Sustainable Living: Companies that get their priorities right

What are the most important characteristics you look for in a significant other? Chances are you look for similar traits in your favorite companies: honesty, humor, attractiveness and dependability. But there’s one trait that consistently tops the list in cross-cultural studies: kindness. Be it our favorite juice brand or our main squeeze, we are drawn to individuals and industries that, rather than acting in self-interest, exhibit awareness and a sympathetic attitude towards others.

Businesses big and small spend millions of dollars and man-hours each year trying to crack the code of consumer loyalty. They search for the missing data, the perfect algorithm or the focus group that will unlock the key to this ‘promise land’ of consumerism. But, the truth is, there just aren’t any shortcuts. Customer loyalty and a brilliant brand reputation are the fruits of walking the walk, of actually being a good company. What we have come to think of as a “good” company is a company whose priorities are not just monetary gain, but those that consider their effect on humanity and the environment. This sort of corporate responsibility model is know as “the triple bottom line”, a business model in which people, profits and the planet are all equal priorities. Here are some of ExchangeMyPhone’s faves when it comes the 3BL:

Honest Tea
honest tea
For one, the product speaks for itself: delicious. Just likes its name promises, there are no added chemicals and only a hint of organic sugarcane sweetens their ice tea blends. Billed as the country’s fastest growing ethical beverage since 1999, Honest Tea has consistently delivered on their three commitments. In 2007, the company also launched Honest Kids, a collaboration with TerraCycle to recycle, and attempt to eliminate, non-degradable drink pouches. Last year, all of their green, black, white and oolong teas became Fair Trade Certified which, according to the company’s site, “ensures that workers on tea gardens receive a fair share of profits, and that the tea gardens comply with specific workplace criteria for equality and fairness.” Now that’s sweet and refreshing.

You could write a book on the environmental activism of the Patagonia brand. In fact, someone already has. Since Patagonia’s foundations were built in the late 70′s they have strived to, “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” And they have quite the repertoire of programs to brag about. For example, their “1% for the Planet” initiative encourages the business world to be more eco-conscious by “building and supporting an alliance of businesses financially committed to creating a healthy planet.” They also have the World Trout Initiative to protect endangered fish species and the Common Threads Recycling Program.
But their crowning jewel is their Environmental Internships program in which any Patagonia employee may take a two-month leave of absence (yes, full pay included) to work with an environmental non-profit anywhere in the world! The company doesn’t sweat losing their employees two months because, according to their previous Director of Human Resources, Lu Setnicka, Patagonia “still consider[s] that they are working for Patagonia, but they are having the opportunity to bring a particular skill set to an organization that could really benefit…it also gives the employees the opportunity to dive deeper into an issue.” Now, where can we apply?

Clif Bar
So, your love affair with Clif bars probably of started as a Whole Food impulse-buy at the check-out counter, but chances are its now a full-fledged committed relationship. They are too good, there’s just no getting around it. But what makes the delicious flakes go down even smoother, is the knowledge that your money is going to a company that cares about the health of their customer and community as well as the planet.
Clif bar
In the past ten years Clif has:
-Offset the carbon footprint of their office, business travel, bakeries and delivery to their distribution center by investing in wind energy.
-Switched to 100% recycled paperboard, generating an environmental savings of 14,000 trees and 6 million gallons of water in one year.
-Created the country’s first employee biodiesel and hybrid incentive program and rewarded their employees for walking, biking, carpooling and taking public transportation. They also provided each employee with $500 to purchase a bike.
-And finally, this year, Clif Bar’s 115,000 square foot headquarters became the first building in Emeryville, CA to achieve LEED Platinum certification.
In terms of social activism, Clif has launched the 2080 Project. The name corresponds with how many hours one full-time employee works in a year and the minimum amount of time that Clif, collectively, volunteers to their favorite causes every year. Check out some of their great volunteer work here.

