50 Ways to Green Your Business

Half-a-hundred options for cleaning up your business, from the universal (catch that rainwater!) to the specific (lose the plastic bowls!). Mix, match–join in.

21 Casual Friday might not resonate with natty Italians, but when the country’s largest power company, Eni, wanted to save some energy (and money), it asked its workers to embrace “lighter and cooler” attire and raised the thermostats at HQ one degree Celsius. The summer’s savings: 217,000 kilowatts and CO2 emissions equivalent to 140 employees taking public transport for a year.


22 The much-hyped Bank of America Tower, which will be the second-tallest building in New York when it’s finished next year, is the first skyscraper in America to pursue LEED Platinum certification. Our favorite innovation: a geothermal heat-exchange system that’s the first of its kind in a high-rise. In the winter, pumps will draw heat from groundwater to help warm the building; in the summer, the process will work in reverse, pumping excess heat into the bedrock beneath the tower. The system will contribute to the building’s goal of using just half the electricity of a conventional building its size.

23 Meeting LEED standards isn’t the only way to green a building. Sun Microsystems likes to nix office space entirely. Its Open Work program, 10 years and 20,000 participants strong (that’s 56% of Sun’s workforce), gives employees the option to work from home. Talk about a triple bottom line: In 2006, Sun saved $67.8 million in real-estate costs, prevented nearly 29,000 tons of CO2 emissions, and increased worker productivity by 34%. The master of the virtual workspace now has a consulting practice to help other companies do the same.

24 Timberland awards its employees who buy hybrids not only with a primo parking spot but also with $3,000 toward the car’s purchase. Bank of America has a similar program. Google is one-upping both with a $5,000 incentive.

25 At Enterprise Rent-A-Car, about half the fleet–more than 334,000 vehicles–gets more than 28 mpg (nearly 10 times the number of fuel-efficient vehicles offered by its closest competitor, Enterprise boasts). The company is adding thousands of hybrids and FlexFuel cars.

26 At its Manhattan headquarters, JPMorgan Chase is starting renovations at the top–on the roof, 53 stories up, where the bank is building what is essentially a giant pan to collect rainwater. The water will be funneled into a 55,000-gallon tank in the basement, filtered, and then piped up for toilet flushing. Coupled with new low-flush urinals and toilets, this system will cut the building’s water use–and cost–by 30%.

27 The corporate restroom isn’t fully green without Dyson‘s new Airblade hand dryer, which does its job in half the time (12 seconds) and with half the energy (1,400 watts) of conventional dryers. It costs four times as much up front, but the energy savings can pay you back in three years. AMC Theatres is testing the units now.


28 California-based managed-care provider Kaiser Permanente knew that its vinyl floors weren’t doing Mother Nature (or patients or employees) any favors: PVC in the vinyl releases dioxin when it’s created, and it lets loose other harmful particulates when buffed, to say nothing of the harsh chemicals used in cleaning it. Kaiser started replacing the floors in 2005 with PVC-free recycled rubber, which costs more to install but pays for itself in five years by slashing maintenance costs by as much as 80%. A side benefit: fewer slips and falls (and calmer actuaries as a result).

29 It was 1853 when Otis introduced the first safety elevator and forever changed the urban landscape. With the introduction of the company’s Gen2 lift, the company has re-imagined what has largely been unchanged for more than 150 years. Replacing steel cables with a flat, polyurethane-coated steel belt, Otis was able to eliminate a bulky machine room and create a lubrication-free system. The result is not only a quieter and smoother ride, but combined with “regenerative drive” technology that returns electricity to the building grid, the new elevators are 75% more efficient than conventional drive systems. Gen2 lifts are becoming de rigueur in the slickest, greenest new towers, including Fast Company‘s new home, 7 World Trade Center.

30 Unlike most big-box retailers that are debuting discrete green product lines, Staples has eco-modified a whopping 3,000 of its mainstream private-label products to include at least 30% post-consumer waste. From sticky notes to shipping boxes, nearly all of the new offerings do not have a nonrecycled alternative in the product line. The end goal: to pressure the entire industry to follow suit.

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