ENVIRONMENTAL bosses at Marks & Spencer have revealed how York's new Monks Cross store is playing a major role in the brand's bid to become the world's most sustainable retailer.

Not only is the 100,000sq ft store, due to open at the Vangarde Shopping Park on April 10, set to be one of the greenest Marks& Spencer in Britain, but it will become a trailblazer for new sustainable features for the business.

York's store will be one of the company's Sustainable Learning Stores. The concept was introduced in 2011, and sets aside certain branches as "experimental stores" to test and evaluate new operational methods.

The Sustainable Learning Stores form part of the brand's Plan A strategy, which is Marks & Spencer's eco and ethical programme aimed at making the brand the world's most sustainable major retailer by 2015.

Munish Datta, head of Plan A at Marks & Spencer, said: "One of the key commitments we have got is the Sustainable Learning Stores.

"if something we test at these stores is successful we take these features forward and integrate them into our core specifications for new and existing stores and our processes for how we do things.

"We have got seven sustainable learning stores since we introduced them in 2011. The next one is York Monks Cross. We are really delighted to come to York with not just a great retail property but one that's sustainable as well."

The York store will see a number of 'firsts' for the brand based on environmental credentials.

One of those already achieved is the store achieving an energy performance rate of A.

Mr Datta said: "It is the first time we have achieved that rating for an M&S store. The York store is 20 per cent more energy efficient and 27 per cent more carbon efficient than earlier built stores. If we opened this store in 2007 it would have been 50 per cent less energy efficient than what it is today."

Another first for the brand at the York store is the installation of 600 solar panels on the roof, which will power the cafe, and ten per cent of the store as a whole.

Mr Datta said: "Following the success of this in York we hope to align this to more of our existing stores in the future.

"We have also maximised the amount of light. We are allowing lots of natural light to reduce the amount of artificial light we have to use.

"We have got 60 architectural roof lights. Also, through using light sensors and dimmers, when it is a bright day in York, and there is lots of sunlight automatically, the artificial lights will be dimmed in the store."

Hot water for the cafe will be heated by a specially designed boiler which uses waste heat coming off equipment in the store, while toilets will be flushed using rainwater collected on the roof.

Mr Datta said: "There's some real firsts at this store in terms of re-using equipment.

"All our food hall areas will be made up of equipment which used to be in other stores.

"Naturally, a brand new store would get completely new equipment but we thought that was an area for making potential carbon savings.

" Almost all of the shelving in the food hall is reused.

"In the clothing department 19 per cent of the signage is made from recycled acrylic."

The store's environmentally friendly credentials will be highlighted externally with a green, 1,800sq ft living wall on the front of the store.

Mr Datta said: "We want to provide habitats, and we have made sure that the plants in the living wall are sympathetic to what grows locally naturally.

"We have learnt that having something as visual as a green living wall really makes our store colleagues behave differently. It makes them think green, and think about energy saving.

"These habitats we are creating are becoming almost a corporate branding for us now."