New Belgium
new belgium brewing

Another yummy drink and, though it may not be as healthy as Honest Tea, definitely as necessary at the end of the day. The New Belgium Brewery was founded by a husband-and-wife in 1991 in Fort Collins. Inspired by their scenic setting along the Cache la Poudre River, the founders focused on environmental responsibility and employee ownership when creating their businesses model. We are happy to report that everything has been a booming success. In 2008 the little-brewing-company-that-could was named one of the best places to work in America, a result of the company’s responsibility for the “wellness” of their employees as humans. Employees are gifted a spankin’ new set of wheels on their 1-year anniversary, a bike that is modeled after the one in New Belgium’s logo. When it comes to the planet, they pledge the same responsibility: 90% of their operation is wind-powered and the other 10% is a recycled methane byproduct of their water treatment plant. Yay reuse! Now that’s something we can say “cheers” to.

new belgium brewing sustainable living

Sustainable Living: @Twitter4Good pesky pigeon or patron saint?

Contrary to popular belief, social media platforms don’t just appeal to the petty side of humanity. They can sometimes be a humanitarian’s greatest tool.  Twitter seems to have taken the lead when it comes to harnessing its powers for good in arenas from public health to wildlife conservation by speaking up, or tweeting up, for those without voices or opposable thumbs.

Twitter MD
Over-sharing on Twitter is definitely annoying, but over-sharing of a certain variety might actually be lifesaving; or at least help you dodge a major bullet the next time a nasty cold wages war in your neighborhood. At the University of Rochester, Adam Sadilek and his team of computer scientists have been working tirelessly to develop Al, a program that uses tweets to predict when people will get sick before they do. In fact, a whole eight days before they get sick and with 90% accuracy.

The algorithm developed by Sadilek’s computer wizards, sifts though 44 million GPS-tagged tweets from more than 630, 000 New York City Tweeters over a month in order to distinguish when someone is really sick, or just “sick of my roommate’s boyfriend.” And unlike some similar attempts that have preceded it (like Google Flu Trends), Sadilek’s explains that his website, “Shows emergent aggregate patterns in real-time, with second-by-second resolution. By contrast, previous state-of-the-art methods entail time lags from days to years.”

We all may be Twitter-addicts but none of us have a more legitimate reason to be on it 24/7 than The Red Cross. The life-saving organization first used the social platform in 2007 to direct people towards shelter during California wildfires. The head of Social Strategy at the American Red Cross explains, “It was a watershed moment for us, we realized that Twitter was a great way to provide valuable real-time tips in times of crises where every second counts. Twitter users also helped us share that information by re-tweeting shelter locations online and then extending that information offline by telling their neighbors.” In more recent natural disasters, like the Japan earthquake, the Japanese Red Cross’ Twitter presence has been instrumental not just in raising funds but in the immediate aftermath, building drug-supply chains in hard to navigate areas.

Twitter <3 Trees
The National Parks Conservation Association harnessed their Twitter skills to spread the word about wilderness protection and pressure politicians to take a firmer stand in the face to deforestation. NPCA piggy-backed on Promoted Tweets #IfGovernmentShutsDown, a topic that was trending organically at the time, to gather e-signatures for their petitions. The result was over 5,000 Tweets to members of Congress urging them to support America’s national park funding, after which it was selected as a “Top Tweet” by Twitter and broadcast to more than 1 million more users. #IfGovernmentShutsDown became one of the most political mobilization campaigns to be broadcast via twitter.

The Refreshing Side of Pepsi
Nothing is more refreshing than hearing about social media platforms that are not only created to take the user’s money, but to do the reverse and get money into the hands of users. Pepsi has done this on a large-scale since 2010, with a campaign that was organized, executed and proliferated via Twitter. Over the course of the year, Pepsi awarded a whopping 20 million dollars in grants to “individuals, businesses and non-profits that promote a new idea that has a positive impact on their community, state, or the nation.” Pepsi Refresh’s pro-social approach has been touted as“game changing” in terms of how multinational cooperations connect with and engage their consumers on a one-to-one level.

If you’d like to know more about how companies large and small, for and non-profit are using Twitter in positive ways check out Claire Diaz-Ortiz’s very comprehensive book Twitter4Good. She also gives great tips on how to create Twitter strategy with staying power that works for your company.

Say What? The Top Four Most Surprising Tree Huggers in History

Pythagoras: The Original Vegan

No need to flinch, this isn’t a pop quiz: its actually the guy behind the math that we are interested in. Though history remembers him for Pythagoras the Theorem (the sum of the areas of the to squares on the legs equals the ares of the square on the hypotenuse, in case you had forgotten), he was also highly progressive when it came to animal rights, and banned any use of animal products among his followers. He was a champion of vegetarianism because he believed that animals had souls. In fact, if you had abstained from eating fish and meat before the 19th century you would have been known not as a “vegetarian” but as a devotee of the “Pythagorean Diet.”

