The Cost of Consumerism

In the free market, the consumer drives what is sold, and how. And for many years consumer satisfaction, ranked by sales, has driven supermarkets to inefficient refrigeration solutions such as the doorless coolers that grace the aisles of almost every supermarket in the western world. This may be finally changing, as supermarkets gain a social and environmental conscience, and ultimately save money in the process.

Supermarkets join low carbon revolution with new ecostores | Environment | The Guardian

Now a small but very 21st century revolution is under way. On Monday Asda will open what it claims is Britain’s first superstore with doors on every freezer, fridge and chill cabinet. The initiative is part of a £27m new “low carbon” store in Bootle, Liverpool, and this one measure alone is expected to save 8% of the building’s electricity bill – and emissions.


With electricity accounting for up to 40% of store costs, any savings that can be made while retaining customers should be seem as free money – and any money saved can be farmed back into the business of getting customers into the store. Supermarkets have a long way to go to true sustainability, some ideas are:

  • small producers could be given fair prices,
  • sustainable products could be given preference in marketing,
  • product origin, freight and global impact information could be provided at point of sale

Ultimately, the whole premise of the supermarket relies on cheap and plentiful oil and a transportation network across the globe that is relatively unhindered. When you look at it like that, consumer satisfaction is the least of a supermarket’s troubles!

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Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.