Google has been a carbon neutral company for seven years, and every year around this time they calculate and publish their carbon footprint so they can make sure to offset it completely. Today Google updated the Google Green website with their 2013 carbon footprint so we can see it for ourselves. They also made another announcement relevant to green businesses, communities and our environment. In ironic contradiction to the old song, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” the search giant announced that it will put a 82MW solar power plant on top of an old oil and gas field in Kern County, Calif.
“There’s something a little poetic about creating a renewable resource on land that once creaked with oil wells,” said Google. “Over the years, this particular site in California has gone from 30 oil wells to five as it was exhausted of profitable fossil fuel reserves. The land sat for some time and today we’re ready to spiff things up.”
The new deal with SunEdison will generate enough energy to power 10,000 homes. It may not be a paradise, but does mark the 5th major green investment in the Golden State. This raises the number of renewable energy investments made by Google to 17 since 2010. Total Google Green Business bucks amount to more than $1.5 billion. “We’re continually looking for newer, bigger and better projects that help us create a clean energy future,” the company said. “The more than $1.5bn we’ve brought to these projects to date not only helps provide renewable energy to the grid and to the public, but as they perform, they allow us to invest in more renewable energy projects. This cycle makes financial sense for Google and our partners while supporting construction jobs in local communities and clean energy for the planet we share.”
“Talking about sustainability is a popular marketing tool, but Google has made renewable energy and environmental protection part of both its corporate identity and its operations in a way that is unique in corporate America.“ – Associated Press
I enjoy learning about how I can help the environment and staying up to date on which green businesses are playing a role in this revolution. My understanding of why everyone needs to contribute to this solution continues to branch out in many new directions as well. From reducing to reusing to recycling, this century’s eco-friendly innovators have helped pave the way for a growing awareness about environmental concerns that is sweeping the globe. Here are some examples of how green businesses are helping create a cleaner and safer environment.
Advinylize repurposes vinyl from billboards.
The most basic way people can start helping clean up the environment is bringing their own bags to the grocery store. Instead of choosing between paper and plastic bags, both of which create a strain on the environment, bringing your own cloth bag is reusable, reducing the need to cut down trees and drill for oil, which is where plastic products come from. Several U.S. cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland and Honolulu now ban plastic bags. Here are some companies that offer reusable grocery bags:
PG&E confirms on its website that green certification can boost a company’s economic value. The utility company reports there has been a gr owing trend in recent years among businesses–particularly retail outlets and hotels–to gain LEED certification through the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). These green businesses are accomplishing several goals at once, by lowering energy costs due to consuming less energy, consuming less water, reducing the amount of maintenance and lowering greenhouse gas emissions compared with conventional commercial buildings. A recent Harris poll found that 64 percent of adults prefer to patronize establishments with green certification.
I’ve been fascinated with solar energy for decades, but it has only really been in the past decade that solar has entered mainstream consciousness. One of the companies paving the way is Apple, which is building solar farms for its data centers. Google has also invested millions of dollars in helping develop solar plants. Germany announced in June, 2014 that 51 percent of its energy now comes from solar power, setting a global milestone. The world’s top producer of silicon solar panels is Suntech from China, according to ExploringGreenTechnology.com. The solar manufacturer now has a presence in 80 countries and even launched a U.S. factory in Arizona in 2010. Other leading solar manufacturers that are paving the way toward harnessing energy from the sun are:
Yingli Green Energy
At one time in the late 1990s it appeared that the electric car was dead. It was criticized for its slow speed and inability to travel long distances without recharging. Tesla, however, has changed all that. In fact, the electric car maker’s Model S can travel over 200 miles before recharging and can go just as fast as conventional cars, without polluting the environment. In 2013 the Model S achieved the highest ratings of any automobile in history from Consumer Reports Magazine (scoring 99 out of 100). While it is a high priced luxury electric car for early adopters, more affordable electric cars that also run on lithium batteries include the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt.
Tesla is a company started by Elon Musk, who also founded the home solar installer SolarCity, which additionally builds charging stations for electric cars. This company has developed an innovative business model that integrates electric cars with solar homes as charging stations. Swiss bank UBS recently predicted that utilities will eventually become backup power sources to solar energy.
- Kroon Hall at Yale University is made from 80% certified timber, 16% recycled content. Also, 34% of the purchased materials came from regional sources. As a result, there is an 81% reduction in annual potable water use, which saves an average 500k gallons of city water a year. They are also seeing a 61% reduction in energy use compared to a similar building and program. It features rooftop photovoltaic panel providing 25% of the building’s electricity. Half of the red oak paneling came from a forest in northern Connecticut that’s managed by the school itself.
-This building features extensive day-lighting and a green roof with heat exchange system and rainwater collection. In addition to “green roofs” and sustainable materials, space for common areas has been maximized to encourage collaboration and innovation.
- The Salzburg University of Applied Sciences’ Kuchl Campus puts the school’s focus on “timber, design and sustainability” into practice. Timber construction is combined with a high-performance envelope and natural day-lighting to bring the building’s energy use down to less than 15 kWh/m² per year (a fraction of the average use).
