Saving our planet; one bag at a time

April 10, 2008

Green is the new black

Filed under: Branding, Environment — Kaajal @ 5:58 pm

Green is the new black

People who still believe green thinking is restricted to niche players ought to read the brilliant and insightful article below from Infopedia.com (a Forbes company). It is a stark reminder of just how mainstream green thinking has become. Green is truly the new black, both in terms of fashion and now in terms of business.

Capitalism has long dictated the prime corporate mission: Make more money. For a public company, this capitalistic approach is part of its mandate to act in the best interests of shareholders. It seems to work; major corporations have become corporate giants and have gone on to make vast fortunes for their owners.

But for companies that have traditionally pursued growth above all else, their size and success may also have another, less favorable effect: pollution and waste. Companies that were once considered unequivocally successful based on their performance are facing increasing criticism for how their pursuit of profit impacts the environment.

As it turns out, consumer scorn can be bad for profits, too, leaving shareholders to expect much more from the companies in which they invest. The result? An increasing number of companies are “going green”. Find out what’s motivating them to make the change.

Modest Investments Lead to Major Savings
For an increasing number of companies, reducing energy use is one environmental tenet that’s a virtual no-brainer. After all, the lower the amount of resources a company uses, the more money it saves. According to 2006 estimates by the U.S. Department of Energy, industrial use accounts for about one-third of all the energy used in the United States - that’s a lot of room for cost-cutting savings. (For related reading, see Clean Or Green Technology Investing.)

For example, United Parcel Service, one of the world’s largest package delivery companies, began adding hybrid vehicles to its fleet in 2006 to test whether the introduction of these vehicles might reduce their fuel costs (about 5% of their operating expenditures in 2006).

In fact, UPS believes that a shift in consumer sentiment toward environmental preservation will be good for the company’s bottom line; in the 2007 Carbon Disclosure Project Report (in which companies voluntarily respond to a questionnaire and provide data regarding their emissions accounting, management and reduction), UPS reported that it had experienced upside exposure to the global green tech market. In the questionnaire, UPS stated that “managing fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions is a business opportunity - one that can improve the bottom line, reduce our impact and our customers’ impact on the environment and increase the long-term viability of our company.” Competitors such as FedEx are also using hybrid vehicles in an attempt to cut costs - and reduce their environmental impact.

Green Products Score Points with Consumers
Not only can a dose of environmentalism cut costs for companies, it can also raise revenues.

For example, in 2005 General Electric launched Ecomagination, representing a commitment to produce technology that reduces energy consumption and waste. The move paid off as GE reported $10 billion in revenues from the line in 2005 and projects $20 billion in annual sales by 2010.

Similarly, when hybrid cars hit the market in 2000, a mere 9,350 vehicles were sold. Despite this, companies such as Toyota and Honda continued to improve their hybrid technologies. As a result, as consumer concern about climate change grew, these companies stood ready to provide earth-friendly products and gobble up market share. In 2006, 200,000 new hybrids were sold in U.S. - half of them were made by Toyota.

So while “green” has traditionally been thought of as reduction, for some businesses it actually presents an attractive new area for new business lines and top-line growth.

Staying Ahead of the Curve is Good Business
According to an April 2007 article in Newsweek, Nicholas Stern, former head of the World Bank, predicted that climate change could cut global gross domestic product by 20% by 2050 if global warming continued. While global warming - and its causes - are far from certain, some companies are choosing to adapt and prepare for this possibility to ensure their success will continue well into the future, regardless of what the climate may bring.

Companies, such as Nike Inc., which set targets to reduce waste and packaging and become “climate neutral”, and Hewlett-Packard, which is working toward reducing waste and setting up recycling services for electronic waste, made the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World list based on how well they managed environmental risks and opportunities compared to their competitors. The Global 100 compares companies to peers in their sectors and selects companies on a “best-in-class” basis. Global 100 analysts believe these sustainable corporations will create long-term value for shareholders through cost reduction, innovation and other competitive advantages that result from sustainable practices. This suggests that for many companies, getting ahead of the curve by being “green” is just another opportunity for companies to get an advantage over their competitors. (To read more, see Competitive Advantage Counts.)

