Someone Somewhere is Doing Something

Less than a year ago, everyone was all about the environment.  But with so many other topics taking center stage, many have started wondering what, if anything, is happening on the green front.

While there’s almost no news coming from Washington these days, environmental initiatives are taking shape across America.  Progress may not be as quick as some would like, but green projects are taking form like never before.  Here are some examples of what’s happening out there:

The Gap Inc. is powering its West Coast distribution center with a 1-megawatt solar power system, which it expects to offset 2.5 million pounds of green house gas annually.  Also using solar energy in various operations to cut back on fossil-fuel energy use: Applied Materials, United Natural Foods, Aveda, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Sam’s Club, Toyota, Constellation Wines and Rutgers University.  Want to go solar yourself?  There are products available in the Neutral Existence store to help, or check out solar panels at Ikea or Sam’s Club.

While the economic crisis may have curbed the American desire to build, build, build, it seems many of those who are constructing or renovating structures are doing it with a green mindset.  This year, 51 Stop & Shop grocery stores received LEED certification.  Coffee Beans International opened a LEED certified office and bean roasting facility in Portland, Oregon recently. Toyota unveiled its first LEED certified car dealership in Utah—it unveiled the first ever in Texas. Kettle Foods has a Gold LEED manufacturing facility and Kraft has an 800,000 sq. ft. LEED recognized distribution center near Chicago. Not much good news on banking these days, but all new Wells Fargo and Citi branches are following pre-certified LEED designs, like a variety of other consumer market builders, including Office Depot.

There’s no longer a need to pitch electronics to the landfill and whine about how nobody is offering recycling services.  Dell and Toshiba both offer programs, and Office Depot has an extensive one itself, particularly targeting items like printer cartridges and old cell phones.  Best Buy’s got one, too.  Hewlett-Packard has even partnered with the State of California to TRACK where its recyclable printer cartridges go.  So stop waiting for curbside e-waste pick up and stop those pitiful stories on third-world people who get paid pennies to unsafely dismantle American e-waste.

And Home Depot – all of them – now recycles your CFL bulbs.  If you didn’t know these great new bulbs need to be treated separately from your basic garbage, shame on you.  They contain mercury, which if regularly disposed of by everyone in their curbside trash could turn landfills into an ever bigger problem down the road.  Home Depot knows that with its retail weight, it can get great deals on bulk recycling of these “could be hazardous” little curlicues.  Say thank you when you drop yours off.

If you’re into pre-cycling, try the ultimate pre-cycle.  Buy H-P’s Pavillion laptop at a Sam’s Club or Wal-Mart in a reusable, 100 percent-recycled messenger bag.  Or look into Payless’s up and coming line of eco-shoes,mm made from recycled fabrics, rubbers, etc. Or if you partake in an occasional drink or two, make it Miller Time. Miller Brewing which currently recycles 99.9 percent of its packaging waste.

Corporate and business initiatives will hopefully continue to grow – this listing hasn’t even scratched the surface.  You can encourage projects and programs like these with your dollars.  If you want to know more, visit http://www.environmentalleader.com – it’s a Web site all about what the business world is doing on the green front. These examples all came from it. 

Now for the caveat.  Are these initiatives all perfect?  Probably not. Are some public relations-based more than responsibility-based? Most likely. Could corporate America do more?  Absolutely. 

It’s no secret that business is slow on this stuff.  That doesn’t mean that every project or initiative it does support to the global audience is greenwash. Many of these, as well as programs in hotels, sports arenas, apparel manufacturing and other industries, have produced real results, and more importantly, have the potential to convince those with the purse strings to keep investing in green.

What will transpire under the current market conditions remains to be seen.  Some of these projects and others like it might die for re-financing to right the system.  At the same time, there are those in the hallowed halls out there who realize that there’s a reason the word “efficiency” is so often linked to green.  Better operating procedures, better buildings, better management of raw materials and waste, just make for better business.

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