Wednesday, March 04, 2009

All the Right Turns

By Kathleen Rogers

In today’s confusing and disheartening economic landscape, it’s more important than ever to navigate carefully -- and make the right turns. At least, that’s what shipping giant UPS is doing. After implementing a “right turn” strategy (taking more right turns than left to avoid idling in left turn lanes) UPS has saved over 30 million miles of driving -- including three million gallons of fuel and $600 million dollars a year from the change -- not to mention countless tons of carbon emissions. The rest of us can learn from this strategy and start our own “right turn” campaign.

UPS, however, isn’t the only big green giant: Wal-Mart, the second largest procurer of energy only to the U.S. government, has made a pledge to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy; to create zero waste; and to sell greener products. The retailer is also building skylight/dimming system into its new stores. As daylight increases, skylights allow Wal-Mart to dim the lights or even turn them off, thereby reducing the demand for electricity during peak hours. This system results in an annual savings of about 250 million kwh a year, enough to power approximately 23,000 homes. Corporations like Hewlett Packard, Toyota, and even British Petroleum have taken steps toward greening their production. And J.P. Morgan Chase is investing $2 billion of its own capital to fund renewable energy projects such as wind farms and solar in 17 states. Chase believes an investment in renewable energy will help revitalize rural communities and by creating jobs and increasing the local tax base. More and more, companies are finding that simple green solutions are attractive.

These forward-thinking companies are part of a movement we can dub “the Green Generation” -- a new way of thinking and doing business where sustainability takes precedent, as the most efficient strategy emerges as the most economical. Similar to the “greatest generation” that met the challenges of World War II, the Green Generation seeks to break with the past and includes companies, as well as ordinary people, who are engaged in individual and collective activities to improve their health, to better their schools, and to participate in building a solution to urgent national and global issues, such as climate change. The Green Generation wants to put people to work -- building a better, greener world.

What makes a better world? Smarter, more efficient, corporations -- the kind that see their success intertwined with the greater good, and realize that a move to energy efficiency saves resources, and with it money and jobs. Smarter, more efficient investments in growing sustainable markets -- from alternative energies like solar power, wind power, and geothermal energy to green farming, green schools, and public transportation. A nationwide move toward energy efficiency could create 5 million new jobs in the U.S. alone -- and many millions more worldwide.

Now that’s a turn for the better -- for our economy, our environment, our individuals and our industries. The Green Generation sees their commitment to fight climate change as the responsibility of both communities and corporations, as a movement both personal and unapologetically political. Good too, because now’s our chance: President-elect Obama has already committed to an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050; with the Green Generation’s support, both Congress and corporate America will be hard-pressed not to push for more sustainable practices in all industries. “Green-outs” will replace bailouts as we mandate that companies that want public assistance -- like the auto industry -- change to accommodate the public’s need for high-efficiency products that cost less to maintain.

Every time humanity comes to a crossroads, after all, we achieve our next greatest accomplishment to date. Between 10,000 and 5,000 BC we needed more food; hence the Neolithic Revolution and the foundations of modern agriculture. The end of the 20th century was marked by a need to disseminate information all over the world, leading to the Digital Revolution. And now, fluctuating fuel prices and a struggling economy mean that efficiency is, finally, everything. Our Green Generation Revolution, led by our Green Generation, is here. There’s a new bottom line in town, and it’s green. Companies and consumers, that make all the right turns toward sustainability will have no trouble getting there. As individuals, we can realize that less can give us far more -- more opportunities for creativity, more opportunities for invention, more chances for success, and more reasons to appreciate the interconnection between our economic and environmental health.


Rogers is the president of Earth Day Network.


Copyright (C) 2009 by the American Forum. 2/09

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