BOWLING GREEN, OH - MAY 17: A Wal-Mart greeter waits to welcome new customers to the new 2,000 square foot Wal-Mart Supercenter store May 17, 2006 in Bowling Green, Ohio. The new store, one of three new supercenters opening today in Ohio, employs 340 people with 60 percent of those working full-time. (Photo by J.D. Pooley/Getty Images)

Sam and James Walton opened the first Walmart store on July 2, 1962. Since then Walmart has grown to the world’s largest retailer employing 1.6 million people.

Due to the movement to increase the minimum wage, Walmart has been in the crosshairs for perceived low pay and poor employee practices. But here are some things about Walmart you might not know.

Hurricane Katrina

Walmart, Lowe’s and Home Depot were at the forefront of helping the recovery after Hurricane Katrina. Using their delivery and merchandising expertise they provided needed supplies much faster than FEMA.

Walmart alone donated $20 million in cash, 1,500 truckloads of free merchandise, 100,000 meals and a guaranteed job for every one of its workers that were displaced by the hurricane.

The Environment

Businesses know that by saving energy you can increase profits. That fact is not lost on Walmart. Walmart committed to spend $600 million per year to increase the fuel efficiency of their truck fleet. The goal was to increase fuel efficiency by 25 percent over the next ten years and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent in seven years. Better than what the government is asking.

Walmart is working to reduce energy use in its stores by 30 percent and to cut solid waste by 25 percent in three years. Eventually they will only use renewable energies and have zero waste.

Alternative Fuels and Other Environmental Savings

Three experimental stores in McKinney, Texas, Aurora, Colorado and Las Vegas, Nevada, will use wind turbines, photovoltaic solar panels, bio-fuel-capable boilers, water-cooled refrigerators and xeriscape gardens.

Walmart is now the largest seller of organic milk and the largest purchaser of organic cotton in the world.

Walmart hired outside consultants to study its impact on the environment and what they could be doing better. They discovered that by reducing some packaging on their store brands they could save $2.4 million dollars in shipping costs, 3,800 trees, and a million barrels of oil per year.

Walmart has created Texas Retail Energy, its own electric company. It will be able to not only supply its stores with affordable energy but will save $15 million annually and will also be able to sell excess energy to Texas consumers as well.

Some Final Thoughts

Since many of the above facts are glossed over in the mainstream media in favor of hourly wages and employee benefits, many people are unaware of the saving to the economy and environment that Walmart is working toward.

Walmart is far from a perfect company but it’s also making a positive effect in many ways. What Walmart learns will eventually filter down to other businesses and will improve our economy and help our environment at the same time. It’s a win-win for all of us.