Rupert Murdoch: The Neutral Headliner

Though Fox News may vehemently deny the existence of global warming, their parent company, News Corps, went carbon neutral just three years after announcing its goal, the first enterprise of its size to do so. Murdoch told his staff in a memo: “We have saved millions of dollars by improving the energy efficiency of our day-to-day operations. Our efficiency projects pay for themselves in less than two years, on average, and span from simple solutions like lighting retrofits and automatic PC shut-down, to systematic changes like installing telepresence and videoconferencing technology to reduce the need for air travel.” Whether it is dollars and cents, or pure common sense, that’s sparking the move, Murdoch is certainly talking like an environmentalist.

Matell: Treehugger Barbie

Somewhere within her cold, plastic, disproportional body pulses some sort of humanity. It would be a stretch to call Barbie’s manufacture, Mattell environmentalists, per say, but let it be known that they are listening. Last year, after huge pressure and aggressive campaigns spearheaded by Green Peace, the company not only cut ties with Asia Pulp & Paper, but also vowed to increase the amount of Forest Stewardship Counsel-certified recycled wood and paper in their packaging. The deforestation that was occurring in Indonesia was particularly serious because it was taking with it the remaining habitat for the world’s last 400 Sumatran tigers. Lego took similar steps a few months earlier.

T. Boone Pickens: The U-Turn King

Though he built his $3 billion fortune as Chairman of BP Capital Management on Big Oil, in his 70′s, T. Boone Pickens had an equally big change of heart. By 1981 he owned one of the largest private corporations in the world and faced a lot of criticism for how he got there. Dubbed a “corporate raider” and, according to Fortune Magazine, “the most hated man in corporate America”, he was believed to revel in the hostile corporate takeovers for which he was known.  These days however, Pickens is about as far from the oil rigs as humanly possible.  Now he can be found at TED Talks, rubbing elbows with the environmental elite and advocating that America quit its dependency on foreign oil or face ruin. He even has his own solution: The Pickens Plan, a $10 million strategy that he believes “will produce 20% of our nation’s electricity while using our abundant domestic natural gas supply as a transportation fuel as well as for power generation” through the use of wind turbines.

Raising the Bar on What it Means to be Clean

What happens to hotel soap? Chances are you have never considered the question. In a world with so much waste small, half-used soap bars heading to landfills are at the bottom of most of our lists for concern.  But when you really think about it, landfills are so overwhelming, not because there is an immense amount of trash from a single source, but because millions of little products add up very quickly.  So, maybe soap bars do matter.

Well Shawn Seipler and Paul Till, the founders of Orlando start-up Clean the World certinally belive they do.  It was during a hotel stay that the fate of the half-used soap bar caught Seipler’s attention and he called down to the front office to ask what would happen to it.  The answer was that it would be thrown away. In large hotel chains that results in “a huge amount of trash,” Seipler said. “But what could we do with it?”

The two partners found their answer in a two pronged, non-profit approach which aims to a) divert soap from landfills and b) provide soap to those that need it.  As a result of this innovative thinking, each day thousands of used soap bars are collected by hotel staff, sent to processing centers, sterolized and reshaped into new bars: greatly decreasing the waste produced in soap production. Clean the world is currently partnered with hotels like Walt Disney Hotels and Starwood, and just established a parnetship with InterContinental Hotels Group.  Now that’s a ton of soap.

And it really is making a difference. Through the distribution of recycled soaps, as well as other donated hygiene products, Clean the World is working to prevent the  millions of deaths caused by proventiable, hygiene-related diseases occurring every day.  In April, several representatives of the comany headed to Guatemala where they distributed nearly 13,000 bars of recycled soap to many of the 20,000 individuals living on the edge of city dumps who are at high risk for contracting hygine-related illnesses, as they depend on what they find in the dumps for their survival.

At ExchangeMyPhone we love how Clean the World is rolling up their sleeves to save the environment and improve the quality of life for many.  We love to see other small companies find their niche in the recycling world!

Greening the Money Tree

Its no secret that going green is trendy but is it a good business choice? Industry (both large and small) has been unfairly cast as the villain in the green debate and there is a prevalent idea that eco-conscience commerce is an oxymoron.  So today ExchangeMyPhone will set about debunking this tired myth and exploring how going green can absolutely keep business in the black.

