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.

31 One initial problem with Staples‘ new emphasis on recycled paper: less durable products. The solution? Reinvent paper. The company’s hanging file folders now include 50% regenerated cotton (aka “denim”), and its “carbon neutral” notebook paper is 90% bagasse, a sugarcane by-product the company buys from Argentine farmers who would otherwise burn the spent cane, polluting their own communities.


32 Talk about turning garbage into a useful resource: The University of New Hampshire signed a deal this year with Waste Management Inc. to get 80% to 85% of the power and heat for its 14,000-student campus, using methane piped in from a nearby landfill. UNH must build a 12.7-mile pipeline to carry the gas, but the $45 million project is expected to save enough to pay for itself in 10 years.

33 Take the foodie trend of consuming only locally grown products and apply it to sportswear: That’s what Nike has done with its Considered line. The company has committed to sourcing as much of the products’ raw materials as possible–recycled polyester and rubber, organic cotton, hemp–from within 200 miles of the factory, cutting the environmental and financial costs of transportation. Of course, the finished goods still have a long trip to market; the Considered line is made in China and Thailand.

34 If flying is the new smoking, fractional jet companies are the eco-equivalent of Philip Morris. But this fall, Warren Buffett’s NetJets begins hitting its clients with a healthy dose of guilt serum: $5,000 extra a year, to pay for carbon offsets.

35 Surfers are generally pro-environment; their petrochemical-based gear is not. Patagonia is looking to change that. Its latest wet suit is made of Japanese neoprene, unbleached New Zealand merino wool, and PVC-free kneepads; and it uses 80% less petroleum than its competitors. Better yet (for surfers), at 3 millimeters thick, it produces the same warmth typically associated with 5 millimeters.

36 Emissions aren’t the only enviro-scourge of the air-travel industry. U.S. airlines throw away enough aluminum cans every year to build 58 new 747s. At the urging of its own flight attendants, Delta Air Lines launched an on-board recycling program this past summer in a few of its hubs. In the first three months, flight attendants, who sorted cans, newspapers, and plastic, collected 60 tons of recyclables. The program will expand to all domestic flights by the end of 2008.

37 Not content to confine its green efforts to recycling, Delta has also become the first U.S. airline to offer its passengers carbon offsets for their trips at the same time that they buy their tickets. The offsets–available only at–cost $5.50 per roundtrip domestic ticket, and the money goes to the Conservation Fund’s Go Zero program.


38 Paper or plastic? The unsatisfying answer is neither. Retailers including Ikea and Trader Joe’s sell heavy-duty polypropylene sacks designed to be reused. But how do you get convenience-obsessed American shoppers actually to use them again? Timberland‘s “Trash Is My Bag” totes (made from recycled plastic bottles) cost $5.50 each or come free with a $100 purchase; to encourage reuse–and more shopping at Timberland–each bag doubles as a 10%-off coupon through the end of 2008.

39 Speaking of reuse, Target has slashed its waste by 70%. The company has applied its signature craftiness to taking advantage of every opportunity to recycle. Last year, it recycled or refurbished 47,600 broken shopping carts, 2.1 million pounds of broken plastic hangers, 4.3 million pounds of shrink-wrap from distribution centers, and more than 10,000 pounds of rechargeable batteries.

40 Knocking down drywall and rebuilding the office every time your workforce shifts doesn’t exactly square with running a sustainable business. Enter Steelcase‘s new Pathways Privacy Wall, a 10-foot-high steel-frame reconfigurable wall that also happens to be the first of its kind that’s “cradle-to-cradle” certified–meaning the entire structure can be economically (and easily) disassembled into component materials for recycling. What’s more, it contains 30% recycled materials to begin with.

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