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The Los Angeles Times reports on what is called an anaerobic digester system operated by Kroger at a Compton, California, distribution center, that actually serves to "transform moldy chicken and stale bread into clean electricity ... Though many grocery stores have tried to cut down on food waste and experiment with alternative energy, Kroger says it's the first supermarket company in the country to do both simultaneously."

Here's how it works, according to the Times:

"Several chest-high trash bins containing a feast of limp waffles, wilting flowers, bruised mangoes and plastic-wrapped steak sat in an airy space laced with piping. Stores send food unable to be donated or sold to the facility, where it is dumped into a massive grinder — cardboard and plastic packaging included.

"After being pulverized, the mass is sent to a pulping machine, which filters out inorganic materials such as glass and metal and mixes in hot wastewater from a nearby dairy creamery to create a sludgy substance ... From there, the mulch is piped into a 250,000-gallon staging tank before being steadily fed into a 2-million-gallon silo. The contraption essentially functions as a multi-story stomach.

"Inside, devoid of oxygen, bacteria munch away on the liquid refuse, naturally converting it into methane gas. The gas, which floats to the top of the tank, is siphoned out to power three on-site turbine engines.

"The 13 million kilowatt-hours of electricity they produce per year could power more than 2,000 California homes over the period, according to Kroger.

"Excess water from the digester is pumped out, purified and sent into the industrial sewer. Leftover sludge becomes nutrient-rich organic fertilizer, enough to nourish 8,000 acres of soil."

The story goes on:

"The program helps Kroger reduce its waste by 150 tons a day. The trash otherwise would have been sent to Bakersfield to be composted, hauled away six times a day by diesel trucks traveling 500,000 miles a year.

"Kroger won't say exactly how much it spent on the anaerobic digester but estimates that it will offer an 18.5% return on the company's investment. The project, over its lifetime, could help the grocer save $110 million. The supermarket giant is considering similar technologies for its La Habra and Riverside facilities and other Kroger locations nationwide."

The company says that "the system will provide enough renewable biogas to offset more than 20% of the energy demand of the Ralphs/Food 4 Less distribution center. Combining the use of renewable energy power with more than 150 zero emission fuel cell fork lifts, the Ralphs Food4Less distribution center is now one of the greenest and most efficient, advancing the City of Compton as a leading sustainable community."
KC's View:
I don't want to compare apples to oranges here, but as I read this coverage I found myself thinking about how this sort of initiative differentiates Kroger's stores in the marketplace, and in an entirely positive way. And then I found myself thinking about how a very different sort of public posture seems to be eroding the brand equity at Abercrombie & Fitch.

And while they are not competing, in reading all this coverage I found myself thinking that this would make me happy to shop at a Kroger store, and that I will never walk into an A&F store ever again, and that I will urge my children (who are both younger and more attractive than I) never to patronize the chain. Some retailers make you feel good about doing business with them, and others make you feel like you want to take a shower.

The great Robert B. Parker once wrote that it isn't hard to know the right thing to do. But actually doing the right thing is an entirely different matter.

So true.