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Walmart Helping to Lead Green Initiative in Corporate America

Not so long ago, “going green” was seen as something that was only important to granola-crunching hippies. Fortunately for all of us and the planet we live on, times have changed. As the effects of global warming and pollution become harder and harder to ignore, people have become more eager to do something about it. Many mainstream corporations have been jumping on the eco-bandwagon as well, whether from a new found sense of environmental responsibility or simply from a desire to tap into the rapidly expanding “green” market niche. What are businesses actually doing to help the environment, and how can you tell the truly green from the “greenwashers”?

There are several different ways that companies can adjust their operations to benefit the environment. Read on to which companies are making an impact in each area. The standouts in some of these fields may surprise you!

walmart_green.jpg1. Reducing Carbon Emissions: Carbon dioxide is the most important greenhouse gas. In 2002, the US alone emitted 6,862 million tons of the stuff, according to carbonfund.org. Businesses can do their part by reducing the amount of emissions they produce, often by becoming more efficient and burning fewer fossil fuels. For example, Continental Airlines has invested heavily in reducing emissions, adding fuel-saving devices that can reduce emissions by 5% to the wings of many of its planes. Wal-Mart has also won the wary admiration of some environmentalists by taking steps to reduce emissions. First, the company took steps to improve its fuel efficiency by 25%, according to the Sierra Club. This action alone resulted in a savings of 400,000 tons of CO2/year. The company is also using its mafia-like powers to encourage its suppliers to cut their emissions, making them an offer they can’t refuse-better placement on the shelves in exchange for better environmental practices.

2. Taking responsibility for products: For some companies, it’s not just the energy cost of doing business, but rather the products themselves that are a concern. For example, electrical devices like cell phones and computers seem innocuous enough, but they contain toxic heavy metals and other substances that cause problems when the devices are thrown away. Companies in industries that make products like this can go green by reformulating the products, and/or by taking responsibility for disposing of them after their lifespan is over. For example, S.C Johnsonhas reformulated several of its big-name cleaning products, as well as its plastic wrap, to remove volatile organic chemicals and other pollutants. So, next time you’re at the store and can’t find your favorite “all-natural, biodegradable, eco-friendly cleaner,” don’t feel guilty about grabbing a bottle of one of their products instead. In the computer industry, Hewlett-Packard is known for its recycling program, which keeps the toxic components of computers from leaching out into the environment.

3. The three R’s: reduce, reuse and recycle: Reducing packaging or making it biodegradable can help reduce the amount of trash that ends up in landfills. Here again, Wal-mart has used its corporate muscle to take the initiative, vowing to sell only super-concentrated laundry detergent to reduce packaging. Also, Method cleaning products helped to counter the trash-producing disposable cleaning cloth craze with its O-Mop product. This product resembles the popular Swiffer, but its dust-attracting cleaning cloths are actually made of cornstarch and will break down in your compost heap. For wet-mopping, the O-mop uses washable microfiber cleaning pads instead of disposable wet-wipes. Also, many companies have their own recycling programs. For example, Bank of America’s recycling program saves approximately 200,000 trees each year. Wal-Mart offers recycling bins in some its stores, for customer wanting to drop off cans and plastic bottles.

4. Encouraging innovation: Let’s face it-reducing our current energy use can only take us so far. To solve the climate crisis, we have to develop new ways of producing energy that don’t rely on fossil fuels. So, one of the most powerful ways that businesses can help the environment is by pioneering new technologies or by investing in them. For example, Tesla Motors developed an electric car that is not only emissions-free, but fast and sexy, too. Now, if only they could make it affordable… Google is investing in companies that promise to create competitive sources of renewable energy, and has partnered with other companies in the computer industry to develop more efficient machines.

At one time, Wal-Mart was the bane of environmentalists, and the Sierra Club-sponsoredWalmartwatch.com takes the position that even though they are doing better over the past couple of years, they haven’t gone nearly far enough to make up for the past 4 decades of abuse. The website offers a fact sheet that details many of Wal-Mart’s less savory environmental practices. So, just because they are cited in this article does not mean that there’s no room for improvement. However, we can’t succeed in cleaning the planet up without cooperation, voluntary or otherwise, from corporate giants like Wal-Mart. If we don’t give credit where credit is due, there’s no incentive for companies to change their environmental attitudes.

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