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Fw: NYTimes.com Article: Together at Last: Cutting Pollution and Making Money
- Subject: Fw: NYTimes.com Article: Together at Last: Cutting Pollution and Making Money
- From: "Burton Hamner" <email@example.com>
- Date: Sun, 9 Sep 2001 08:09:56 -0700
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- List-Name: p2tech
- Reply-To: "Burton Hamner" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Today's Sunday New York Times, Business Section, has a good lengthy article
on pollution prevention success, I attach it here for your enjoyment.
> Together at Last: Cutting Pollution and Making Money
> By CLAUDIA H. DEUTSCH
> Notice the common thread running through these three tales?
> ¶The Starbucks Corporation (news/quote), responding to concerns
> that growing coffee caused rain-forest carnage, spends some
> $200,000 to help Mexican farmers improve the quality of beans grown
> under a forest canopy. "We weren't sure they'd ever grow beans we
> would sell," said Orin C. Smith, the company's chief executive. In
> fact, the premium-priced coffee produced by the Mexicans turns out
> to be so tasty, and is selling so well in the United States, that
> Starbucks is introducing it overseas and to institutional
> customers. It has increased its order for Mexican shade-grown beans
> tenfold since the program began in late 1998 and is negotiating
> with shade-growers in four other countries. "We risked this for the
> environmental benefits, but it now has potential to be a really
> profitable product," Mr. Smith said.
> ¶At the fervent request of local environmentalists, the
> Chesapeake, Va., plant of Nova Chemicals (news/quote) sets aside
> 11.5 of its 60 acres for a habitat that Van White, the plant's
> environmental affairs manager, calls a "bed and breakfast" for
> migratory birds and other wildlife. The one-time cost is about
> $8,000 to plant 24 species of trees and fruit-bearing shrubs. The
> unanticipated yearly savings is $16,000. "Turns out, that's what
> we'd been paying to mow those 11.5 acres," Mr. White said.
> ¶Managers of the Los Angeles International Airport, which dumps
> 19,000 tons of food waste each year, figured that California
> regulators would soon restrict the practice. So they set up a pilot
> program with the sewage and utility plants next door. First, the
> airport grinds up the food scraps. Then the sewage plant puts them
> through its huge digesters and sends the resulting methane gas back
> to the utility. "It looks like we'll not only meet future
> regulations, but we'll save $12 a ton in disposal and get $18 a ton
> for the energy," said Louise Riggen, the airport's recycling
> coordinator. The yield may be even better: the digesters will also
> turn out reusable water, a precious commodity in California, and a
> nutrient-rich sludge that can be sold as fertilizer.
> The pattern? All these projects were undertaken with only
> environmental goals in mind, yet they also yielded unexpected
> savings or revenue streams.
> "The notion that environment is just an expensive cost is way out
> of date," said Glenn T. Prickett, executive director of the Center
> for Environmental Leadership in Business, a unit of Conservation
> International created with money from the Ford Motor Company
> (news/quote). Mr. Prickett's group worked with Starbucks on the
> shade-grown coffee project; has helped the Mobil Corporation
> protect a rain forest while it explored for oil in Peru; and aided
> Asarco, a mining company, in safeguarding wetlands when it searched
> for gold in French Guiana.
> By now, some 30 years after the environmental movement took hold,
> many companies are giving second lives to raw materials, fuels and
> other products that previously went to landfills. Water from their
> process cooling systems is being used to heat and cool their
> plants. Fly ash and other pollutants scrubbed from the air often
> show up in concrete and highway asphalt. Once-disposable cameras
> are being refurbished for reuse. And makers of deodorants,
> toothpastes and cold medicines have all but dispensed with
> cardboard shells for tubes and bottles, reducing paper waste - and
> package costs.
> But those kinds of projects represent the easy pickings of
> environmentalism. Today, companies have to do much more. They are
> often required by law to pull gases from air and materials from
> water and trash that they never had dreamed would be on any list of
> environmental problems.
> The landfills that have been accepting the nonrecycled wastes,
> meanwhile, are growing saturated, while dumps where hazardous
> substances were supposed to find a safe resting place are springing
> leaks. Gases that were once thought innocuous, like carbon dioxide,
> are among the greenhouse gases that may contribute to global
> warming, while others, like the so-called volatile organic
> compounds found in solvent and paint fumes, have been implicated in
> depleting the ozone layer.
