We have achieved so much progress in the last year this is an opportunity to reflect. Sharing our successes and setbacks with you is part of our patron outreach initiatives. Because we are a family, we all share in memories. After all, on January 1, our family got bigger by 4.1 million veterans. Service members including veterans with service-connected disabilities, Purple Heart recipients, former Prisoners of War, and primary caregivers can now access their earned benefit. But, the timeline for enjoying such success may be small. Our planet in changing and your commissary is at the forefront of keeping the earth sustainable.
Earth Day is April 22 and we want to celebrate. While we will certainly promote the tradition with sales and partner promotions, Earth Day is about Mother Nature. She is changing rapidly and we felt the changes in the damage to many of our commissaries around the world. NAS Key West and communities along the Atlantic coast were hit hard by a hurricanes. Earthquakes in the west damaged the structural integrity of China Lake. Yet, we remained committed to the benefit. Your commissary was able to turn the tables and remain important to you, our patrons. Fires and earthquakes in California didn’t stop us. Flooding in the Midwest didn’t stop us. Hurricanes won’t stop us either.
So what can we do about it? Lots and we are sharing the responsibility and the reward with you. Well, we started by getting a jump start on Earth Day celebration. DeCA has implemented initiatives to reduce customer usage of plastic bags. These include offering reusable cloth bags for purchase and promoting plastic bag recycling. When compared to commercial supermarkets, commissaries are about 40 percent more energy efficient, and annual water use has been reduced by 25 percent from 2007 levels. We put competitive prices on LED bulbs and high-efficiency detergents. We also took additional steps to replace old-school cleaning products with high-efficiency cleaning products in our stores.
These significant steps to help the planet recover are providing valuable benefits to many people and the Earth. Last year 177 CONUS stores donated more than 4.5 million pounds of otherwise unsellable merchandise to 193 food banks across the nation so far this year, with the total expected to top 5 million pounds. April 22 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and we already brought our “A” game in the progressive battle to protect the Earth. As our family, we invite you to share in the reward and the responsibility. If you can, buy our reusable shopping bags with cool designs. We will continue to seek smart ways to reduce waste and reduce our environmental footprint.