A green droplet in the ocean?

When is a classroom project really successful? When you talk about it outside class and discuss and develop new ideas. I did that with my friend NerdyLaura and apparently, I got her with me on the green wave. In her latest blog post, she discusses McDonald’s going-green-campaign and the money-making strategy that might be behind it. This week, after having written so much on ideas and ways to go green, I’d like to present examples of lots of different (well-known) firms and organizations which make an effort in environmental questions, even if they are only a small fraction of all the companies out there. It is up to you to decide, whether the purpose of their green work is pure money making or simply the love to the world and ecological awareness and whether this work is just a droplet in the ocean.

NerdyLaura wrote about a McDonald’s in Paris which only sells salads and actually there are few things that scream “waste” as loudly as the plastic containers you fill at salad bars.  The useful life of those containers is about 35 minutes but the plastic need several thousand years (!) in order to decompose. Whole Foods Market, a famous U.S. supermarket for natural and organic products, used conventional salad containers but changed them recently into containers made of sugar-cane waste, which can decompose in about 3 months. In order to reduce even the plastic forks, you can get ones made of rice (their stability is even better than that of ordinary plastic forks).

Markets like Whole Food Market often distribute locally grown products, as their travel costs are low. The sportswear company Nike applied this trend in its Considered Line. As much of the raw materials, like a pair of shoes, as possible comes from within 200 miles of the factory. Recycled polyester, rubber, organic cotton, hemp are there and therefore no costs, neither environmental nor financial, have to be paid for those goods. The final product has nevertheless to travel because the Considered Line is made in Thailand and China.

If you are interested in eco-friendly clothing, check out the British website Green Clothes. Did you know that the wife of Oscar-winner Colin Firth, Livia Firth, is the proprietor of a green shop called Eco Age? When she accompanies her husband on the red carpet, she only wears eco-fashion and encourages other women to do the same when dressing up for special events.

Another fashion store goes green: GAP, together with its brands like Banana Republic or Piperlime, tries to do a lot in order to “make a difference”. Their list of environmental projects is long and impressive. For example, the gift cards they sell are made of 88 % recycled material and since last year, all the price tags will be converted to 100 % post-consumer recycled material. Step by step, GAP goes into a greener future and if you think recycled price tags are peanuts, get this: GAP price tags alone count up to 10 tons of paper!

The Hawaiian sports equipment company DaKine as literally surfing on the green wave. They sell eco-friendly bags. If you buy a bag from the OCEANA PROJECT BLUE collection, a part of the money goes directly to the Surfrider Foundation in order to save beaches and the ocean. Bags from the RE-GEN collection are made from 100 % PET material (during the Football World Championship 2010 about 13 mio. PET-bottles have been recycled). For girls, they’ve got a bag named RACHEL which is very special as it is vegan but looks like leather.

As we are speaking of bags: remember one of my previous blog posts and the waste pyramid. The priority is to reduce waste and we can do it by re-using shopping bags. Retailers including IKEA and Trader Joe’s sell big polypropylene sacks designed to be reused. But how do you get those lazy costumers to bring the bag the next time? Timberland has the answer. Its “Trash Is My Bag” totes, made from recycled plastic bottles, cost about $6 each or come free with a $100 purchase and in order to encourage reuse (and shopping at Timberland) each bag serves as a 10%-off coupon since 2009.

My colleague angiethiem writes about the famous letter “E” and I’d like to make a contribution with the word “e-waste”. According to Greenpeace, the demand for new technology creates 4 000 tons of e-waste per hour, which often ends up on dead-hardware mountains in countries like India, Africa or China. The computer company Dell is leading in the field of recycling at least parts for a new gadget.  In 2009, Dell recovered 40 000 tons of unwanted equipment for recycling which is up 93% from 2005.

Garbage can also be turned into a useful resource. The University of New Hampshire gets 80-85 % of the power and heat for its 14 000-student campus, using methane from a nearby landfill. The university had to build a 13 mile pipeline to carry the gas, but the $45 million project is expected to save enough money to pay itself off in 10 years.

At the end, I give you an example for green work in the field of music. Before Rick Rubin agreed to run the famous label Columbia Records, he made several demands. He wouldn’t wear a suit, travel or have a common office, and he convinced Columbia to eliminate the plastic jewel cases from CD packaging.  Both Jack Johnson (check out is eco-song) and Pearl Jam have green requirements for their venues.

Maybe, pushing a green agenda during contract negotiations in rare at the moment, but I hope that it will change in the future. Going green is no longer an action in the underground as big companies started to show their green labels. All those examples are good but not good enough. We are on the right way and now we have to go further into the green direction. Some years ago, green business was a droplet in the ocean and now it is maybe a pond. Let’s make it an ocean!

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About SparklinGesine

20 year-old girly girl from the eastern part of Germany, now studying at the Berlin School of Economics and Law. Loves music, cinema and this fancy invention called "internet". View all posts by SparklinGesine

2 responses to “A green droplet in the ocean?

  • Franzi

    Wow Gesine, I´m impressed! How long did it take you to write it? You give so many striking examples. Your introduction is great and your conclusion or demand is even better. Moreover it´s interesting to see how your interests inside the group seem to overlap.
    This was really worth reading it! ;)

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