Cutting Costs & Carbon

Cutting energy costs has monetary benefits that help corporations meet the bottom line.  Even the largest chemical companies (not your typical eco champions) like DuPont have saved upwards of three billion dollars by cutting down their carbon footprint.  And of course, Wal-Mart made famous for their love of  “roll backs”, rolled back on their own energy use by installing solar panels at many locations and cut down their electricity bill by one million dollars.

“We think it’s good business,” said Kimberly Sentovich, senior vice president of Wal-Mart’s Pacific Division. “We don’t only want to do things that are good for the environment.”

And its not just the big guys, small businesses too see proportionately significant results by unplugging idle electronics and using recycled paper.

A Healthier Workplace
Companies that promote an environmentally conscious workplace (weather through serving organic food, or simply using nontoxic cleaning products) see, according the Green Business Bureau, 20% less sick days annually which means greater productivity and fewer medical bills.  It’s dollars and sense.

Having a green reputation also attracts more job applicants.  According to a study from Johnson Controls, 98% of candidates 26-36 years say that it is important to them that their employers to be environmentally aware.

Tax Credits

Since 2009, we have seen increasing government incentives for companies to lessen their environmental impact.  Companies that switch to renewable energy such as solar or wind power feel the benefits come tax season.  Both UPS and FedEx recently invested in truck fleets that operate partly on alternative fuels.

Public Relations
This one is the no-brainer.  One can question the true movies behind huge corporations like Wal-Mart and Bank of America going green however, there is no questioning the value of the boost it gives their PR standing among consumers.

Going Green: Go Nuts or Go Broke?

One of the most cumbersome challenges of living a “green” existence is simply a question of time and energy.  Will it be the Hunter-Gatherer diet or Veganism?  Paper towels or the hand dryer? Diesel? Biodiesel? Straight vegetable oil? Hybrid? Sustainable? Fair-trade? Local? It starts to feel like a full-time job.

And now, for some, it is!  Enter, the personal environmental concierge, here to help you with all your green dilemmas.  For $75 an hour your concierge will run errands on a bike, replace your inefficient light-bulbs, brew some organic Drano and give your dog an edamame facial.  For the sector of the population that can afford it, environmental concierges all over the county are taking the guess work out of making responsible choices.

Alas, the fact remains that most of us are years, maybe lifetimes, away from conducting interviews for our own concierge.  So what do we do? At ExchangeMyPhone this is something we consider a lot, in running our business and in our personal lives.  We’ve come to believe that the best most of us can do is pick a single goal for the month, a habit to change or a conservation goal, and run with it.

What’s your goal for this month?

Happy Recycling Day, America

Posted on November 15, 2011 | CSR, e-waste, going green, Recycling, sustainable living, Waste less

Today is America Recycles Day and all over the country initiatives are taking place through the Keep America Beautiful Campaign.  One of the main focuses this year has been reducing e-waste.  What was once a day dedicated namely to the proper disposal of packaging plastics has, in the past few years, become an opportunity to promote the responsible recycling of electronic items large and small.

Recycling education campaigns about food-waste and plastics have been extremely effective and our habits have changed as a result.  However, there is now a huge gap in knowledge when it comes to electronics because we have simply never had so such an abundance of them.  President Obama is very aware of the growing predicament and, earlier this year, launched the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship, designed to provide a framework for the responsible design, management and recycling of electronics.

But it’s not only good for the environment. What is also significant about e-recycling is that is supports and stimulates a job market that 1.1 million people depend upon.  When your dad’s old word processor sits in your closet it doesn’t do any one any good, but proper disposal of such an item stands benefit both you and your community.  And there’s room to grow, Americans currently recycle only 33% recyclable items and a new report “More Jobs, Less Pollution” demonstrates how, by reaching the 75% mark, we could create 1.5 million jobs and reduce carbon emissions by 276 million metric tons by 2030.

In his America Recycles Day address the President reminded citizens that his administration is continuously, “forging new partnerships with the private sector that will advance electronics recycling across our country… we are protecting public health, preserving environmental quality, and laying the foundation for a 21st century economy.”

So, how are we celebrating at ExchangeMyPhone? By recycling cell phones of course, and we think you should too, take this opportunity to dust off an old device and send it our way.