Baltimore Sun

Local Sears store excels in energy-saving contest

Who says being runnner-up is anything to be ashamed of? A Glen Burnie Sears store has come in second nationally in the Environmental Protection Agency's first energy efficiency contest for commercial buildings, reducing its energy use by nearly 32 percent over a year. Not too shabby.

Out of more than 200 retail stores, offices and institutional structures that entered EPA's National Building Competition, the Sears at Marley Station Mall on Ritchie Highway came in just behind a 10-story dormitory at the University of North Carolina in the race to be declared the "biggest energy loser."


"We're damn pleased with our store really taking a lead and coming out and doing something special," said Michael E. Brown, director of environmental sustainability for Sears Holdings Corp., based in Hoffman Estates, Ill.  And while the company really really wanted to win the contest, Brown takes solace in noting that "we did beat J.C. Penney," which placed third with a store in Orange, CA reducing its energy use by more than 28 percent.

The 14-year-old Glen Burnie store slashed energy use through a combination of lighting retrofits and good old-fashioned diligence on the part of its staff.  Putting in new, more efficient lighting accounted for perhaps half of the savings, Brown said, but the other half came from things like turning off lights when leaving storerooms, adjusting building temperatures and applying weather stripping  to cut down on heat losses.


"A large part of it really has been these things every person can do," he said, praising the leadership of the store's energy team, pictured here.  "Sound discipline - the same things I do in my house." 

The store's managers and 170 "associates" didn't just go around unscrewing light bulbs or turning the thermostat down willy-nilly.  They did the commercial equivalent of a home energy audit, scanning the 198,000 square foot structure with a thermal imaging camera to spot drafts where warmed or chilled air was leaking.   And the lighting retrofits improved illumination in the store while cutting down on the number of lamps needed.

Cutting energy costs by nearly a third is a big deal in these tough times, especially for retailers.  Brown said EPA estimates that every 10 percent reduction in energy use is equivalent to a one percent boost in sales.

The Glen Burnie store's achievements will provide tips and inspiration for the other 928 Sears stores and more than 1,300 Kmarts now run by Sears, according to Brown.  "Really, more than anything, what we found is this is an awesome way to engage our associates (aka employees)," he said.

For more on the EPA contest's 14 finalists, go here.