In addition, with pressure increasing for the government to make regulations to curb corporate pollution, many companies are moving toward adopting some environmental practices before such regulations are put in place. Companies like Alcoa and Dupont for example, have established systems to reduce carbon emission and other harmful chemicals, the most likely targets for government intervention.

Leading the way, these companies, while reducing their impact on the environment, are also mitigating the future risks of regulatory shocks in the future.

Going Green Vs. Going to Court
Concern about environmental lawsuits is another factor that may force companies to clean up their acts. The days when “bad” behavior goes unnoticed are long gone, and the stakes in these cases, which involve everything from the destruction of animal habitats to impacts on human health, are very high.

This issue was dramatized in the popular movie, “Erin Brokovich”, which was based on the 1996 lawsuit in which a small California town sued the Pacific Gas and Electric Company for $333 million for exposing residents living near one of its plants to toxic, health damaging chemicals. A chemical plant in Alabama was struck by a similar suit (and fate) in 2004, when it was slapped with a $700 million settlement for creating pollution that was linked to health problems, including cancer. And in 2007, Ohio-based American Electric Power was forced to pay $4.6 billion to clean up the pollution it had caused, which contributed to acid rain that damaged Northeast mountain ranges and surrounding national landmarks.

These settlements, and the ensuing bad press, can spell disaster for even the largest companies. As a result, companies are beginning to pay more attention to their environmental impact and to reduce the potential that they’ll be held responsible for any damage.

Green is a Flattering Color
Although adopting environmental practices helps companies save money, find new avenues of business and stay clear of trouble, these benefits all contribute to another important profit driver for companies: public relations.

Improved public relations and positive public perception of a company can have a major impact on its bottom line. A January 2006 article in the Economist called public relations an “increasingly vital marketing tool”. Many large companies appear to agree. According to the Council of Public Relations Firms, the companies that tend to be chosen for the Fortune “Most Admired Companies” list spend significantly more on public relations, have large public relations staff and make greater use of outside public relations agencies. Also note that General Electric, Toyota, FedEx, UPS and Wal-Mart - all companies that have made notable efforts to go “green” - were all found in the top 20 of the 2007 “Most Admired” list.

Wal-Mart has proved to be a particularly good example of how companies are adopting environmental practices in an attempt to improve their images. The company - and the big box stores it tends to build - has often been targeted by environmentalists for destroying habitats, producing tons of waste and putting more sustainable local businesses out of commission.

April 8, 2008

Nevada students distribute 3000 reusable cotton bags

Filed under: Branding, Environment — Kaajal @ 6:34 pm

Nevada students distribute 3000 reusable cotton bags

A Nevada school takes the initiative to make the Town of Truckee sensitive to the plastic bag issue. This story appeared on Nevada Appeal.com.

Dressed in green recycling shirts, sixth-grade students darted about in front of Truckee’s Safeway Friday afternoon, handing out reusable grocery bags and polling the community on recycling.

“I think if people see a bunch of kids doing this, it will help the community,” said Camille Hartley, 12, a student in Sue Mock’s ecology class at Alder Creek Middle School.

“If kids can do it, grown-ups can do it too,” added Diana Rosas, 11.

Mock’s students are working with Nichole Dorr, recycling coordinator for the town, who received a $10,000 grant from the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation, and $5,000 from the Rohlf family to buy 3,000 organic cotton shopping bags.

The students have been responsible for learning about recycling and plastic shopping bags, creating a survey for the community about recycling, and planning the distribution of the 3,000 bags, Mock said.

“We’ve done a lot of research and found out really great facts — 600 plastic bags are thrown away every second,” Rosas said.

What the class settled on was distributing the bags for free three different ways: at grocery stores, around their own neighborhoods, and at Earth Day, April 26 at Squaw Valley, Mock said.

But not just anybody can get a free bag, Dorr said. Recipients have to either live or work in the area, and have to fill out a survey on recycling and waste reduction topics.

