Going Green – Businesses becoming environmentally-conscious

VALDOSTA — Is “green” really green, and can it be greener?

More and more companies are going green. Yet it is often difficult to distinguish between a marketing campaign or an actual environmentally friendly product.

Joel Makower has been into green marketing for 20 years, researching and gathering information on businesses going green. In an article from winter 2008 in Onearth, an independent publication of the Natural Resources Defense Council, he said, “I think a lot of what’s been written about green marketing is happy talk: ‘Oh, if you just market it green, the world will beat a path to your door.’ And it’s never that simple. In fact, the landscape is littered with carcasses of companies that have tried.”

According to him, many companies have advertised ineffective or even fraudulent products, which “gave green a black eye.” As a result, some people now think that green doesn’t work, it doesn’t last long, it’s harder to use and it is a lot more expensive.

“We don’t have to sacrifice comfort or change routines to get efficient,” says an article from January 2009 in Time magazine. “Doing less with less may be admirable, but efficiency is about doing the same or more with less.”

going-green-2 (1)Here is a definition of green at urbangreenpartnership.org: “Green is the design, commercialization, and use of processes and products that are feasible and economical while reducing the generation of pollution at the source and minimizing the risk to human health and the environment.”

Jean Johnson, an owner, and Frank S. Johnson, a lighting consultant at EnviroLight LLC in Valdosta, specialize in full spectrum, natural daylight equivalent lighting. Their compact fluorescent light bulbs are energy efficient and environmentally friendly.

“We offer products that ordinarily cannot be acquired locally — light bulbs that last longer, save energy, and offer a true color rendering light that you can see by,” according to their Web site EnviroLightUSA.com. “Our lights diminish or entirely eliminate the glare that causes eye strain and headaches.”

They have a material safety data sheet, according to which “there are no known health hazards from exposure to lamps that intact.” On EnviroLightUSA.com, the Johnsons have added evidence in the form of videos, articles and pictures proving that their product is green.

“We try to educate everyone on how they can save energy,” Frank Johnson said. “Lighting is the easiest to do. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to go green. You can use what you already got.”

He explained that the initial investment might be a little more, but the bulbs will pay for themselves in energy savings in a few months.

A local business in Valdosta, Pleats & Creases Dry Cleaners & Laundry, is going greener with almost every year.

The newest products they put into use are biodegradable plastic and waste-water friendly detergents. When Evan Miller, the owner, was first introduced to these products, he was a bit skeptical.

“I am a prudent skeptic by nature,” he said. “I asked for proof, studies, and documentation that verifies the claims.”

Miller added that another reason he asked for proof was because “everyone calls themselves green now.”

He got the proof. He received a letter signed by the president and chief executive officer of the manufacturer of biodegradable plastic that explains exactly how that plastic “lasts as long, looks the same, but when put in the ground, it decomposes,” according to Miller.

In addition, he even received a Certificate of the Biodegradability of Plastic Products made by Epsilon Plastics Inc. that incorporate the ECM MasterBatch Pellet Technology.

According to the certificate, “This is to certify that numerous plastic samples, submitted by ECM BioFilms Inc. have been tested by independent laboratories in accordance with standard test methods approved by ASTM, ISO and other such standardization bodies to determine the rate and extend of biodegradation of plastic materials.”

As for the detergent, he said Pleats & Creases tested them for nearly two months to ensure that being environmentally friendly would not decrease their cleaning capacity.

“They are proving to clean better or equal to all the detergent applications we had been using before,” Miller said.

In 2001 and 2004 they got new dry cleaning machines that were to improve the efficiency and reduce chemical by products.

”Any waste currently generated is equal to our old machine, even though our capacity is three times greater today than prior to 2001,” he said.

In 2007, the company started using a new boiler designed to reduce CO2 emissions. It “operates on 80 percent less water volume, high efficiency burners, and fast recovery, while pre-heating water coming into the boiler, and re-burning exhaust to reduce emissions,” Miller said.

The year of 2008 was when the company started a “hanger recycle program” which turned out to be very successful. The company pays five cents for metal, reusable hangers to customers. He began the green campaign for his company because he wanted to do something better for the environment. It was more expensive at the beginning, but it was all worth at the end.

In an article at greenbiz.com, a survey by Retail Systems Research in partnership with the Retail Industry Leaders Association “found that environmental consciousness is on the rise among retailers.”

In addition, “Now, 48 percent of retailers see sustainability as strategic to the entire enterprise, and an additional 22 percent said it was of tactical importance to specific departments within the company.”

Some question whether green is purely a marketing strategy. Makower got an answer for that, “It tickles me that when I tell audiences stories about what companies are doing, some skeptic always raises his hand and says, ‘You know they’re not really doing it because they care about the environment but because it’s a good business.’ Bingo! What’s the difference?”

According to him, the motive of going green is not as important as long as they are really working on sustainability and energy efficiency.

Another company that is effectively working on a massive environmental campaign that makes them buy, be and sell green is Office Depot.

A whole page on their Web Site officedepot.com is dedicated to everything green they have achieved and are working on.

“In 2007, Office Depot became the first and only office products company to join the US Green Building Council (USGBC),” according to the Web Site. “Office Depot was the only office supplies company nominated for a Green Enterprise IT Award from the Uptime Institute, a think tank that works on computing reliability and energy efficiency. Office Depot was recognized for a series of efficiency steps.”

EnviroLight LLC can be reached at (229) 559-7554, (229) 834-0712, (229) 834-1966, e-mail is envirolight@bellsouth.net. They are located at 3886 Glen Meade Drive.

Pleats & Creases Dry Cleaners & Laundry has six locations. The main office is at 209 Northside Drive. Call (229) 242-7000 for more information.