> Societal demands have changed, too. Previously, communities were
> satisfied when companies simply complied with regulations. Today,
> they want them to set aside wilderness areas, clean up rivers that
> they never had a hand in soiling and be far more squeaky-clean than
> the government insists. And companies are loath to fight back.
> "When you reduce waste and emissions, a community is a lot more
> willing to issue permits for other operations down the road," said
> Samuel L. Smolik, vice president for global environment, health and
> safety at the Dow Chemical Company (news/quote) in Midland, Mich.
> Most companies assume that they are already using the least
> expensive materials and most cost-effective processes. They also
> assume that solving the latest crop of environmental headaches will
> cost them plenty. So discovering that the answers to environmental
> demands can shift to the profit side of the ledger is a big
> financial surprise.
> "When they substitute chemicals or processes, they often have to
> put in expensive equipment, retrain workers, do lots of costly
> things," said Gaytha A. Langlois, professor of ecology at Bryant
> College in Smithfield, R.I. "But then they find that the new
> equipment or process really is more efficient and that there are
> all kinds of savings to be had."
> Examples abound. Everyone talks about dreaded holes in the ozone
> layer - but the fear is even greater for plant managers who find
> that some of the chemicals with jaw-breaking names that they have
> used for years may be making those holes wider. Until last year,
> the Roanoke, Va., factory of ITT Industries (news/quote), a
> diversified manufacturer, used an inert, nontoxic compressed gas
> called sulfur hexafluoride to test tubes used in the night-vision
> devices it makes for the military. Then Usha Wright, ITT's director
> for environment, safety and health, put sulfur hexafluoride on a
> list of ozone-depleting gases that she insisted the plants
> Its hand forced, the Roanoke plant started trying other gases
> instead. It settled on nitrogen, which worked as well, did not
> deplete ozone and cost $500,000 a year less to buy and to handle.
> Ms. Wright said many other ITT plants had received similarly
> pleasant surprises from other environmentally inspired
> "We haven't tallied up the numbers, because we did not include
> cost reductions as a goal," she said. "But it looks like a lot of
> plants are going to realize overall savings."
> For some companies, the benefits come not only in savings but also
> in sales. You know those thin slabs of wallboard that are
> increasingly used instead of plaster in building new homes? There
> is a chance that they started out as scrubber waste.
> A few years ago, the Tennessee Valley Authority (news/quote), the
> largest public power utility, switched to new air pollution control
> equipment that, although much more expensive, yielded powdery
> residues instead of the gooey ones produced by its old equipment.
> The T.V.A.'s aim was to end up with a substance that would be
> easier for its on-site landfill to handle.
> The results have been much better than that. The utility now sells
> the 1.2 million tons of the powder, calcium sulfate, that it
> generates annually to a company called Synthetic Materials, which
> turns it into gypsum, the main ingredient in wallboard. Most of it
> is bought by Temple-Inland, a wallboard manufacturer that has set
> up shop at the T.V.A.'s largest plant, in Cumberland City, Tenn.
> Synthetic Materials sells the rest on the open market. When gypsum
> supply exceeds demand, the T.V.A. dumps the powder on the landfill;
> when demand exceeds supply, Synthetic Materials dips into the
> landfill for more.
> Cherie Miller, the T.V.A.'s byproduct specialist - a title created
> just 11 months ago - said the arrangement added $3 million to the
> T.V.A.'s coffers last year. That is on top of the $5 million or so
> that the T.V.A. has been gleaning from selling other wastes like
> fly ash, for use in concrete, and boiler slag, for use in
> abrasives. "Marketing byproducts has really become a profit center
> here," Ms. Miller said.
> Elsewhere as well. Several other utility plants, including the
> Palatka, Fla., operations of the Seminole Electric Cooperative and
> a Shippingport, Pa., plant of FirstEnergy (news/quote) are selling
> gypsum for wallboard, too.
> Sometimes, a little bit of internal sleuthing can turn a company
> into its best customer for its own waste.