“We’ll be gauging support for a plastic bag ban in Truckee,” Dorr said. “Then we will give those surveys to town council to consider.”

By keeping the bags local, Dorr said she hopes more people will see them, and become aware of them, and by surveying those receiving them, she hopes to start new waste reduction programs.

“These kids are great, they’ve been a lot of fun, and it’s been a great feeling when in the beginning when I started talking to these kids, they thought waste was somebody else’s responsibility. Now, they say, ‘we want to do this,’ or, ‘we want to do that,” Dorr said. “It’s a whole green movement and these kids are on it.”

Mock said that service projects like this have been beneficial to her students to understand the connection between what they learn and the community, and the students seem to agree.

“It’s been great, a really good feeling to help the community,” Hartley said.

Brand owners could use such opportunities to earn tremendous respect and admiration for their brands by sponsoring such initiatives. Take a look at our website www.badlani.com/bags and you will be amazed at how little it costs.

April 4, 2008

It works. Putting a price on plastic bags works, says IKEA.

Filed under: Branding, Environment — Kaajal @ 4:20 pm

Ever wonder why IKEA is such a respected and admired company?

Ever wonder why IKEA is such a respected and admired company? Its simple things like this that makes it happen.

Since IKEA stopped giving away free plastic bags – you either bring your own or buy one of their giant blue bags for 59 cents – the results have been dramatic.

Until March 2007, the company’s customers were using 70 million bags in the U.S. alone. That’s when IKEA started charging 5 cents per disposable bag. Hoping to cut consumption of the bags by 50 percent — to 35 million bags — IKEA was pleased when usage dropped instead to 6 million bags, said spokesperson Mona Astra Liss.

“The largest majority of customers were very pleased that we were giving them an opportunity to do something to be socially responsible,” Liss said.

IKEA won’t say how many of the big blue bags it sold last year – that, it seems, is proprietary information — but the company said sales of those bags increased tenfold. IKEA dropped plastic bags last year in the U.K. and Australia.

Want to earn this kind of respect for your company also? Talk to us today. Info @ badlani dot com.

 

 

April 3, 2008

Plastic bags kill marine creatures every day

Filed under: Environment — Kaajal @ 6:36 pm

Plastic bags kill whales

This Cuvier’s beaked whale was recently found dead washed up on a British beach. Its stomach was clogged with plastic bags.

Marine biologists believe it is another victim of our careless, plastic bag culture.

Cuvier’s beaked whales are reclusive mammals.

Although they are found in almost every sea in the world, little is known about their behaviour in the wild.

The whales, sometimes known as goose-beaked whales, are around 23ft long and range in colour from brown to purplish black.

The creature’s forehead slopes to a beak - hence their name - and their head is often visible as they swim near the surface.

But while they rarely come across people, and stay away from the coasts, they are still affected by the plastic rubbish we allow to fall into the seas.

Cuvier’s feed on squid, using sophisticated sonar to spot the animals floating in the depths, hundreds of miles off the coast.

Once they have spotted their prey, they dive down and suck in the water around it and sieve it though their mouths.

As the water is sieved in their mouths, any large objects are trapped in their stomachs.

Dr Peter Stevick, scientist with the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, said: “The problem is that when a whale comes across a floating-plastic bag, they mistake it for a squid.

“The bags get stuck in their guts and they can be deadly.”

By the time the adult whale was discovered near Kilninian, Mull, off the West Coast of Scotland, it had been dead in the sea for several days.

A post-mortem examination carried out on the beach found that of the plastic bags or fragments of bag in its stomach, some were large dustbin liners, others the sort handed out by supermarkets.

“This is an animal that feeds 100 or 200 miles off shore - if not further. And yet its stomach was filled with plastic. It’s an indicator of just how widespread this plastic pollution is.”

Plastic waste in the oceans kills around 100,000 whales, dolphins, seals, turtles and other large animals each year.

An estimated one million seabirds also die from strangulation, choking or starvation after eating plastic that has been floating on the sea.

What a sad commentary on society, that we allow such tragedies to occur just for the convenience of carrying our shopping home in a plastic bag. Particularly when attractive and economical alternatives abound in the shape of reusable cloth bags.

