The ban on plastic bags is gradually making its way through the retail outlets and becoming the norm for San Francisco. As we say goodbye to polythene at the grocery store companies in the area are saying hello to a host of new ways to embrace the green movement. It has become about much more than buying recycling bins to house discarded office paper. Companies are looking at ways they can lessen their environmental impact literally from the ground up. This includes structural changes to office buildings and greater attention to the sourcing of materials—from bamboo floors to beverages.
Ski Resorts are getting in on the action. Sierra at Tahoe, for example, hasswitched to environmentally safe cleaning supplies and is reducing their overall energy usage by at least ten percent through the use of florescent bulbs, occupancy sensors for lights, and programmable thermostats. “All to of these initiatives have been going on for many seasons since it is the right way to operate a resort. This season, however, we are looking across all of our departments at ways to conserve energy since we all live in and love the mountains,” says Kirsten Cattell, representative for Sierra at Tahoe. Guests that use hybrid vehicles can park for free in the, purposefully-named, Green Lot. They already have an extensive shuttle system in the surrounding town that cuts down on fossil fuels by bringing people to and from the resort. Ski resorts are hiring for the upcoming winter season, so for anyone interested in an earth friendly way to make a living the time to apply is now.
It isn’t just the environmentally-oriented businesses that are implementing such changes. The traditionally non-eco savvy are getting on board too. The Moscone Center, for example, is implementing a zero waste policy for their food services. This includes using biodegradable packaging, plates, and silverware as well as disposing of food waste in as low impact a way as possible. Unused food is donated to local community services and any scraps go to composting.
Daily operations at a workplace are what generate the greatest amount of waste over time. The ink cartridges, the reams of paper, the electricity used by idle photocopiers and monitors—anywhere you look there are places to reduce waste. Many offices have a hard time incorporating greener measures because it means going through the hassle of changing different suppliers for each and every product. Enter TheGreenOffice.com—an online retailer that does all the legwork of sourcing products that lessen the impact on the environment. The result is a website where companies can order recycled printer paper andfair trade coffee.
One nice thing about the greening of the workplace is that it has unexpectedly created its own job market. Environmental scientists can find employment as anything from air and water quality monitors to grant writers for non-profits. Additionally, the world of consulting has expanded to meet the needs of companies who want to go green but don’t know how.
According to Dave Lowensohn, VP of Technology for TheGreenOffice, his company has branched out into this very type of consulting. As he says, most workplaces want to make a change but are so overwhelmed by the options that they don’t know where to start. He says some of the most common questions have to do with energy and paper usage. Solutions for these problems can include double-sided printers, easy access recycling bins, an electronic archiving system to reduce the need for print outs, and activating ‘sleep’ mode for electronics.
The next frontier, of course, is developing buildings that integrate eco-conscious practices from the ground up. Already we are seeing new buildings include solar panels and rooftop landscaping. Rooftops gardens and windows that have ultra-violet protection drastically lower interior temperatures from the hot sun and decrease the amount of time air conditioning systems need to be in use. This is where the employment picture starts to include the next generation of urban planners, architects, and construction workers since it takes trained professionals to work with all the variables.
It is clear that the environmental movement has moved from the fringes to the forefront of a national discussion. Even large conglomerate companies are paying attention. Once considered evil corporate empires that could care less about the little people, they have begun to notice that they can save money and appease their target demographic at the same time. NBC, owned by that well-known purveyor of light bulbs called General Electric, has just wrapped up their very first ‘green week’ where they introduced the Protect the Earth message at every level possible. From turning out the studio lights during the half-time show on Sunday Night Football to having a soap opera storyline about a main character planning a eco-friendly wedding they are loudly saying yes to green.