Shedding light on energy savings at Harmony Natural Food Coop

Basking in extensive LED lighting upgrades

Harmony Natural Foods Cooperative is a full service grocery and wellness store conveniently located in downtown Bemidji, serving the greater Headwaters region and beyond.

Their commitment to sustainability began when they purchased their new building in 2011 and re-built it from the studs up, adding energy-efficient refrigeration, HVAC, and lighting. In 2014 they incorporated solar awnings to provide clean energy. Their latest project was upgrading T8 fluorescent bulbs at the end of their life to hard-wired LED fixtures with support from a Northwest CERT Seed Grant.

We interviewed the Harmony staff to learn more.

With better lighting, the physical space is more inviting and the products are more appealing, both of which contribute to achieving Harmony’s goals of supporting vibrant local commerce and returning economic value to the community. The reduction in energy use helps the coop meet its goal to promote sustainable environmental practices.

Sharon Frutel, Harmony Food Coop Board Secretary

How did this project get started, and how did it go?

According to a 2016 RETAP study we had done, lighting accounted for 22% of Harmony’s electrical load. Upgrading our existing T8 fluorescent lamps, which were reaching the end of their life, to LEDs was the most cost-effective and efficient way to significantly reduce electrical consumption at the store. The LED lights—over 400 in total—were installed by an electrician. We worked closely with our contractor to select the right technology and with Otter Tail Power Company to get rebates for all of the efficient LEDs we installed.

Anything you’d like to share with others pursuing similar projects?

  1. Do an inventory of existing lighting—RETAP can help if needed
  2. Work with your local electric utility earlier on to get an estimate of available rebates
  3. Invite electrical contractors out for cost estimates for different lighting upgrade options and for selecting the correct lighting spectrum for different areas
  4. Engage social media to spread the word about your project!

Photos of the Project

The way Harmony pursues initiatives like LED conversion becomes a learning experience for our shoppers and owners.

Mary Overlie, Harmony Food Coop Board Chair

How have you worked to educate the community?

During the last few years, there has been an explosion of interest in sustainability in the Bemidji region. Harmony has hosted and participated in a number of well attended community events that attest to this: the annual Bemidji Sustainable Places Tour, Security Bank’s Lunch and Learn, solar awning presentations and tours, and support by member-owners of Harmony’s annual sustainability packages.

However, community members often don’t know where to start in implementing the most effective energy conservation practices in their homes and businesses. This project provides a model that can serve as an example to help them start. It also could create change far beyond the scope of the project.

It is estimated that the team of six who made this project a reality reached more than 1,600 people. The community interacted with this project through:

  • Displays at the store’s entry and during member meetings
  • Newsletter articles, mailings to members, and the annual report
  • Inclusion in the popular Solar United Neighbors workshop
  • Postings on the website and at least 10 Facebook posts

What’s next for your project?

Now that this project is complete, Harmony has made plans to upgrade the rest of the lights in the coop to LEDs to reduce energy use. But who knows where else we will go! Harmony’s 2014 CERTs Seed Grant for an energy audit not only identified opportunities for reducing its energy footprint, but snowballed into many other outcomes such as the formation of a sustainability committee, community education opportunities, installation of a photovoltaic awning, and EPA ENERGY STAR certification.

  • Technology: Over 400 lights upgraded to LEDs
  • Northwest CERT Seed Grant: $3,000
  • Total Project Cost: $9,016.50
  • Other Funds: utility rebate, self-funded
  • Project Team: Colleen Bakken (Harmony Natural Food Co-op), Diana Kuklinski (MN RETAP), Roger Garton (Otter Tail Power Company)
  • People Involved and Reached: 1,656
  • Annual Energy Savings: 40,660 kWh

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