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Steve Graham

Steve Graham photo courtesy of Steve GrahamSteve Graham is an award-winning freelance Web and magazine writer living in a Fort Collins, Colorado, neighborhood that will soon produce all of its own energy. He is a former newspaper reporter, editor and designer. He has worked for an alternative weekly and community newspapers in Colorado, and a large daily newspaper in California. Find links to some of his other writing at his Grahamophone blog.

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This Thanksgiving, I’m (Somewhat) Thankful for Corporate America
Sunday, 18 November 2012 00:00  |  Written by Steve Graham | Blog Entry

Nike-Apple iPod photo by luisvillaAs a good environmentalist, I know I’m supposed to be thankful for organic food, the national parks and the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife. I am, but I’m also unexpectedly thankful this year for corporate America. Large companies that I have ignored, boycotted and even protested are now friends of the environment. Here are a few good firms, or at least firms doing good things:

I’m a Mac, so I’ve long been thankful for Apple, but the company is getting even further in my good graces by stepping up its environmental commitment. Its MacBooks use recyclable aluminum and are free of toxic mercury and arsenic. Its newest iPod Nano also has fewer dangerous chemicals. To be sure, Greenpeace still won’t bite, but I’ll forgive some green foot-dragging on Apple’s part. Why? Because it pulled out of the US Chamber of Commerce, citing the Chamber’s anti-progressive climate-change policy.

Shoe giant Nike also left the Chamber. And the former sweatshop leader recently became an environmental leader instead. The company has a new program for recycling shoes, and this year debuted a 100%-recycled shoe—the Zoom MVP Trash Talk. Slam dunk.

As noted, I’m not a PC, but one of the leading makers of Windows machines, Hewlett-Packard (HP), deserves at least as many kudos as Apple. It is driving the industry forward by listing the greenhouse-gas emissions for its entire supply chain. Like Apple, it is removing hazardous chemicals from its products, and almost all its computers qualify for Energy Star labels.

Wal-Mart (and Uncle Sam)
The world’s largest company is trying to use 100%-renewable energy and generate zero waste while greening its supply chain and posting a carbon-impact number next to every product. Any green step for the company leaves a massive industry-shifting footprint since Wal-Mart buys and then sells an estimated $300 billion in stuff from 100,000 suppliers. The US government is also greening its supply chain from 230,000 companies. Between Wal-Mart and Uncle Sam, most of the world’s companies will be forced to consider their sustainability.

Bristol-Myers Squibb
With the healthcare debate still raging, it’s good to be able to say something nice about a pharmaceutical company (though I’m not yet ready to make peace with the major insurance companies). The Bristol-Myers Squibb company has surpassed its goal of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions by 10%, is reducing harmful chemicals, adding solar power and adhering to LEED principles throughout its manufacturing facilities.

Of course, all of these companies can do better. Wal-Mart, for example, should stop using plastic bags. The company is working to make the bags thinner and less resource-intensive, but getting rid of the bags altogether would use far fewer resources. Likewise, both computer makers mentioned could use more recycled materials and make their products less disposable and intentionally obsolescent.

Sure there are companies doing even more for the environment, such as Danish wind-turbine giant Vestas. But this Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for every company that’s become more eco-conscious than the year before. Now, go and celebrate the holiday while continuing your quest to become continually greener, too. There’s room for improvement in all of us. This year I might just serve Thanksgiving tofurkey instead of turkey—because after all Mother Nature loves a vegan.

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