April 1, 2008

140 British towns and cities want plastic bags banned or taxed

Filed under: Environment — Kaajal @ 4:12 pm

140 British towns want a ban on plastic bags

A mass movement is building against the throwaway bags that are wrecking our environment, with more than 140 British towns, boroughs and villages demanding a ban. The Daily Mail started a campaign against plastic bags, and they’ve been reporting on how effective it is being.

In Ahmedabad, where I live, the leading English daily is the Times of India, has also started a campaign but a much lower key one where they restrict it to the inside pages of their subsidiary daily the Ahmedabad Mirror.

Reporters from the Ahmedabad Mirror came and met my partner Sanjiv and me and carried a story about our anti-plastic bag activities (but tucked it away on an inside page), their interest aroused by a website Sanjiv’s son Udit started called www.ecorightbags.com. Udit is right now going to college in Australia but hopes to take out time to pursue the campaign both in Australia and here.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail is really going to town with their campaign and it seems to have touched a chord with many consumers. Here’s their story:

A mass movement is building against the throwaway bags that are wrecking our environment, with more than 140 towns, boroughs and villages demanding a ban.

The Government is coming under intense pressure to give local councils the right to impose an outright ban on the “plastic poison”, forcing a switch to long-life re-usable alternatives.

The Daily Mail “Banish the Bags” campaign has fired the enthusiasm of community leaders in places as far afield as Peterborough in Cambridgeshire and Newport in Shropshire.

Even places as distant as Gibraltar have been inspired to act by the Daily Mail’s campaign.

A staggering 12.4billion single-use bags are handed out free of charge by high street stores every year.

Most are used for just 20 minutes before being dumped and sent to landfill sites where they can take up to 1,000 years to rot away.

Millions pollute the countryside, parks, rivers and the oceans, causing untold harm to wildlife, including seabirds, turtles and dolphins.

Local councils have no power to enforce a ban on single-use plastic bags, or impose a levy in order to encourage a switch to alternatives.

Rather, they have to rely on their ability to persuade retailers to voluntarily sign up to a ban. This works in small towns dominated by independent shops, but is impossible when dealing with large chains.

This is why the 33 councils of London are in the forefront of efforts to change the law. They are sponsoring a bill through Parliament that will give them the authority to ban throwaway bags or impose a levy.

The Conservative leader of the councils, Merrick Cockell, said: “People need to realise that the free plastic bag they pick up in the supermarket is not really free at all - certainly not in its cost to the environment.

“We all need to work together to reduce the damage they can cause in the UK and around the world.”

Groups such as Friends of the Earth, the website Abolishplasticbags.org and the Marine Conservation Society are offering guidance to groups lobbying for voluntary bag bans.

Waste expert at Friends of the Earth Scotland, Ros Browning, said: “The public are becoming increasingly aware of the problems associated with plastic bags.

“There is now a ‘plastic bag free frenzy’ which is sweeping the nation and it’s great to see. Plastic bags are a symbol of our throwaway society and banning them or charging for their use is an important step towards changing consumer behaviour.”

From Maldon in Essex, to Pembrokeshire in South Wales and from Saltash in Cornwall to Dundee in Scotland, more than 140 communities are taking action to ban the bags.

Chief executive of Peterborough Environment City Trust, Hugh Cripps, said: “The front page articles in the Daily Mail have been the catalyst for action. We now have it confirmed that a fully fledged ban the bag campaign will be run in Peterborough.”

The council’s environment chief, Councillor Graham Murphy, added: “This Daily Mail campaign will bring significant benefits for future generations.”

Yesterday, Suffolk County Council announced steps to Banish the bags. Councillor Eddy Alcock said: “Our first goal must be to free the county of the light, flimsy, throwaway - and blow-away - type of bag. Where the public use the heavier plastic bags, I urge them to reuse the bags as often as possible.”

A spokesman for Abolishplasticbags.org said: “It’s really caught the imagination because it’s a simple change that people can make that will make a big difference.”

The town of Modbury in Devon, which was the first to go plastic bag free, has provided the template for other campaigns.

