The cover story in the Sept. 28 issue of Newsweek magazine is "The Greenest BIG Companies in America." What is the difference between going green, sustainability and your carbon footprint, and what can you do to get in the game?
If your company has made a decision to go green, it is making a move toward sustainability. Sustainability development, according to Wikipedia, is a pattern of resource use that aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment for today as well as for future generations. Once a company has efficiently maximized its sustainability efforts, it can contribute to a lighter carbon, or ecological, footprint.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a company that decides to go green should:
1) Develop an organization-wide environmental policy.
2) Develop an environmentally preferable purchasing policy.
3) Create environmental language contracts.
4) Communicate environmental initiatives to the public.
5) Involve staff at all levels (and do not forget to train employees).
6) Put together a sustainability report.
Getting started is the most difficult part of any new project. Start by picking the areas that can make the largest impact with the smallest amount of effort — the low-hanging fruit, if you will. For this scenario, let’s look at energy, paper and water for a research and development lab.
ENERGY. For many of us, the computer is the central work tool. Optimizing the energy settings for computers, sleep mode and other devices can be more than a modest energy saver. By plugging hardware into a power strip with an on/off switch, the whole desktop can be turned off at once at the end of the day. Many appliances have "standby" settings that draw power — sometimes as much as 15 or 20 watts — even when they are turned off. An on/off power strip will help eliminate low power mode usage. When electronics need to be replaced, ensure that the new items are labeled with the Energy Star designation, which certifies office equipment and appliances are optimized for energy efficiency.
In your laboratory offices and work areas, install sensors to automatically turn off lights when no one is in the room. When possible, install skylights to use natural lighting. Replace existing lighting with high-efficiency light bulbs. Exceptions to this approach may be in the areas where natural lighting is needed for product scoring or taste-panel evaluations.
PAPER. If you are a paper pusher, it is time to break the habit. Do not print e-mail messages unless necessary. Put the phrase: "Don’t print this e-mail unless you really need to," at the bottom of all messages so recipients think twice before hitting the print button. On printers and copiers, set the default to double-sided printing.
Periodicals can typically be viewed online. Only sign up for the printed version, if you like to read magazines while traveling.
In restrooms, use hand drying units to reduce paper towel use. Cloth towels can be rented through your uniform service and laundered each week for use in the laboratory. Provide each employee with a reusable mug for their daily coffee. Encourage employees to use a refillable drink bottle rather than a paper cup or bottled water.
According to the NRDC, a typical office disposes of about 350 lb of wastepaper per year. If the first-year goal is to reduce paper waste by 10% and your R&D center employs 30 people, that reduces your annual refuge by 1,050 lb. It is a start. And if you are not throwing the paper away, then you probably aren’t buying it in the first place.
WATER. Begin by having enough utensils, equipment and pans to use throughout the day. Stopping to wash utensils throughout the day will waste time and water. Use the scrape-and-wash method for cleaning equipment rather than rinse-and-wash, so not to wash batter or dough down the drain. Bake off the extra dough or batter on a sheet pan in the oven to kill the leavening activity. This will allow you to collect organic materials and send it for use as animal feed. A Sept. 22 article on www.just-food.com "Sara Lee Reduces Global Water Usage" can be found at www.just-food.com/article.aspx?id=108117. The article reports that Sara Lee has cut its water usage by more than 20% in the past four years as part of the food group’s aim of reducing the water it uses worldwide. The reduction was achieved by conducting water audits, performing preventive maintenance on boilers and cooling towers and implanting dry clean-up techniques. View Sara Lee’s sustainability program at www.saralee.com/AboutSaraLee/Sustainability.aspx.
With all these ways to go green, how did the food and retail industry fare in the Newsweek article? Consumer packaged goods companies HJ Heinz and General Mills were No. 90 and 96, respectively. The food retailers fared better, with Starbucks coming in at No. 10, McDonalds at No. 22 and Wal-Mart at No. 59.
If you plan to send this article on to a coworker, send them the link instead of printing it. It may seem like a small thing, but remember that a long journey starts with the first step.
This article can also be found in the digital edition of Baking & Snack, November 1, 2009, starting on Page 12. Click here to search that archive.