The company’s goal, which Clackamas Town Center’s REI store assistant manager Tim Runge calls “ambitious,” is to be climate-neutral by 2020. At Clackamas, that ambition is on display on the roof, where solar panels were recently installed.
Runge defined climate-neutral as “not having any sort of negative impact on the environment,” and said company officials are overhauling operations in three areas, greenhouse gas emissions, waste and energy use.
The company is looking to its REI Adventures operation, which promotes adventure trips all over the world, for ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“The biggest thing is to offset carbon emissions caused by these trips,” which primarily involve airline travel, Runge said.
The company purchases “green tags” from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, based in Portland, which in turn invests the money in “systems and technology that don’t emit greenhouse gases, like wind energy, solar power and biomass,” Runge said.
In order to combat waste, all REI stores, along with headquarters and warehouses, are careful about recycling, he noted.
“We recycle our paper, cardboard and plastic; we even recycle bike tubes, which a company in Seattle turns into messenger bags. And we sell the messenger bags,” he said. “The bike shop parts-cleaner uses ultrasonic sound waves — it doesn’t use a lot of electricity and not many chemicals.”
And to help conserve energy, the Clackamas store is being fitted with solar panels.
“The panels convert sunlight into electricity and reduce the electricity the store is pulling from the grid. When the store is closed, the electricity is fed back into the power grid,” Runge said.
“Our store is one of the smaller grids, so the solar panels will provide on average only 7 percent of the electricity, but in the long run there will be a return. And that is only one part of reducing the use of energy,” he said.
Company wide, most new stores are being built to include solar hot water heaters or retrofitted to include them. Many REI stores, especially in Colorado, are also buying wind energy. The company encourages employees to seek alternative methods of transportation to work, and REI reimburses half the cost of Tri-Met fees, Runge said.
He rides his bicycle to work two to three times per week, making use of the showers and lockers for employees.