> Last year, an alert waste-plant operator at Textron (news/quote)'s
> Bell Helicopter unit in Fort Worth, looking for ways to reduce the
> amount of messy sludge left over when Bell cleaned up its process
> water, noticed that the sludge always seemed to be a lot lighter in
> color than he would have expected.
> He guessed - correctly - that a lot of magnesium hydroxide, a pure
> white powder that Bell used for electroplating, was moving through
> the process unused. So Bell conducted tests and found that it could
> pump the sludge back into its electroplating process three or four
> times before it needed to be dumped. Bell saved $100,000 last year
> just by dumping less sludge and buying less magnesium hydroxide.
> "We wanted to stop landfilling hundreds of tons of sludge, but we
> wound up solving an internal inefficiency," said Donald L. Legg,
> Bell's director for environmental and industrial safety.
> With a variety of forces putting ever more pressure on them to
> clean up their acts, companies might well hope that their
> environmental projects yield many more such hidden bounties.
> So-called socially conscious investing has been growing in
> popularity in recent years, as more investors include environmental
> performance as a factor in picking stocks. And many companies -
> Procter & Gamble (news/quote) is a notable example - use such
> performance as a criterion in choosing suppliers. Banks are taking
> potential environmental liabilities into closer account when they
> decide whether to make loans. Insurers, too, are insisting that
> companies prove that they are running clean shops before they issue
> policies covering environmental accidents.
> And some customers are pushing their own environmental problems
> into their suppliers' court. A couple of years ago, customers of
> the Xerox Corporation (news/quote) started asking the company to
> help them dispose of excess toner from their Xerox machines.
> Customers for the most expensive copiers had the influence to make
> that request more of an order - a pretty tall order.
> "It was costing us half a million a year just to collect and
> transport the stuff," said Jack C. Azar, vice president for
> environment, health and safety. So Xerox's chemists spent a hefty
> chunk of their research budget to learn to incorporate the toner
> waste into new toner. The company still has to pay for collection
> and transportation, but it is saving about $800,000 a year on new
> toners for expensive machines. This year, Xerox will expand the
> recycling program to toner waste for less-expensive copiers.
> The Internet is also making corporations more sensitive to
> environmental issues. "Environmental groups have become truly
> sophisticated in using the Web to move information to millions of
> people literally overnight, and to attack companies on a global
> scale," said Carol M. Browner, who headed the Environmental
> Protection Agency under President Bill Clinton.
> For example, Greenpeace wanted the Coca-Cola Company (news/quote)
> to stop using hydrofluorocarbons, a heat-trapping greenhouse gas,
> as a refrigerant in Coke machines. During the Olympic Games in
> Sydney last year, the Australian chapter of Greenpeace put sticker
> designs on its Web site that showed polar bears on melting ice
> caps, and encouraged site visitors to download them and plaster
> them on Coke machines. Many did so - and sure enough, Coke soon
> announced it would phase out use of the gas. Coke has always said
> it planned to do so anyway, "but Greenpeace really gave them an
> awful time," Ms. Browner recalled.
> The switch to a Republican administration in Washington may spur
> many more such attacks. Many environmentalists worry that their
> issues now have low priority in the federal government,
> notwithstanding the E.P.A.'s recent decision to force General
> Electric (news/quote) to dredge the Hudson River for P.C.B.'s, or
> polychlorinated biphenyls. Christie Whitman, the E.P.A.
> administrator, declined to be interviewed.
> "The environmental movement was deflated in the 90's because
> people thought Bill Clinton was an environmental president," said
> Andrew J. Hoffman, assistant professor of management at the Boston
> University School of Management, who has written about corporate
> environmental activity. "It's being ignited again in opposition to
> George W. Bush."
> Alan Metrick, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense
> Council, said that 100,000 more people had joined his group since
> Mr. Bush was inaugurated.
> "Americans feel this government will not protect their air and
> water, and they are energized to a degree we haven't seen in
> years," Mr. Metrick said. "We now have more than half a million
> members, and that means more funds to take on more cases."
> But those are not necessarily fighting words. Few executives today
> dismiss environmentalists as hippie tree-huggers, as they might
> have during the 1970's. And fewer environmentalists view business
> executives as the devil incarnate. Companies and environmentalists
> are now as likely to be partners as adversaries.
