Lunds & Byerlys

Brian Miller stands in frozen food aisle where doors cover all the sections to save energyJune 2023 — Climatologists estimate that a full quarter of greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to the global food supply chain. This means that the people and businesses responsible for growing, shipping, storing and preparing our food have a major role to play in stemming climate change. 

Lunds & Byerlys is up to the challenge, and the 51,000-square-foot store on France Avenue is a perfect showcase of the varied ways the 28-store chain is working to reduce its carbon footprint.

It’s a tall order, to be sure. General Manager Brian Miller says that the sheer scale of a supermarket operation might come as a surprise to many. “Our stores see, on average, between 12,000 and 14,000 customers each week.” Every year, shoppers purchase as much as 30,000 pounds of food – from the Edina location’s popular Creations Café alone. 

As their point of departure, Miller’s team is committed to keeping waste to an absolute minimum. Unsold food is donated to Second Harvest Heartland. 

They have plans in place for spoiled items, as well. “Any and all perishable food waste goes into pig barrels, which are picked up twice a week and sent to local farmers for their pigs,” Miller said. Cooking oil from the deli is likewise reclaimed for use in biofuels. 

Not all waste in a grocery environment is edible in nature. The store in the Southdale Neighborhood also maintains a dry organics recycling program, which captures non-recyclable paper and other biodegradable products for bulk composting. 

In addition, the store employs multiple strategies to keep single-use plastics out of landfills. “As part of our reuse and reward program, we donate five cents to Second Harvest for each reusable bag that a customer brings in for use,” Miller shared. “We’ve been doing this for about 10 years and, I believe, have exceeded $500,000 in company-wide donations over that period.”

Lunds & Byerlys is also one of many Twin Cities supermarkets that now operates a plastic bag recycling program. Shoppers can deposit unneeded bags in a collection bin at the front of the store. Plastics collected in this way are routed to a company that creates composite lumber for use in decks and outdoor railings.

In May 2022, these diligent practices helped Lunds & Byerlys on France Avenue secure gold-level business accreditation from the Edina Energy & Environment Commission. However, as Miller will attest, there’s still more going on behind the scenes or hidden in plain sight. 

Energy conservation is a second focus area. Responsibly heating and cooling a building the size of Lunds & Byerlys is a tricky proposition – even before factoring in the particular climate control needs of produce, meats and other perishables.

Miller says the store curbs its energy consumption through the use of variable frequency drive (VRD) and destratification fans. “Destratification fans move air through our HVAC systems and reduce run times on our rooftop units. This in turn saves considerable use of electricity and gas.”

Dan Kuhns pulls down shade that helps keep the dairy section cold when store is closedRefrigerator demands are managed through night shades, which staff pull down every night at store closing, as well as a strict cleaning regimen for case coil cleaning (since dirty refrigerator coils run less efficiently). Lunds & Byerlys is also phasing in use of carbon dioxide as a sustainable refrigerant, and phasing out or retrofitting open-door cases for better temperature regulation.

Lighting is yet another consideration. The store on France Avenue boasts Solatube skylights – “a domed and tubular design that captures much more natural light than regular skylights,” Brian said. Occupancy sensors are another fixture of the floorplan which do much to minimize the need for artificial lighting. 

Lunds & Byerlys’ latest addition may be the most high-tech of all: a deli tracking system from Phood Solutions. This impressive unit employs scales, cameras and artificial intelligence to assess trends and suggest daily changes to food prep. “Phood can literally identify crumbs of a particular product, or a ring of sauce around an empty pan,” Brian shared. “It does so much to help us to reduce waste, simply by putting out the right amounts of products at the right times.”

While the investment is an expensive one, the general manager and his team are confident it will pay dividends.  Miller’s advice to other companies exploring sustainable solutions is this: “Be sure you understand what to expect over the [equipment’s] whole life cycle. Depending on the situation, returns may pay for initial costs – sometimes on a relatively short timeframe.”