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Activists Say Walmart's Environmental Policies Incomplete

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Spokesmen for Walmart say the company is committed to sustainability, but D.C. environmental activists have doubts about the company's practices.
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Spokesmen for Walmart say the company is committed to sustainability, but D.C. environmental activists have doubts about the company's practices.

As Walmart moves forward with plans for six D.C. stores, some activists say the company is "greenwashing" the truth about its environmental impact.

Walmart spokesperson Steven Restivo disputes that, saying sustainability is a top priority for the corporation. "In 2005, we really set three broad sustainability goals," says Restivo. "They are to be 100 percent supplied by renewable energy, sell zero waste and to sell products that sustain people and the environment."

He says Walmart has completed more than 100 renewable energy projects, and eliminated 80 percent of the waste from its California operations. He says the D.C. stores will promote local produce and encourage mass transit. He says they have made a $2 million commitment that includes bus stops, bus shelters, bike stands.

But Stacy Mitchell, a senior researcher with the nonprofit Institute for Local Self Reliance, says setting goals is easy. Achieving them is not.

"There are some very serious environmental issues that Walmart isn't addressing," says Mitchell. "The impact on the landscape, the amount of sprawl, and the long distances the products are shipped and the pollution associated with it."

She says the corporation uses promises about sustainability to divert attention from its labor practices.

Meanwhile, Chris Weiss, executive director of the D.C. Environmental Network, says he’s worried about Walmart's impact on the local environment: "You’re talking about stormwater, polluted stormwater, that will fall on these buildings and end up in the Anacostia water. You’re talking about a large amount of energy use. And just generally consumption -- the promotion of a very high level of consumption."

He's calling on Walmart to develop a climate action plan for its D.C. stores.

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