The recession has been particularly hard on retailers, except for the biggest one of all. Wal-Mart sales rose 6.5% in 2008, and its stock price jumped 19.5%. When former CEO Lee Scott handed the reins to Mike Duke this February, he had much to be proud of, especially the way Wal-Mart has embraced sustainability.

"We're not green," the never-satisfied Scott declared last March. But under his leadership, Wal-Mart got greener every day.

A few examples of its green-ovation:

  1. A drive to reduce packaging led to a new gallon milk container that eliminates use of crates and greatly reduces transport costs, and inspired HP to produce a laptop sold in a messenger bag, eliminating unnecessary packaging.
  2. Stores in Fort Smith, Arkansas, seeking to be a model for the company, reduced material sent to landfills by 70% by recycling everything from motor-oil containers to black plastic plant pots.
  3. A prototype supercenter in Las Vegas uses 45% less energy than a typical one, thanks to white-reflective roofs, an efficient closed-loop cooling system, and extensive use of LEDs in refrigerated display cases—lighting that is likely to last as long as the cases themselves.

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