cleaning products are environmentally friendly and versatile in selection. Check out their website to find out more about these products and what SC Johnson is doing to help the environment.

WaterU- Is another Walgreens made product. A reusable BPA Free water jug that comes in a variety of different sizes. It is reusable and recyclable and it doesn’t contain the harmful BPA traces in typical bottled water containers.

So while green products have been made available in this location there is a distinct emphasis on the architectural end of sustainability.  I can imagine it is tough shifting away from long time distributor relationships however there is really no good reason why Walgreens can’t offer more environmentally friendly product alternatives for some of their top selling items.

A Green Drugstore Is A Healthy Drugstore

An often overlooked (yet very important) part of going green are the healthy decisions we can make every

day like eating right, exercising, and picking the right over the counter health products. Consider that the medical industry a major landfill and toxic waste polluter. Just look around next time your in a hospital and it’s not difficult to see why. If Walgreens can take their commitment to the next level by promoting natural and environmentally friendly health products in their stores then that would be a pretty amazing accomplishment by any environmental standard.

Going green is just as much about the lifestyle you live as the house you live it in. By extension, it is just as much about the products you sell as the building you sell them in. Sometimes that is forgotten in the world of business and industry. I hope that Walgreens is able to employ the same wise judgement in this area as they are currently practicing in the design and energy policy of their new buildings. To see pictures of the grand opening check out the my Go Walgreens article in it’s entirety!

10 Cool Things To See On Berkshire Trails With Your Dog

“If your dog is fat,” the old saying goes, “you aren’t getting enough exercise.” But walking the dog need not be just about a little exercise. Here are 10 cool things you can see in the Berkshire Hills while out walking the dog.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s President FranklinRoosevelt put thousands of unemployed men to work in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Work camps were set up across the country with the mandate to build roads, reforest denuded lands, and construct recreational facilities for public use. Some of the greatest legacies of this “Tree Army” are in the Berkshires, including Bascom Lodge on the summit of Mount Greylock. Designed by Pittsfield architect Joseph McArthur Vance, the rustic shelter was designed to blend in with the landscape using native materials of stone (Greystone schist) and lumber (red spruce and oak).


The great ice rivers of the last Ice Age melted from Massachusetts about 15,000 years ago, scraping and shaping the landscape and leaving behind a fair share of debris. Strange rock formations from retreating glaciers are known as erratics. The greatest oddity in Pittsfield State Forest is a glacial erratic known as Balance Rock. The massive 165-ton limestone boulder teeters precariously upon a small, 3-foot piece of bedrock.


Does your dog have any herding instincts? At Tyringham Cobble the canine hike begins in an open field where you may find yourself hiking with your dog through a free-ranging herd of Hereford cattle – as they have done for 200 years.


A canine hike in October Mountain State Forest may be your best chance to spot Massquatch, New England’s version of Bigfoot. There have been occasional sightings of a hairy, oversized, human-like creature in Massachusetts across the years from the Atlantic beaches to the Berkshire Mountains. The Berkshire Eagle twice reported encounters at October Mountain in the 1980s, including an up-close and-personal at a former Boy Scout camp near Felton Lake.


After World War II interrupted his career as a Williams College librarian, Lawrence Bloedel purchased the former Nathan Field farm with his wife Eleanore. In 1948 the couple retained Edwin Goodell to build a house to accommodate their expanding collection of contemporary American art. He responded with a modern, window-dominated design adorned with simple lines. In 1966, Ulrich Franzen delivered a Victorian Shingle-style house for the Bloedels’ grandchildren, known as The Folly. The Bloedels donated their blend of architecture and nature to the Trustees of Reservations in 1984 and when you hike with your dog at Field Farm today you can walk among 13 modern sculptures, including works by Richard M. Miller, Jack Zajac, Bernard Reder and Herbert Ferber.


Nathaniel Hawthorne called the Ice Glen, a cleft in the rocks between Bear and Little mountains behind the town of Stockbridge, “the most curious fissure in all Berkshire.” It is a ravine without a stream – all the water around Ice Glen flows on a south-north axis while the gorge is aligned east to west. In fact, the glen, stuffed with stacked boulders and draped with hemlocks, was once a glacial lake. Tucked away from the sun’s rays, the season’s last snow melts here, hence its name. Further west, beyond West Stockbridge, Stevens Glen was once one of the busiest tourist destinations in the the county. In the late 1800s Romanza Stevens built bridges and staircases to the Glen and its waterfall and charged 25 cents for tourists to view the magic of Lenox Mountain Brook.


In Natural Bridge State Park, the site of a marble quarry until 1947, is a dam built totally of marble blocks, etched in black on the edges. As Ed Elder, who operated the property as a roadside tourist attraction, would describe it, “This is the only marble dam outside Athens, Greece.”


Shaker communities were required to clear the summit of a nearby hill for worship. Near Hancock around 1842, this site was atop Mt. Sinai, now known as Shaker Mountain. The trail today leads to two Shaker sacred sites that have been leveled out on the top of Mt. Sinai and Holy Mount. When the Shakers worshipped here non-believers were not allowed on these grounds.


