In September, a 35,000ft2 (3,252m2) Amazon Fresh using a CO2 (R744)-based refrigeration system in Seattle, Washington, became the world’s first grocery store and Amazon’s first building to receive zero-carbon certification by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI).

According to its website, ILFI operates a worldwide third-party certification standard designed to “highlight highly energy efficient buildings seeking to account for their carbon emissions.” The program’s standards mandate combustion-free systems and reductions in operational and embodied carbon building impacts, with achievement measured in a 12 consecutive month data review.

“We’re thrilled to see this leadership from Amazon,” said Lindsay Baker, CEO of ILFI. “A grocery store showing how to be accountable for all its carbon – from construction and materials to operations – is impactful from both a customer and industry perspective.”

The refrigeration system of the Aurora Avenue Amazon Fresh store located in North Seattle relies on CO2 refrigerant as opposed to an artificial one, said Andrew Rhodes, Senior Program Manager of Sustainable Buildings at Amazon, in a YouTube video.

Moving to a CO2 refrigeration system “reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 38 metric tons per year compared to a conventional system,” the company said in a press release.

“All kinds of sustainability innovations are hiding in plain sight,” Rhodes commented. “Doors on the refrigeration cases reduce the energy consumption of the case and make the store warmer to enhance customer experience.”

Additional measures

Since its opening in 2022, “the [Aurora] store has saved over 100 metric tons of CO2e carbon emissions compared to an industry-standard grocery store,” Amazon said in a press release announcing the certification. Other carbon-saving measures incorporated in the store include low-carbon concrete floors and all-electric kitchen and hot water systems.  

The store reduced its embodied carbon footprint by 40% compared to a standard concrete floor by using recycled material from the steel industries, said J’aime Mitchell, Senior Program Manager of Sustainability at Amazon, in the video. “The recycled steel reduced the carbon footprint in the space more than any other initiative.”

All of the store’s power comes from 100% renewable electricity sourced from Amazon’s renewable energy projects, with 200 in the U.S. Besides rooftop solar panels on its buildings, Amazon operates wind and solar farms across the globe.

“We have electric-vehicle charging stations in the [Aurora store] parking lot to provide a free amenity for our guests while they are shopping,” Mitchell noted.

“With this store, we have a good prototype to move forward in our journey towards a more sustainable industry-wide design,” Rhodes noted.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the team and everyone involved in this achievement,” said Tony Hoggett, Senior Vice President of Amazon Worldwide Grocery Stores. “At Amazon, we’re building a best-in-class grocery shopping experience, and part of that is bringing customers more sustainable options across our stores.”

“With our newest Amazon Fresh store, we are taking the next step to becoming a net-zero carbon business by 2040,” said Stephenie Landry, Vice President of Amazon Grocery, in a previous R744 article.

In addition to this store, Amazon reports that it has “three Los Angeles-area Amazon Go locations, an Amazon Same-Day site in Sacramento and Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle currently on track to receive zero carbon certification from ILFI.

“[A CO2 refrigeration system] reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 38 metric tons per year compared to a conventional system.”