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November 5, 2015

Rutters is a 45-year-old convenience store chain located in central Pennsylvania that traces its heritage back to the founding of the original family farm in 1747. The company began to go green in 2006.

At that time, senior management received a challenge from some of the younger family members working in the business to increase their commitment to help the environment. “Initially, I don’t think we knew exactly where this was headed,” stated a Rutters spokesperson, “but these young people were persuasive and we wanted to do more to appeal to the younger emerging shoppers so we signed on”.  The company had been recycling cardboard for many years, and added to its efforts by outlining more than a dozen specific actions, including:

  • Reduce energy use by installing:
    • Motion controlled lighting in backrooms and restrooms
    • Backdoor air curtains
    • Computer controlled energy management systems
    • Solar reflective roofs
  • Reduce waste by:
    • Recycling cardboard
    • Recycling lighting valises and florescent light bulbs
    • Converting frying oils to biofuels
  • Offer customers environmentally friendly choices including:
    • Recycling centers for bottles, cans and news print
    • Rainforest coffee
    • Ethanol-enhanced gasoline



Rutters wanted to make sustainability a core value of the organization, but it always wanted to make decisions that were right for the customers and the business.



Over time, Rutters has evolved into what could be called an ecofriendly organization.  It has become part of the Rutters culture; i.e. the way it thinks and operates. “It is just natural for us to do things for the environment.” Take what Rutters is doing today with lighting in stores:

  • “The LED lighting we use in our cases is energy efficient, but that’s not the only reason we use it. It reduces the need to heat cooler doors which is done to lessen condensation, and our customers like it.”
  • “The same is true for the skylights in our new stores. Of course they save energy, but they brighten the store and raise the spirits of both customers and employees.”

When it comes to supplies, Rutters always wants to focus on the green alternative and, of course, what’s good for the business; i.e. the company wants to do the right thing. There have been times, however, when finding a green alternative to meet the needs of the business proved more difficult than anticipated:

  • When Rutters found that a green window cleaner did not produce the desired effect, the company went back to the product it had previously used until it could find a different green product that gave the results Rutters wanted. “The good news is that it is now a lot easier than it used to be. There are more products available on the market than just a few years ago that are environmentally friendly, so it’s much easier to strike a balance.”
  • “Today there are at least 30 things we do that are on our list of ecofriendly activities and make the store look great.  It’s not easy for us to separate what’s good for the environment and what’s good for the business.  We’ve found that going green is also frequently cost effective and good for our customers.”

“Building sustainability has become an integral part of who we are as a company. We don’t talk as much about it as we used to with our customers, but we still feel we get plenty of credit from those who are concerned with the environment. Most of our communication now is internal; we talk a lot about green initiatives at our meetings. Our people are motivated by this and energized by the topic; that’s good for everyone.”


Key Learnings

  • “We’ve learned that going green can yield a good ROI and that usually there’s very little additional cost for the green products, so it doesn’t take much of a trade-off.”
  • “One of the ironies that we’ve seen in this area is related to ethanol-enhanced gas. It’s the only thing we did that was mandated by law and it’s the area where we get most of our complaints. This suggests that it may be better to leave these decisions to businesses rather than government.”