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Originally published February 3, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified February 3, 2008 at 1:38 AM

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Sunday Buzz

Costco's newest supplier: the sun

A company that boasts of annually selling more than 100 million pounds of ground beef and 40 million rotisserie chickens may find it hard...

Rami Grunbaum, deputy business editor, and Seattle Times Business staff

A company that boasts of annually selling more than 100 million pounds of ground beef and 40 million rotisserie chickens may find it hard to minimize its carbon footprint.

But at Costco's annual shareholders meeting this past week in Bellevue, Chief Executive Jim Sinegal told a standing-room-only crowd that the Issaquah-based retailer is making a concerted effort.

And in typical fashion, it's doing things in bulk.

To reduce energy consumption, Costco is installing skylights and solar panels in its massive warehouse clubs. Six stores in California and Hawaii have the solar panels, and seven additional stores are to get them this year.

The installer of the Hawaii panels, California-based REC Solar, says the installations at Costco's Kauai and Kona stores are Hawaii's two largest solar arrays.

The panels cost about $745,000 per store, and Costco typically doesn't make that money back for three to five years. But Sinegal said they're a sign of the times: "We recognize, like all businesses, that we must continue to conserve and save the planet."

Sinegal also told shareholders that Costco recycles everything from broken pallets and plastic stretch-wrap to cardboard boxes and light bulbs.

Sinegal said Costco is doing other things to reduce its drain on natural resources — for instance, switching from round to rectangular tubs of cashews. (The rectangular tubs mean 400 fewer truckloads shipped to stores annually because they can be stacked more efficiently than the round ones.)

Sinegal also said Costco is expanding sales of fruits and vegetables grown in a clean, pesticide-free environment and trying to increase organic food offerings under the Kirkland Signature banner.

"This is not something that's just nice to do anymore," he said. "It's imperative."

The effort pleases Whidbey Island residents Claude and Margaret Dilly, who shop at Costco and own a couple of hundred shares of the company. Claude Dilly said after the meeting that he thinks Costco should promote itself as environmentally conscious, "because people go for that."

"It's encouraging that a company can be successful and green. I'm proud to be a part of it," Dilly said.

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— Amy Martinez

Tully's founder makes most of Starbucks perk

Every month, Tully's Coffee founder Tom O'Keefe gets $150 from his chief competitor, Starbucks.

It's part of a "Lattes for life" program for which he gave $5,000 in 1996 to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. O'Keefe's monthly cash infusion is loaded onto Starbucks cards.

Last week, O'Keefe flashed one of the cards during a speech at a conference at the Washington Athletic Club and presented by Staples and the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce.

O'Keefe said he buys his coffee at Tully's, but still finds things at Starbucks that he likes. The music, for example.

"The chocolate-covered graham crackers are fabulous, and my wife likes the gum," O'Keefe told the crowd.

That wasn't his only praise for Starbucks and Howard Schultz.

Afterward, speaking of Schultz's decision to become Starbucks CEO again last month, O'Keefe said, "This guy could've easily ridden off into the sunset."

— Melissa Allison

Korean supermarket H Mart to fill former Mervyns store

Old department stores don't just fade away. They become ... Korean supermarkets.

Brokerage Grubb & Ellis said this past week that Korean-owned grocery chain H Mart had signed a long-term lease to move into the former Mervyns site in Lynnwood, across the street from Alderwood mall.

The 77,000-square-foot store would be H Mart's second in the Seattle area. The other is in Federal Way, like Lynnwood, is home to many Koreans and Korean Americans.

H Mart representatives weren't available to provide details on the new store.

But according to the company's Web site, the chain operates outlets in 11 states and sells not just such Korean specialties as kimchi, but foods from a host of other Asian cultures as well as more conventional American fare.

H Mart has taken over at least one other former Mervyns in Texas.

California-based Mervyns closed all 13 of its Washington stores in 2006 in a bid to boost the troubled company's profits.

— Eric Pryne

rgrunbaum@seattletimes.com or 206-464-8541

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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