“Going Green,” a phrase not often associated with shopping malls is quickly changing as many retail centers are doing their part in creating a healthier planet. Industries across the board including hospitality, higher education, technology, transportation, and many more are tackling large, eco-friendly initiatives in order to reduce their carbon footprint. With consumption being one of the main culprits in polluting the planet, shopping centers respond with big action.
From Asia to Europe to the United States, shopping centers are becoming more environmentally friendly. Solar/LED lighting, energy efficient heating and cooling systems, waste reduction, and green spaces are a few of the many initiatives taking place.
Singapore leads the world in many of the most eco-friendly, shopping initiatives. The City Square Mall uses mostly natural light supplemented with light-emitting diode (LED), the most energy efficient lighting technology. BTC City in Slovenia, one of the largest shopping centers in Europe, lights much of its facility through three solar power plants which produce more than 1,700 MWh of electricity a year. The Mall of America in Minnesota, USA conducted the largest parking garage LED conversion in the nation reducing its KWH by 7 million annually. Shopping malls are switching to LED lighting because it is the most energy efficient lighting source today with 95% of its energy used for light and only 5% for heat, compared to fluorescent lights which are 95% heat and 5% light. Less wasteful energy use decreases demand from power plants and greenhouse gas emissions, therefore, reducing a shopping center’s carbon footprint.
Shopping centers find that as much as 85% of their energy use comes from lighting, heating, and air conditioning. The Mall of America, located in one of the coldest states in the United States, does not use a central heating system. The heat is strictly generated through solar energy from their 1.2 million skylights, shoppers’ body heat, and store lighting. The Star Vista shopping Center in Singapore is the first open-aired, naturally cooled mall. The design of the building allows for ample air circulation and does not require an air conditioning system. BTC City also partnered with a nearby manufacturing facility to share thermal energy for their waterpark, allowing for all the water to be heated 100% through thermal energy. All these initiatives reduce the shopping centers’ energy use, creating a cleaner environment.
Recycling waste is important, but only a small piece to the challenge of reducing the carbon footprint, and shopping malls are meeting this issue head on. The stores within shopping centers across California are playing their part in recycling by not using plastic bags, asking shoppers to bring their own bags or buy a recycled bag at the checkout. The Mall of America embraces recycling through many facets including recycling more than 2,400 tons of food waste to local hog farms each year feeding over one million hogs while also recycling restaurant fryer fat to be converted into biodiesel fuel for vehicular transportation.
Water waste from air conditioners is another recycling opportunity, and the City Square Mall in Singapore recycles enough water from air conditioners to fill two Olympic size swimming pools every year. BTC City leads the way in recycling with over 3,500 tons of waste collected each year, 70% of which is successfully sorted into waste management. Through all BTC City’s eco-friendly projects, including recycling, they have been able to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2.9 million kg in 2015.
Greenery and green spaces give a mall life and beauty but more importantly, provide key benefits to Mother Nature. Located within the City Square Mall is a 49,000 sq ft park fitted with a green roof that absorbs solar energy, collects rainwater, and bolsters cross ventilation while also providing a space for kids and adults alike to be active. The Mall of America houses over 30,000 plants and 300 trees which act as a natural purifier enhancing air quality. Across the globe, Bangkok is building several community shopping centers with green spaces to supplement the city’s lack of parks.
Shopping centers across the globe are taking action to create a healthier planet. Many malls already have seen a large reduction in their carbon footprint and are only furthering their eco-friendly initiatives. Shopping centers globally are doing their part to create a greener planet while also providing people with the goods they require.