Litter policy officer at the Marine Conservation Society, Sue Kinsey, said: “People have realised that this simple idea can bring an almost instantaneous benefit.

“Thousands of marine animals will survive as a direct result of these actions.”

The Daily Mail’s campaign to banish throwaway plastic bags began on Wednesday with the paper highlighting how the 13billion we dump each year are blighting our countryside and the oceans.

We offered free reusable bags for each reader, a free educational wallchart for each school and asked you, our readers, to write to the Prime Minister calling for a change in the law.

The following day, Marks & Spencer pledged to stop offering free throwaway bags while celebrities and environmental groups rallied to the cause.

Yesterday Gordon Brown promised to legislate on the matter by ordering supermarkets to follow the example of M&S.

Today the campaign continues as a poll shows that three quarters of the British public back a ban on free plastic bags.

Banish the Bags - Where action is already underway (Source Marine Conservation Society)

Devon: Modbury, Ashburton, Bideford, Bovey Tracy, Chagford, Crediton, Exeter, Kingsbridge, Tavistock, Teignmouth, Torrington, Totnes

Dorset: Christchurch, Dorchester, Isle of Portland & Weymouth, Lyme Regis, Wimborne Minster

Hampshire: Alresford, Bishop’s Waltham, Emsworth, Romsey

Cornwall: Helston, Millbrook, Pensilva, St Germans, Saltash

Buckinghamshire: Chesham, High Wycombe

Cambridgeshire: Girton, Peterborough

Cheshire: Wilmslow (Chapel Lane)

Co. Durham: Durham

Bristol: Bristol

Wiltshire: Tisbury

Brighton and Hove: Brighton

West Yorkshire: Hebden Bridge

Berkshire: Reading

Hampshire: Overton

Bath and NE Somerset: Bath

East Sussex: Eastbourne, Forest Row

Essex: Maldon

Gloucestershire: Stroud, Fairford

Herefordshire: Hereford

Herts: Royston

Isle of Wight: Ventnor

Kent: Deal, Sidcup

Leicester City: Leicester

Lincolnshire: Market Deeping, Sleaford

Manchester: Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Norfolk: Aylsham

North Yorkshire: Harrogate, Knaresborough

Northamptonshire: Northampton, Hockerton

Oxfordshire: Faringdon, Thame, Wantage

Rutland: Uppingham

Shropshire: Newport

Somerset: Glastonbury, Wellington, Winscombe

South Yorkshire: Penistone

Staffordshire: Newcastle-under-Lyne, Stoke-on-Trent

Suffolk: Ipswich, Newmarket

Surrey: Farnham, Godalming

Sussex: Kempston, Kemptown

Warwickshire: Coventry

West Sussex: Arundel, Amberley, Chichester, Henfield

West Midlands: Walsall

West Yorkshire: Huddersfield

Wiltshire: Melksham

Wirral: Wirral

Worcestershire: Evesham, Upton Upon Severn

York: York

Yorkshire: Bradford, Kirklees

The Island of Guernsey

Scotland

Aberdeenshire: Banchory

Argyll & Bute: Dunoon, Taynuilt

Dundee: Dundee

East Lothian: North Berwick

Edinburgh: Edinburgh

Falkirk: Falkirk

Highland: Ullapool

Kinross-shire

Peebleshire

Scottish Borders: Selkirk

The Isle of Arran

The Isle of Mull

Wales

Powys: Hay-on-Wye

Bridgend: Porthcawl

Carmarthenshire: Newcastle Emlyn

Denbighshire: Llangollen

Newport: Newport

Pembrokeshire: Llandysilio

Powys: Newtown, Llanidloes

Vale of Glamorgan

London: Hillingdon, Harrow, Barnet, Enfield, Hounslow, Ealing, Brent, Camden, Islington, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Newham, Barking & Dagenham, Havering, Richmond, Kingston, Wandsworth, Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham, Greenwich, Merton, Bexley, Sutton, Croydon, Bromley, Kensington & Chelsea, Hammersmith & Fulham, Westminster, City, Camden, Isling

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