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Best Buy Excels at Carbon and Waste Reductions

(Credit: Best Buy)

Best Buy sells electronics and appliances all over the world. It has 1,000 stores in the United States and Canada, and its headquarters is in Richfield, Minnesota. It got its start in 1966 as an audio specialty store. But it rebranded itself in 1983 as a consumer electronics store. It’s recognized by Barrons as one of the most sustainable retailers in the world, ranking number four this year after having been the top-ranked business last year. 

Best Buy is No. 4, down from last year’s top spot. The electronics retail giant has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2040, operates the nation’s largest e-waste recycling program to keep tech out of landfills, and is helping customers reduce their carbon emissions by 20% by offering more eco-friendly products,” says Barrons, in its issue of the 100 most sustainable companies. 

What are some of the high points? 

In 2017, Best Buy set out to reduce its carbon emissions in its operations by 60% by 2030 — from a 2009 baseline. But it has achieved that goal early: 2022.  In 2019, its aim became more aggressive — to decrease those releases by 75% by 2030 and to be carbon neutral by 2040. It sped this up by 10 years. It says its product emissions did not change materially between 2017 and 2020.

Since 2017, Best Buy has increased its use of renewable energy like onsite solar panels and LED lighting. It is also using a hybrid fleet to service its clients while it is also buying renewable energy credits or offsets.

Furthermore, it aims to help its customers reduce their carbon emissions by 20% by 2030 through the use of ENERGY STAR-certified products — a goal it set in 2017. That would also help them save more than $5 billion on energy bills. It says that it is now halfway there.

Best Buy is well known for its waste reduction efforts. It reduced its solid waste and increased its recycling from October 2019 through September 2020. It says that it has increased its waste diversion by 9%. Its goal is to divert 85% of its waste. As the nation’s largest retail collector of e-waste, it says that it has collected more than 2 billion pounds from customers for recycling since 2009. When its Geek Squad visits clients, they also take end-of-life cables, cords, and audio equipment for recycling.

At the same time, it has machines to create custom boxes and shipping envelopes that fit the products being sent out. That results in 40% less cardboard waste and the elimination of plastic fillers, the company notes. 

“It has never been more important for us to focus our attention on finding ways to reduce total product emissions so we can achieve our customer impact goals,” says Hugh Cherne, associate director of environmental sustainability at Best Buy.

How specifically does Energy Star help achieve Best Buy’s goals?

Best Buy says Energy Star is the “best mark to identify products that use less energy and less water.” It points to washing machines, which use about 25% less energy and 33% less water than regular washers. Over the product’s lifetime, it adds that an ENERGY STAR washer can save $370 in energy costs.

More and more of its customers are shopping online — at the Best Buy website. There, they can search for products that have this certification. And those customers can learn techniques to save water and energy. The site also teaches customers about renewable energy.

The goal is to help consumers reduce their carbon emissions by 20%  and save $5 billion on utility costs by 2030, while Best Buy works to decrease its emissions 75% over the same period. “Although there is still work to be done, our commitment to the planet remains strong,” says Tim Dunn, head of environmental sustainability. “We are dedicated to tackling climate change one step at a time to create a better world for our employees, communities, and the planet.”

Customers are able to recycle electronics such as phones, laptops, and tablets for free at Best Buy stores. The company also has a service that removes TVs and appliances — a huge convenience for those who don’t want to place such used items for trash pickup.

Furthermore, it aims to cut its water usage. In 2020, Best Buy says it used less than 1 million cubic meters of water in its U.S. and Canadian operations. This is a reduction of 31% over 2019.

Are you Paris compliant? 

Last year, Best Buy signed a formal climate pledge and vowed to use the Science-Based Targets initiative to limit temperature increases. That vow includes hitting net-zero by 2040. 

As a signatory of the Climate Pledge, Best Buy says it will: 

— measure and report greenhouse gases regularly;

— use decarbonization techniques that align with the Paris agreement, and 

— use energy efficiency, renewable energy, and carbon credits to cut emissions. 

To illustrate, in 2020, Best Buy built a solar farm in South Carolina. It produces 174,000 megawatt-hours a year for the local grid. While the electricity does not flow to Best Buy stores, the company points out that it would power 260 such stores a year if it did. 

Last year, it invested in the Little Bear Solar Project in Fresno County, California. That plant is expected to produce 480,000 megawatt-hours of electricity annually for the local power grid.

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