Sustainability Award: Kudrinko’s Thrives on Cutting Energy Costs

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For Neil Kudrinko, owner of Kudrinko’s, a one-store operation in Westport, Ontario, the money he is saving because of store enhancements has become “a very addictive thing.”

Since taking over management of the 22-year-old family business from his father in 2005 (and ownership in 2010), Kudrinko, 37, has set an ambitious course for his 10,200-square-foot store. The myriad changes include a major overhaul of its physical infrastructure, new refrigeration and HVAC systems, LED lighting retrofits, humidity controls, a parking lot reconstruction that controls rainwater, and solar parking lot lighting, among other changes.

The resulting efficiencies have led to a virtuous cycle — the more money he cuts from his energy bill, for example, the more he is incented to continue to make investments, paying for new systems with money already saved. “You see this and you want more,” he said. “How much more savings can I create in my store? The worst thing I could do is stop spending money,” he added, laughing.

Kudrinko’s new DC supports two Lennox HVAC units that flank a condenser.Kudrinko combines a grocer’s hard-nosed approach to business with a politician’s desire to improve society. A graduate of Carleton University, Ottawa, with a degree in political science, he ran as a Green Party candidate for provincial parliament in Ontario in 2010, promoting his store’s environmental initiatives, but lost in a very conservative district. “I’m a political person,” he said. “I enjoy public policy.” And he likes seeing how businesses can be part of the solution to environmental problems. “If every grocery store in Canada made the kind of investments I made, we’d reduce carbon emissions substantially,” he said.

But he’s also very pragmatic about the economic impact of environmental investments. “When I talk to other grocers about changes we’ve made, I very rarely discuss is it good for the environment,” he said. “I look at the business benefits. And for us it’s making sure our store can compete with stores that have these [energy-saving] technologies in place.”

Kudrinko is more than holding his own. In calendar year 2011, using the Carbon Counted website, he calculated that his store generated 55% less carbon dioxide equivalents through electricity and propane usage, as well as refrigerant emissions, than the average store of his size in Canada. Between 2008, when he began renovating his store, and 2011, his overall carbon footprint has dropped from 16.60 to 10.57 kilograms of CO2-equivalent per square foot.

Read more: Curbing Carbon: SN Sustainability Excellence Awards

He accomplished this in a store originally built in 1964. “It goes to show that despite the building being old, it doesn’t mean you can’t put in place investments with a profound effect,” he said. The carbon calculation, which he has done for five years, is part of the Environmental Sustainability Project launched for Canadian independents by the Federation of Independent Grocers.

For his wide-ranging environmental initiatives and store improvements, Kudrinko’s has been selected to receive SN’s 2012 Sustainability Excellence Award in the independent category.

Read more: Major Renovations, Humidity Issue