What color is
“Everybody throws around the term
‘green’ these days, but no one has a definition
for it,” says Costco member Harry Lewis,
attorney adviser in the Environmental
Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pollution
Prevention and Toxics. “The concept is fluid:
As technology and best practices get more
developed, the bar may get raised and standards may change.”
investments in clean technology, all
identified themselves as green.
Progress is being made, however.
Some computer manufacturers,
including Dell and HP, are participating in an EPA program called the
Electronic Product Environmental
Assessment Tool, designed to promote
greener electronics—electronics that avoid
a Costco member business in Woodland
Hills, California, that manufactures CDs
and DVDs ( www.groovehouse.com), offers
packaging made of 100 percent recycled
cardboard and clear disc trays made with
100 percent recycled plastic. All of their
manufactured booklets, folders and tray cards
are now printed on Forest Stewardship Council
(FSC) certified paper with soy-based inks, on
at least 50 percent recycled stock. FSC certification guarantees that any virgin paper
or board stock comes from responsible
forestry operations. Only water-based,
biodegradable varnishes are used for
paper or card-stock finishing. Their
print and disc manufacturing facilities both recycle 100 percent
of their paper, board and
“A truly green business...
begins internally. ...Then
you really get down to work...
providing solutions to minimize
your business’s impact.”
—Wendy Radwan, Taxi! Taxi!
Similar to the ongoing quest to define
what it means to be “organic,” the current
challenge is for everybody—consumers, environmentalists and the government—to agree
on criteria and then identify products and
services that meet their criteria. Businesses
need clarity as to what constitutes a level of
green they can strive for and lay claim to,
through an established and recognized green
The responses The Connection received
when we began our research reflected this
amorphous definition. A broad spectrum of
small businesses, ranging from those that had
swapped out light bulbs or begun recycling
to companies that had made enormous
certain materials, have less packaging and
are more easily upgraded or recycled.
The Energy Star program (www.energy
star.gov), one of the first environmental
labeling programs, is gaining more importance as retailers and utility companies offer
rebates for products meeting the energy-efficiency guidelines.
The U.S. Green Building Council’s
Leadership in Energy and Environmental
Design program ( www.usgbc.org/LEED) provides a tiered certification system to rate buildings on environmental and energy-efficiency
criteria. Another program, GreenSeal ( www.
greenseal.org), provides a green certification
label for a variety of products, including eco-friendly paint, soaps and cleaning products.
There are a host of resources, on the
Internet, at workshops and expositions and in
published books, that spell out the many steps
that people can take in their personal and professional lives, to minimize their negative
impact on the Earth.
Although the criteria vary, many cities have established green certification
programs. And different groups, from
environmental experts to small-business owners, have put together
a framework of guidelines on what
it takes to go green (see page 23).
“A green business is a business
that has been upgraded to address
the environmental challenges of
our country,” says Lucy Blake, chief
executive of the Apollo Alliance, a
coalition of environmental groups,
labor unions and politicians seek-
ing to transform the U.S. economy into one
based on renewable energy.
“A business is green if it has adapted its
practices for the use of renewable resources
and holds itself accountable for the environmental and human-rights impacts of its activities,” says Costco member Kevin Slovick of
“A truly green business starts with the
basics,” says Costco member Wendy Radwan,
client and public relations director for Taxi!
Taxi! ( www.santamonicataxi.com), a Los
Angeles County taxi service that developed
the area’s first hybrid taxi fleet. “First you
begin internally—recycling, using environmentally friendly materials, etc. Then you
really get down to work, by providing solutions to minimize your business’s impact and
to improve sustainability.”
( www.lagunaculinaryarts.com), a cooking
school, café and gourmet cheese and wine
shop based in Laguna Beach, California, found
that just having recyclable containers and cups
for to-go orders wasn’t enough. “They often just
got tossed in the trash once they left our premises,” says Costco member Nancy Milby, executive
director of the company. “Therefore, we’ve gone to
products that are compostable: cups and containers made from 100 percent corn products, containers made of sugar fiber. Go ahead, toss it into
the trash—with a little moisture, it will decompose
back into the earth from whence it came.”
Why go green?
While there may not yet be an overall
definition of “green,” there is enough information available for the hundreds of businesses, large and small, that are making
significant changes to how they operate,
both internally and externally.
Their reasons for taking these steps are
varied. Some fear global warming. Some see
green as a market trend. Others believe there
are benefits to the planet and future generations. And many businesses are turning to a
cleaner way of working because they’ve found
it helps them save money—through green
efficiencies that allow them to do more while
using less—or make money.
“For us it wasn’t a one-issue decision,” say