All over the Berkshires your dog can view and swim under hydrospectaculars. Some are reached with hardly a hike (Campbell Falls, Windsor Jambs, Wahconah Falls), others with a little effort (The Notch Brook Cascades, Bash Bish Falls, Tannery Falls) and other waterfalls are rewards for a spirited canine hike such as Sages Ravine in Mount Everett State Reservation.


The stone walls found throughout Massachusetts are some of the most beautiful walls ever built. The fact that so many can be found in Berkshire woods attests to the skill used in construction. You could not just pile up rocks found around your property and call it a wall. When a stone wall was finished it needed to be inspected by a fence viewer. If a wall was deemed sound the owner could not be liable for damage done to his crops by other farmer’s animals.

How to Build a Dry Laid Field Stone Wall

Deciding to build a dry laid field stone wall is not a decision that should be taken lightly. It will require a great deal of your time and a huge amount of physical effort to complete the work. There are several things to consider before you start your project and the least of them is the cost.

You must first choose the type and color of stone you are going to use to build your wall. There are literally hundreds of combinations of stone types and colors available today. If you have access to free field stone or cobblestone, that can save many hundreds or perhaps thousands of dollars. A heavy duty truck is required to carry any real quantities of this stone as an auto can be easily overloaded and can even be dangerous to drive..

Dry laid field stone walls can be very beautiful when completed and will last for many, many years with a minimum of upkeep. An occasional check to assure that no stones have been knocked loose or removed by children at play is all that is required. Dry laid means of course that there is no mortar used to hold the stones together and instead dry laid walls depend on gravity to hold and keep their shape over time. If you see a country stone wall, stop and take a good look at the wall. You will see that both sides lean slightly in towards the middle of the wall and the top is slightly concave as well.

In most cases it took farmers many years to construct their walls from the stones removed from their fields as they plowed for new crops each spring. Winter freezing and thawing pushed the stones to the top of the ground for the awaiting farmers plows to find them. These stone walls were not constructed for their beauty but of necessity to mark the boundaries between farms as well as to keep the stones from injuring their horses feet as they pulled the plows.

If you are using natural stone for your wall, remember that the faces of the wall will not be perfectly flat as when using man made stone or masonry units. There will be some ins and outs as the stone rises above the grade. If you are placing the wall along a property line it is suggested that you hold the wall back a few inches to allow leeway in the layout and to be assured you are not building on your neighbors land. One of the best ways to do this is to use wooden stakes or steel pins at each end of the proposed wall and placing a string or dry line between them. Tie a loop on one end of the string and place over the first pin and then pull and wrap the line on the second stake as tightly as possible. Whenever you lay a stone, the stone edge simply cannot cross this string line. Get as close as possible but never cross it. Keeping the stone faces as close to the string at all times will assure as even a face of your wall as possible. Keep raising the string as your work progresses. As your ability and eye grows with the work you will be tell if a stone does not fit correctly or look as good as it should.

After your pins and string lines are installed, take a step back and see if the line is really where you want the finished wall bottom to be at the end of the work. You will not want to tear it down and move it later believe me. If the location is good, excavate a trench the width of your wall, to an average depth of the diameter of your largest stones. If your largest stone is six inches in diameter, excavate six inches deep. The trick here is to slightly slope each one half of the width of the trench slightly downwards into the middle of the wall. Slightly means just slightly. You want the base stones to tip inwards but try keeping the tops as level as possible at the same time.

Now start laying your base stones. These will generally but not always be, your largest stones. Many stone masons prefer to place some of the largest stones randomly throughout the face of the wall to add character and interest to their finished work. True stone masons also do not use hammers or stone saws to shape the stones they use. Each stone is turned over and over to view and then choose the best face to place to view and the best side to fit on top of the stones laid below. Each stone must nestle into the adjacent stones and not rock back and forth. Keep the larger stones to the outside face and then fit the smaller uglier stones into the center out of view. Do not be tempted to place small chips to hold stones in place. Repeated freeze-thaw cycles will cause these chips to move or fall out and cause your wall to fail. Placing small stone chips and fragments into interior voids is fine but do not let them become a structural part of the finished work.

As your wall starts to progress upwards keep laying new wall in front of you. Do not finish a ten foot section for example and then start another section. Your end result will be a bunch or ten foot connected sections instead of one long smooth wall. As your wall height increases, the wall width actually becomes thinner than the width at the base. This can be as pronounced as you wish or as slight as you can make it but in any case all stones must tilt slightly towards the middle of the wall. The reality here is that when the ground freezes and heaves, the entire wall is lifted upwards causing the stones to push outwards from the middle. Due to the built-in inward tilt of the stones, the stones may reach an almost vertical state on the face but as the ground thaws and sinks, the stones simply return to their original placement shape due to good old gravity and the wall is safe.

Do not be afraid to step back every once in a while to admire your work as it progresses. You may see a stone or stones that would look better somewhere else or may look better turned a little and now is the time to fuss before the wall is finished. Do not get discouraged with your work progress either. Stone walls take a good long time to build but will last a good long time as well and will far surpass the life of any wooden fences you could build.

A well laid stone wall can take many weeks or months to construct but is an enduring piece of the landscape and will remain as a legacy of your work. Do it right and your great grand children will be able to admire your work. You will not be sorry.
Your Friendly Building Inspector


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