Leading by Example:
Green It Like You Mean It
with Erica Edmond
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.
There has been a
rise in eating local, for example. Not only does it taste better
than the grocery store, but buying local and eating what’s in season
saves money and the resources that it costs to transport food to
one-stop-shopping nationwide. Businesses are looking more closely
at their waste -- paper, 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. At Cheetah
Learning and Cheetah Power, we are committed to growing virtually
with all of our employees working out of their homes. It’s saved us
tremendously on real estate costs and also made our carbon footprint
smaller. 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Discovery Channel: this company
is not only green in the information it communicates through its
many environmentally informative television shows, but through its
company actions and practices. The Discovery Channel has
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 initiatives 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.
Small Steps For A
I often hear people
talk about the enormity of being green, and then the Project Manager
in me comes alive and I have to remind them that anything is
possible with a project plan that can break the most monstrous goals
down into doable and realistic parts.
Develop a “Green
Business Check List” to get your company thinking about ways it can
behave in a greener and more sustainable manner. Here are a few
areas to consider with a sample question to get you started. There
are plenty more for you to go through, but this can serve as a
useful thought starter.
Environmental Social Responsibility:
Do you only invest in environmentally conscious
companies? Use your investment portfolio to only support business
organizations or industries that operate in an environmentally
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. Post a number to call near
sinks so someone may fix it right away. Do you keep radiators free
of office furniture? Make sure that furniture does not block the
radiators as otherwise the heat will be wasted.
Policy: Have you set
up a ‘Green Team’ or ‘Eco Champions’ team in your company? By
getting your employees involved and part of the greening process,
they will feel valued.
you have a collection point for Aluminum, Glass, or Plastic?
Do you have a green IT infrastructure?
There are now over
1.1 billion computers in operation worldwide, collectively producing
about one billion tons of CO2 through their electricity
requirements. Also contributing to the earth’s pollution are
outdated computer equipment, mobile phones and electronic gadgets
that make up 5% of the world's garbage. Considering our continuing
demand to have the latest and greatest in multitasking phones and so
on, that’s an alarming amount of products to be tossed aside each
Office Supplies: Do you have
a printer that can print on both sides?
If you don’t have a
printer that can print on both sides, then consider investing in one
once your lease for the existing one is up for renewal or when your
existing one no longer works.
Rather than traveling to meetings have you invested in
suitable technology for conference calls? It is worthwhile
investigating alternatives such as using iChat or SKYPE for meetings
that require face time.
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 plant
pots. This will be beneficial to the planet and much easier on the
eyes than sterile office files.
Get What You Need:
“Opie, you haven't finished your milk. We can't put it back in the
cow, you know.” ~Aunt Bee Taylor, The Andy Griffith Show
Taking what you need or making use of what you have is an easy place
to begin your journey to contributing to a greener you. How do you
see your organization becoming more resourceful with materials and
money? How will you continue to evaluate its progress towards being
an eco-friendly company that you can feel proud of? Take a small
step towards this victory…and then another small step…and then
another. Each step is for the generations that follow us. Walk on!
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