MINNEAPOLIS (July 20, 2005)—While the features incorporated into Wal-Mart’s new “green” store in McKinney, Texas, create very modest improvements in energy consumption and stormwater runoff, they do not change Wal-Mart’s basic business model, which is extremely polluting.
“This is about improving Wal-Mart’s public image, not lessening its environmental impact,” said Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.
Wal-Mart has undertaken several initiatives in recent months aimed at burnishing its tarnished image and clearing the way for further expansion, the ecological impact of which will be substantial:
- Wal-Mart is major factor behind dramatic increases in how much Americans drive for shopping. “No other company has done more to make running our daily errands an ecologically hazardous activity,” Mitchell said. “Today, even the simplest of errands, like picking up a gallon of milk or a box of nails, often requires driving several miles to a big-box store.”By destroying neighborhood and downtown businesses and developing sprawling stores on the outskirts of town, Wal-Mart has contributed to a jump of more than 40 percent in the amount of vehicle miles American households log for shopping since 1990.
“Wal-Mart bears much of the blame for that increase,” Mitchell said. “The McKinney store, which is situated on the outer edges of town, continues this destructive land use pattern.”
- Wal-Mart stores and parking lots already occupy roughly 75,000 acres in the U.S. and the company plans to nearly double its footprint over the next 10 years. Many of these new stores will be built on undeveloped land, even though the U.S. is overrun with thousands of vacant malls, shopping centers, and big-box stores.
- Wal-Mart itself has more than 200 empty stores, which continue to generate polluted runoff, poisoning rivers and lakes even as they sit dormant.
- Wal-Mart has a poor record of locating stores on environmentally sensitive sites, especially wetlands. In Bangor, Maine, for instance, the company spent several years trying to pave the Penjajawoc Marsh. Identified by state officials as “the single most significant emergent marsh for waterbirds in Maine,” the Penjajawoc is home to numerous rare and endangered birds. Wal-Mart fought hard to develop the marsh, but was ultimately blocked by a tenacious citizens group that persuaded the state to intervene.
About ILSR: The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) is a national nonprofit organization founded in 1974 to advance sustainable, equitable, and community-centered economic development through research and educational activities and technical assistance. Through its New Rules Project, ILSR has worked with communities across the country to counter the negative impacts of big-box development. For more, see