By B. Peterson | September 2016
Going green isn’t just for small changes. They all help, of course, but recycling paper and changing lightbulbs only take you so far. Companies need to constantly look for innovative ways to help the planet, and big businesses are in the best position to do that. Here are a few steps big businesses have taken in recent years to go green and are making an impact on sustainability at incredible scale.
1. Recycling Waste Products
Everything we make results in waste products. Some of them are not particularly good for the environment and the only thing to do is dispose of them safely. However, the vast majority of waste products can be recycled or even upcycled. Cheerios burns oat hulls as fuel, and is now paid for what used to be a waste product for the company. General Mills certainly isn’t the only company that reuses its waste, General Motors is another pioneer and recycles or resells most of its waste products.
2. Shaving Down Packaging
How products are packaged is a pretty big deal when it comes to sustainability. The trick involves using less packaging for the same amount of product. Sometimes it is easy solution, like using paper instead of Styrofoam peanuts to stuff shipping boxes. General Mills, Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart have all taken steps to cut down on their product packaging, which has saved millions in fuel, plastic and distribution trucks.
3. Using Flexible Storage
Not all storage is created equal. There are many companies that provide items that are not really a hard shape, things such as sand, dirt or even beans. While it is possible to create extra packaging for those, it is easier and greener to make use of a flexible intermediate bulk container, or FIBC.
These containers do not rip or tear easily, can be used to store bulk items of free-flowing, dry products, and can be recycled. There are even FIBC reclamation services, where bags can be repaired, recycled and resold at a lower price than new ones. Altogether, that’s a pretty impressive recycling service for a hard-to-package product.
4. Cleaning up the Transport
Hybrid and electric cars are popular for consumers, but it can be difficult to find something similar for large transport. Fortunately, companies are working on that. Both diesel 18-wheelers and trains are getting makeovers with some companies. Wal-Mart is stepping up with hybrid 18-wheelers, and General Electric is changing the locomotive industry with hybrid trains that can carry a ton of freight for 500 miles on a single gallon of fuel.
5. Buying Local
You do not have to depend just on the farmers market to support local business. Nike has created a line of sneakers made with locally sourced materials called Considered. The company gathers as much of the material as possible from within 200 miles of the factory, which cuts down drastically on transportation costs and pollution. This includes cotton, hemp, polyester and rubber, which account for most of the shoe. The company still does most of its production outside of the country, which adds to the transport footprint to get the shoes to market, but it’s still an impressive feat.
There are plenty of other ways businesses can go green, but these are some of the more innovative ideas we're seeing. Around the world, companies are looking for ways to get greener, always keeping their eyes on the next big invention. Better keep your eyes open, too. We're hopeful for more game changing sustainability innovations and initiatives to be implemented by large companies at scale.