The efforts of large retail chains to
go green often make the headlines, but
even without the resources of a Fortune
500 company, a retailer can have a
significant impact. A family business started
in 1914, Lamey-Wellehan is big on serving
the community and the environment.
Second-generation President Jim Wellehan,
who plans to establish an employee stock
ownership plan as he retires in 2016,
reflects on the firm’s sustainability journey.
We run six shoe stores in Maine, an energy-challenging state, with considerable cold and sig- nificant distance between our
stores. We have worked on sustainability
since the early ’90s, when we developed a
program to recycle 95% of the solid waste
that comes into our warehouse, office, and
stores. In 2003, we began a carbon reduction program that has worked well.
CHARGED UP ABOUT ENERGY
At the end of 2013, we had expanded by
7,000 sq. ft., but had lower energy costs
despite the surge in fossil fuel prices. The
strategies we use are:
LIGHTING CHANGES. We are moving to
100% LED and will achieve that in early
2016. We had moved to T-8s before that.
OTHER BUILDING CHANGES. Our new
buildings are moving to much heavier insulation. The latest store has an R-50 roof,
R- 30 walls, all LEDs, a vestibule entrance,
and low-e glass.
ENERGY SOURCE CHANGES. Our headquarters store and office has a solar roof. We
now use a low-emissions diesel truck, and
the company cars are all Priuses. We also
converted a facility from oil to natural gas.
The result of this activity has been a
reduction in energy costs as a percentage of
sales from 1.22% to 0.69%, a dramatic con-
tribution to profits. We are committed to a
50% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020,
and have achieved close to 40% so far.
We have worked with towns to call attention to the potential for achieving savings
with energy efficiency and periodically hold
an energy fair at our headquarters store.
Energy experts, heat pump and HVAC
providers, low-e window providers, solar
providers, and geothermal providers have
tables beneath a tent beside our store. This
is always spectacularly successful for us.
BAGGING THE BAGS
We celebrated our 100th anniversary by
moving from biodegradable plastic bags
to going bagless. We looked at the issue
of plastic in the ocean, and biodegradable
bags don't break down in either landfills or
the ocean. We declined to use paper bags
because their carbon emissions are more
than double that of plastic bags, and if you
consider damage to the ocean, acidification
is a critical issue. To help customers make
the switch, we distributed $30,000 worth
of organic cotton bags. We have taken a
strong role at town meetings to elimi-
nate plastic bags in Portland, Falmouth,
Freeport, and Wells. Portland has taken
this step, and Falmouth and Freeport have
committed to doing so.
SUPPORTING THE ECONOMY
With the goal of improving Maine's economy
and its environment, we provide scholarships to Maine students to go to Maine colleges. Last year, we increased our scholarship
funding from one student to three students,
each getting $1,000 a year for four years.
Our corporate responsibility efforts have
had a positive impact on our business. Our
environmental efforts have been honored
by the Maine Sierra Club and the Natural
Resources Council of Maine. We were honored as Maine Small Business of the Year
this year by MaineBiz as well as in 2014 by
the Maine Institute for Family Business.
How a shoe retailer changed its
Lamey-Wellehan’s team shows off a solar panel. An array on the store rooftop is among the small
company’s big sustainability efforts.
THE OCEAN NOW HOSTS AN
ESTIMATED 8 MILLION TONS
of plastic trash, equal to five retail
bags on every foot of coastline,
according to a University of Georgia
study published earlier this year.