Top Ten Stories of 2006: 9) Corporations Lead the Green Movement

Top Ten Stories of 2006: 9) Corporations Lead the Green Movement

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Corporations are leading a Green Movement toward more recycling, environmentally friendly cars, and sustainable industry. Read 15 examples of socially responsible companies and the innovations that are improving our world, from compostable plastics to sexy electric cars.

9) Corporations Lead Green Movement in Autos, Recycling and Sustainability

Automobiles

• "Electric vehicles, gasoline-electric hybrids, diesels, flex-fuel and hydrogen-powered cars are inching up the consumer on-ramp at a faster pace, judging from world debuts of 21 alternative-fuel vehicles," reported the Christian Science Monitor from December’s international Los Angeles Auto Show.

Richard Branson and his Virgin Group went green in September, launching an investment fund for developing environmentally friendly fuels investing up to $400m (€315.6m) in renewable energy initiatives with the new Virgin Fuels over three years.

Leaders of the big three US automakers pledged in a letter to the US Congress in June to double production of flexible-fuel vehicles by 2010 adding incentive to fuel providers to produce ethanol and other biofuels and install pumps. They’ve produced 5 million flexible-fuel vehicles so far, which can run on gasoline or fuel blends of up to 85 percent ethanol and project an additional 1 million vehicles this year and 2 million annually by 2010.

GM unveiled a new green auto plant in Michigan touted as the "most environmentally friendly auto plant in the world" using innovative energy and water saving techniques.

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Toyota North America president, Jim Press, announced his company’s plans to develop a hybrid vehicle that will run on batteries charged by a common electrical outlet. For long drives it will be able to use gasoline, or even alternative fuels like ethanol or bio-diesel (made from vegetable scraps or discarded cooking oils). He holds a vision for the future in which we drive cars that actually "clean the air" going coast to coast on a single tank of fuel.

Tesla Motors‘ goal is to design a sports car that would go as fast as a Ferrari or Porsche — but run on electricity. Their first model is "a sleek two-seater called the Roadster" looking something like "a Lotus Elise." … Their main competition might be the Tango, another sporty two-seater. At 195 miles per gallon, zero to 60 in four seconds… the electric supercar is here. Made by Commuter Cars, Inc. George Clooney himself was one of the first buyers.

Recycling

Dell computers, hailed as one of the most environmentally conscious computer makers, launched a free recycling program in the U.S. They are the first to offer free computer recycling — to anyone owning a Dell, whether or not you are purchasing a new one. Owners can even schedule a home pick-up of their Dell device at no charge.

More environmentally friendly computer equipment is available thanks to manufacturers like Dell, HP, and others that now have products containing reduced levels of cadmium, lead, and mercury to better protect human health. They are easier to recycle and meet the government’s Energy Star guidelines for efficiency.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council revealed that about 90% of waste and by-products from the food and grocery manufacturers surveyed in 2006 was being reused or recycled, with less than 10% going to landfill. Industry participants in the survey have also reduced energy use by 14%, water use by 21% and greenhouse emissions by 29% since 2003.

Companies who once fought against environmentalists in court are finding today that recycling makes good economic sense. Customers appreciate that Starbucks uses recycled cardboard and wish it would use more, but the new twist is that sustainable paper saves the corporation money.

Sustainability

Enterprise Rent-A-Car will commemorate its 50th anniversary by pledging the unprecedented gift of 50 million trees to The National Arbor Day Foundation. Enterprise has formed a partnership with the Foundation to plant 50 million trees over the next 50 years – a gift of more than $50 million.

Big companies like DuPont are putting serious money into developing "bio fuel" — motor fuel that is processed from the waste of corn stalks. DuPont wants to replace many of their current factories that use oil, with biorefineries like the one they opened this year, in Loudon, Tenn., that uses corn to manufacter many products like its Sorona carpet fiber, cosmetics, soaps and detergents. The factory consumes 40 percent less energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent versus its petroleum-based ancestors.

With the new reality of $70 crude oil in the US, the plastics industries are turning to corn and fast-growing switchgrass to manufacture everything from carpet to car parts. Bio-degradable and reusable shopping bags made of corn, called BioBags, will break down in a landfill — or home composter — within four to 12 weeks.

Belu Natural Mineral Water introduced the UK’s first biodegradable and compostable plastic bottle. The revolutionary bottle is made from corn instead of oil and can be commercially composted back into soil in 80 days. “This can dramatically reduce the amount of rubbish going into landfills and gives everyone an easy way to help protect the environment,” said the company’s founder.

To top off this year’s active pursuit of the "green" dollar by corporations, further green investment is on the horizon from venture capital firms. They are poised to invest hundreds of millions into the emerging "green technologies" believing them to be as lucrative as anything that preceded them in Silicon Valley. That means we’ll soon see more solutions to environmental problems that could shrink landfills, clean up the air and water, and help ween us from our addiction to oil.

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