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Green It Like You Mean It

February 1, 2011
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By following the examples set by others, companies can implement their own green initiatives.



Once upon a time, the act of saving the environment seemed to be limited to a yearly celebration called Earth Day during which, as on New Year’s, people made resolutions that they wouldn’t necessarily keep. Saving the environment and contributing to a healthier world has seemed like a great idea for decades, but everyone has always had an excuse; it is either too big a task for one individual, or it is a terribly time-consuming activity that could cut into potential money-making time.

Then things started to change at work, school and home. From unthinkable gas prices and a tough job market to skyrocketing health care costs, many folks have come to a similar conclusion: it is time to become more resourceful and live better. For example, there has been a rise in eating locally. Not only does locally grown food taste better than grocery store products, but buying locally and eating what is in season saves money and conserves the necessary resources that are used to transport food to one-stop shopping nationwide.

Businesses are looking more closely at their waste, too. Is it really necessary to throw dollars away on everything from the energy needed to power an office 24/7 to disposable coffee cups and plastic packaging for products?

Many methods are available to jumpstart your green initiative and operate your business in an eco-friendly and sustainable way. The best way to discover these methods is to observe how other businesses are doing it.

How to Succeed at Green

To get your juices flowing, here are six businesses that are successfully initiating the green movement. These multinational businesses received Natural Health Magazine’s Green Choice Awards in 2009 for their excellence in leading by example across the globe.

Wal-Mart. Although many have been skeptical of this retailer’s green practices in the past, Wal-Mart now has a very large-scale environmental plan of action to power each of its stores with 100% renewable energy. Wal-Mart plans to set aside $500 million a year to increase fuel efficiency within its truck fleet, decrease solid wastes and energy consumption in its stores, and implement a number of other environmental endeavors.

Starbucks. With a “bean-to-cup” motto and approach to business, Starbucks uses environmentally savvy methods at each stage of production. Made from post-consumer goods, Starbucks’ recycled cup sleeves saved more than 78,000 trees in 2006.

Verizon. Its HopeLine initiative saved more than 5.6 million cell phones from ending up in landfills; instead, they were used to fund more than $6.3 million in cash grants to domestic violence agencies. Verizon has played a leadership role in encouraging customers and shareholders to choose paperless options. In addition, Verizon Wireless has signed agreements to deploy smart power grids and has continued to upgrade its fiber-optic network with equipment that performs four times more efficiently while reducing cooling costs. This is equivalent to keeping as many as 16,000 cars off the road annually.

Whole Foods. This organic and natural food chain was the first company to buy enough wind energy credits to compensate for 100% of the electricity it consumes. Whole Foods has eliminated its use of disposable plastic bags and replaced them with reusable bags (made from recycled plastic bottles) for customers.

Aveda. This natural beauty product manufacturer uses primarily organic materials in its products. Aveda also employs wind power in its manufacturing facility to reduce electricity consumption, and it uses 100% recycled packing materials. In addition, Aveda funds wildlife preservations. Since 1999, the company has raised $8 million for environmental causes.

Discovery Channel. This company is not only eco-conscious in the information that is communicated via its many environmentally focused television shows, but also through its corporate actions and practices. The Discovery Channel has compensated for CO2 emissions by making equal contributions to environmental projects and using energy-efficient lighting, architecture, and water systems in its company headquarters. In August 2010, Discovery Channel took over a leading environmental lifestyle website, treehugger.com, as part of the company’s initiatives to inform people about important environmental issues. The company has also set aside $50 million to create green television programming and introduced a new show, “Ways to Save the Planet.”

Small Steps for a Large Feat

People often talk about the enormity of implementing a green initiative, but anything is possible with a project plan; the right plan can break the most monstrous goals down into doable and realistic parts. Develop a Green Business Checklist to get your company thinking about ways it can behave in a greener and more sustainable manner. Here are a few areas to consider:

Energy, Water and Heat

Do you make use of natural light by keeping windows and skylights clean and clear? Don’t turn lights on in the middle of the day if you have sufficient natural light coming into your office. Do you regularly check and fix any leaking taps? Over the long term, a leaking tap can waste a significant amount of water. Do you keep radiators free of office furniture? Make sure that furniture does not block the radiators, which wastes heat.

Environmental Policy

Have you set up a Green Team in your company? Employees will feel valued if they are part of the greening process.

Housekeeping

Do you have a collection point for aluminum, glass, plastic or paper?

Information Communication/Technology

Do you have a green IT infrastructure? Over 1.1 billion computers are now in operation worldwide; these computers collectively produce about 1 billion tons of CO2 through their electricity requirements. Outdated computer equipment, mobile phones and electronic gadgets, which make up 5% of the world’s garbage, also contribute to global pollution. If one considers the continued demand for the latest and greatest in multitasking phones and so on, the number of products to be tossed aside yearly could escalate to an alarming amount.

Office Supplies

Do you have a printer that can print on both sides? If you don’t, consider investing in one when the lease for the existing printer is up for renewal or the printer needs to be replaced.

Travel and Transportation

Rather than traveling to meetings, have you invested in suitable technology for conference calls? It is worthwhile to investigate alternatives such as iChat or Skype for meetings that require face time.

Wildlife and Biodiversity

Have you created a wildlife area around your office? Even if you only have a concrete courtyard, you can still create a wildlife area by planting some native plants and flowers in planters. This will be beneficial to the planet and much easier on the eyes than sterile office files.

Get What You Need

Aunt Bee Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show” says, “Opie, you haven’t finished your milk. We can’t put it back in the cow, you know.” Taking only what you need or making use of what you have is an easy place to begin your journey to contributing to a greener world.

How do you see your organization becoming more resourceful with materials and money? How will you continue to evaluate its progress? Keep aiming for an eco-friendly company that you can be proud of. Take a small step toward this victory, and then another step, and then another.

For more information, contact Cheetah Learning at (519) 826-5755 or visit www.cheetahpower.net.

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