Trendsetters: Paving the Way to a Cleaner World
The green movement is sweeping the globe, and with all of the pressure to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, several companies (listed below) are taking the lead by making significant corporate efforts to go green. Businesses in the insulation industry will see that implementing similar initiatives can lead to savings of both energy and money.
According to Subaru.com, this car company has focused not only on its vehicles, which have 90-percent cleaner emissions than the average new vehicle, but also on its manufacturing plants. The website notes that when you carry out your trash at home on the next collection day, you’ll be sending more trash to landfills than the entire Subaru manufacturing plant in Lafayette, Indiana (SIA), does. In 2006, SIA was awarded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Gold Achievement Award as a top achiever in the agency’s WasteWise program to reduce waste and improve recycling. As part of its recycling efforts, Subaru uses recycled plastic bottles as insulation, plastic bumper waste as bumpers, scraps from clothing manufacturers as base trim layers, and paint sludge and used paper as vibration-absorbing door panels. Insulation materials under the hood, in the panel under the engine, and in the bulkhead of Subaru vehicles are used to reduce noise and decrease emissions.1
According to BP.com, BP was one of the first major energy companies to publicly acknowledge the need to reduce carbon emissions. Since 2001, the company has been tracking the underlying growth of BP emissions from its business growth and comparing it to the emissions reductions achieved across its operations. After 5 years, the company estimated that some 11 million tons of growth have been offset by around 6 million tons of sustainable reductions. In 2004, BP began a $450-million energy efficiency program, and in 2005, BP Alternative Energy was set up to reduce carbon emissions. BP is investing in solar, wind, hydrogen, and natural gas power projects. It is also developing biofuels, introducing cleaner fuels into the global marketplace, and engaging policy makers in positive actions to protect the environment.
Wal-Mart, an innovative company that has become a global force, has set ambitious environmental goals for itself. In 2004, Wal-Mart launched a company-wide initiative. The following aggressive goals for sustainability define its plan:
- To be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy:
- Existing stores should be 25 percent more efficient in 7 years.
- New stores should be 30 percent more efficient in 4 years.
- To create zero waste:
- A 25-percent reduction in solid waste should be achieved after 3 years
- All private brand packaging should be improved in 2 years.
- To sell products that sustain both its resources and the environment:
- A 20-percent supply base should be aligned in 3 years.2
Wal-Mart got a jump on its goals in 2005, when two experimental stores opened in McKinney, Texas, and Aurora, Colorado. Several environmentally friendly technologies were tested there, and in 2007 the company opened its first High-Efficiency store (in which many of these technologies were put to use) in Kansas City, Missouri. These new High-Efficiency stores will use 20 percent less energy than a typical Supercenter, and will integrate industry-leading heating, cooling, and refrigeration systems to conserve energy.3
Stonyfield Farm is just as committed to a healthy planet as it is to providing healthy food. According to Stonyfield.com, the company takes the following five-step approach to reducing global warming and addressing climate change:
- Improving efficiency to reduce global warming gases. By improving efficiency at its New Hampshire yogurt-making facility, Stonyfield Farm has saved more than $1.7 million and 46 killowatt-hours (kWh) of energy over the past 10 years. That type of energy savings could be accomplished in other types of manufacturing facilities—including those in the insulation industry—too.
- Incorporating renewables. In 2005, Stonyfield Farm installed a 50-killowatt solar photovoltaic (PV) array on its yogurt manufacturing facility in New Hampshire.
- Offsetting global warming emissions from facility energy usage. This company, which has won several national environmental awards, was the first in the United States to offset 100 percent of its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the energy used at its manufacturing facility.
- Reducing packaging and solid waste. Through its reuse and recycling program, more than 8,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions have been avoided.
- Supporting organic farming. Organic farming reduces carbon levels by capturing atmospheric CO2 and trapping it in the soil.
Efficiency gains at the company’s manufacturing facility and CO2 reductions have come from many initiatives, including designing processes to incorporate heat recovery, installing energy-efficient motors and lighting, implementing energy-efficient building practices, making changes to refrigeration systems, and switching fuels. All of these initiatives make Stonyfield Farm a great example of what is possible when a company creates an environmental strategy and does what it takes to achieve its goals.
The Dow Chemical Company
According to Dow.com, the company reports on a Triple Bottom Line: 1) economics; 2) environment; and 3) society. This gives Dow a clear measure of its success in each of these areas. The company also has ambitious sustainability goals that it hopes to reach by 2015. It hopes to reduce energy intensity 25 percent from 2005 to 2015.
Dow has participated in several creative sustainable applications. One such effort occurred in 2003, when Dow donated enough of its THERMAX™ insulating foam to the Solar Oven Society to build 6,000 solar ovens. The insulation material was used in small ovens, allowing people in developing countries to cook using only the heat of the sun. This innovative project was a successful use of insulation to better the environment and help boost global energy efficiency.4
“Dow’s approach to Energy and Climate Change is comprehensive—including commitments to lower our own footprint, but also including the use of our products to help our customers lower their energy footprints,” says Scott Noesen, director of sustainable development for Dow.
A Greener Future
With these companies setting impressive corporate examples of how to go green, industry will be quick to follow. The initiatives outlined here are just the beginning.
This article appeared in the August 2007
issue of Insulation Outlook.