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Once upon a time, the act of saving the environment seemed to be limited to a yearly celebration called Earth Day where, like New Year’s Eve, people made resolutions that they wouldn’t necessarily keep. For decades, the idea of saving the environment and contributing to a healthier world seemed like a great idea, but it was either too big a task for one individual to handle or a seemingly time consuming activity that would cut into money-making time.
Then things started to change at work, at school and at home. From unthinkable gas prices and a tough job market to skyrocketing health care costs, many folks came to a similar conclusion: To become more resourceful and live better.
Businesses are looking more closely at their wastepaper, energy to power an office 24/7 and throwing dollars away on everything from disposable coffee cups to plastic packaging for products.
There are many ways to kick-start your green initiative at work and operate your business in an eco-friendly and sustainable way. The good news is that there are many ways to be greener. Let’s take a look at how other businesses are doing it.
Doing it and doing it well
To get your juices flowing, here are six businesses that are doing it and doing it well. 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 their stores with 100 percent renewable energy. Wal-Mart plans to set aside $500 million a year to increase fuel efficiency within their truck fleet, decrease energy consumption in their stores, decrease solid wastes from their stores, and a number of other environmental endeavors.
Starbucks: With the company’s “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 and were, instead, 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 signed agreements to deploy smart power grids and continues to upgrade its fiber-optic network with equipment that is four times more efficient and reduces cooling costs. This is equivalent to keeping as many as 16,000 cars off the road annually.
Whole Foods: This organic food chain was the first company to buy the amount of wind-energy credits to compensate for 100 percent of the electricity they consumed. Whole Foods has eliminated their use of disposable plastic bags and replaced them with reusable bags for customers. These reusable bags are made from recycled plastic bottles.
Aveda: The natural-beauty product manufacturer uses primarily organic rather than man-made materials in their products. Aveda also employs wind power in their manufacturing facility to reduce electricity consumption, and they use 100 percent recycled packing materials. On top of these commendable business practices, Aveda funds wildlife preservations, and since 1999 has raised $8 million for environmental causes.
Discovery Channel: The Discovery Channel is not only green in the information it communicates through its many environmentally informative television shows, but through its company actions and practices. Over the years, they have compensated for their carbon dioxide emissions through making equal contributions to environmental feats and projects and using energy-efficient lighting, architecture, and water systems in their company headquarters. In August, Discovery Channel took over the leading environmental lifestyle website, treehugger.com, as part of their initiative to inform people about important environmental issues. Most impressive of all, the company set aside $50 million to create green television programming, beginning with a show entitled Ten Ways to Save the Planet.
Michelle LaBrosse, MSME, PMP, is an engineer and founder of Cheetah Learning and Cheetah Power, a firm specializing in combining accelerated learning and project management. She is a former officer in the U.S. Air Force, as well as a graduate of Harvard Business Schools’ Owner President Management Program. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org