- During construction, 1050 tons of waste were diverted from disposal to recycling. The building is 91% of the wood used is certified sustainably harvested and 60% of the furniture has been salvaged and refinished. There are many different plants involved with the building. Showers and bike-racks are available to encourage riding bicycles to class. They even offer preferred parking for low-emitting vehicles and electronic vehicle charging stations. Not to mention, Cornell’s building uses daylight harvesting architecture, which boosts productivity and mental health.
- Some green highlights of this center include exploring energy-efficient geothermal technology to heat and cool the building, high efficiency lighting, architectural shading of south glass by metal sunshades, using renewable source woods, water harvesting, using low-water trees to shade the courtyards, and much more.
- This health and medical research facility incorporates air quality monitoring and a vegetative green roof. 75% of construction waste was recycled, and ground water from under the parking garage irrigates a nearby baseball field.
-The design team for this center specified high-performance glazing for the buildings to control UV rays. They primarily used cedar, which is what they have in central Oregon, and concrete – local and natural materials.
- This building was built atop the existing Ashe Auditorium Lecture Hall. Green features include more than 95% recycled construction and demolition waste, low-VOC paints and carpets, and low-flow plumbing fixtures.
Great news for the environment occurred last night, when CA government voted to ban single-use plastic bags across the state. “The bill, SB 270, will phase out single-use plastic bags in grocery stores and pharmacies beginning July 2015, and in convenience stores one year later, and create a mandatory minimum ten-cent fee for recycled paper, reusable plastic and compostable bags” states Stephanie Spear, author at EcoWatch, who wrote California Bans Plastic Bags. If the already agreed upon bill is signed by the CA governor, California will be the first state to ban these environmentally un-friendly products.
“More than 120 California local governments have already banned single-use plastic bags with more than 1 in 3 Californians already living somewhere with a plastic bag ban in place, in an effort to drive consumers towards sustainable behavior change,” affirms Spear. With such a large amount of the population already embracing the plastic ban bag, this measure will have little difficulty being implemented. Reusable and recycled bags are available all over! The sarcastic well-known television show Portlandia created a hilarious sketch on a gentleman who goes into a store without a bag, and has to endure the mocking because of it.
This new bill encourages consumer behavior change, healthier environmental choices, and the expansion of the California job market. Not to mention, a plastic bag ban would save taxpayers tons of money usually spent on litter clean-up!
Senate Bill 270 will:
◦ Increase the use of recycled content for reusable plastic bags to promote recycling and California manufacturing. In 2016, bags will be required to have 20 percent recycled content and in 2020 be made of 40 percent recycled content.
◦ Support recycling of agriculture plastic film, which is currently sent to landfills.
◦ Require large grocery store chains to take back used bags for continued recycling.
◦ Require third party certification of reusable plastic bags to ensure compliance with bag standards, which support California manufacturing.
◦ Grandfathers existing local ordinances related to grocery bags.
Environmentalists have known for ages that litter has been washing into the ocean and causing damage to sea life (not to mention our climate). One example is,
“Plastic bags create a direct threat to wildlife, like the Pacific leatherback sea turtles, that mistake the bags for food. A study of more than 370 leatherback sea turtle autopsies found that one in three had plastic in their stomach, most often a plastic bag. Plastic bags are also one of the most common items littered on California’s beaches according to Ocean Conservancy’s annual beach cleanup data, according to Ocean Conservancy.”
Whether you live in California or somewhere else in the world, join us in recycling and using reusable bags! Any bag will work! Make one, personalize one, or just reuse a shopping bag! Think of the bigger picture. Even a little decision can change lives!
Twenty-five years ago, sustainability was not a part of standard business discourse. Today it is—and business schools helped make that happen. But we’re reaching the natural limits of what B-schools started. Only a wave of innovation in management education will help businesses get fast enough to meet customers’ needs in a hotter, flatter, more crowded world.
The first step is to take sustainability out of its silo existence and make it part of the core business school curriculum. Sustainability can’t just be an orientation exercise, an elective course, an institute, or a specialty degree. It can’t be something that some students go deeply into, while some just get familiar with it.
Unfortunately, that’s where we are now. In management education, sustainability departments have produced lots of specialists. The knowledge those departments have accumulated should be brought into the mainstream to reach students who would never think about taking a sustainability course.
Every business school graduate knows enough about finance and accounting to be conversant on numbers, budgeting, and profit and loss—and able to apply that knowledge to routine decision-making. Today’s companies should expect managers to have the same fluency with environmental issues, making this part of the calculus when they size up problems and opportunities, price options, and make decisions.
Alcatel-Lucent (ALU), for example, is developing products and services that help customers meet carbon reduction goals, which becomes harder as exponentially more people use communications devices around the world. BASF (BAS:GR) insists that every employee—from the factory floor to a senior scientist office—have specific sustainability goals.
These examples are neither unusual nor extreme. MBAs who go through school thinking that concern for the environment is only for Whole Foods (WFM), Unilever (UL), and solar power companies are selling themselves and future employers short. Business schools with such views are selling their students short.