> Starbucks gives Conservation International equal credit for the
> shade-grown coffee project. The Natural Resources Defense Council
> worked closely with Dow Chemical to reduce pollution at Dow plants
> in Midland and has offered its services to other companies. (So
> far, to Mr. Metrick's dismay, there have been no takers.) The
> Alliance for Environmental Innovation, a unit of the better-known
> Environmental Defense, helped McDonald's (news/quote) figure out a
> replacement for its much-criticized polystyrene clamshell packaging
> in the mid-1990's and more recently helped United Parcel Service
> (news/quote) develop a reusable overnight mailer.
> Advocacy groups have learned to incorporate the corporate focus on
> profits into their environmental pitches. The Alliance for
> Environmental Innovation persuaded Federal Express to promise
> carmakers that it would buy more fuel-efficient, cleaner-driving
> trucks, even if they cost a little more.
> "We realize that the auto companies need committed customers to
> justify what will probably be a very expensive R & D project," said
> Gwen Ruta, the director of the alliance.
> Many companies are reaping the benefits of environmental projects
> that they started in the 90's, when regulatory scrutiny seemed more
> intense, and when the booming economy made potentially costly
> projects more palatable.
> Consider Corning Inc. (news/quote) Its plant in Canton, N.Y.,
> which makes super- pure glass used in manufacturing computer chips,
> was within the legal limits set by New York State for emissions of
> hydrochloric acid, but company executives figured that the state
> would soon tighten the rules. So, in 1999, the plant started making
> a chlorine-free glass.
> The new glass-making chemicals are no panacea - for example, they
> freeze at 60 degrees Fahrenheit, in a city where winter
> temperatures can plunge to 30 below. "Researching it, trucking it
> in, building new storage bins and handling equipment - it cost well
> over $5 million, and frankly we didn't enjoy doing it," said
> Raymond F. Leinen, manager of Corning's semiconductor materials
> They are, however, enjoying the results. Glass samples that
> Corning has been monitoring for more than a year remain free of
> distortion; the chlorinated glass would have warped slightly by
> Corning hopes that the improvement will help the company gain
> market share. "We won't raise the price of the new glass, but this
> subtle property may well get more semiconductor companies to buy
> it," Mr. Leinen said.
> Sikorsky Aircraft, too, may be getting some new bragging rights
> from an environmentally induced product change. Last year,
> Sikorsky, a unit of United Technologies (news/quote), switched to a
> new kind of paint for its helicopters, because the old one was
> sending ozone-depleting fumes up its factory stacks. The change
> cost a bit in retooling - but, it turns out, the new paint can be
> applied with a thinner coating. That means that less paint is used,
> and that the finished helicopter weighs less - a fact that Sikorsky
> is trumpeting to military and commercial customers alike. "Saving
> even an ounce on a helicopter is a big deal," said Leslie
> Carothers, vice president for environment, health and safety at
> United Technologies.
> But even as the environmental pressure on companies heats up, the
> number of surprising benefits from environmental programs may
> dwindle. That is because more and more companies are installing
> formal programs to ferret out savings at the outset.
> Dow Chemical now routinely applies complex statistical analysis to
> environmental projects to ensure that its businesses are wresting
> the maximum economic benefits from meeting the company's
> anti-pollution goals. Dow has even assigned dollar amounts to
> intangible benefits like community good will or employee
> satisfaction, then plugs those numbers into its formulas for
> evaluating environmental projects.
> "Historically, projects were discussed in either the language of
> economic value or of environmental performance, but we've figured
> out how to translate from one language to the other," said Mr.
> Smolik of Dow.
> Often, corporate environmental officials are using such
> translation to persuade plant managers that profit, not
> environmental benefit, is the primary goal even when it is not. For
> instance, in March, William Blackburn, vice president for
> environment, health and safety at Baxter International
> (news/quote), the medical products maker in Deerfield, Ill., pulled
> together a group of purchasing and engineering people to discuss
> ways to reduce energy use. They are now exploring several.
> "My goal was to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the only
> greenhouse gas we emit," he said. But he recognized that managers
> with bottom-line responsibilities would be more attracted to
> cheaper energy bills. "Environment is heart and economics is head,
> and to motivate everyone, you need to combine the two."
> Indeed, Mr. Blackburn has used that psychology to persuade
> profit-oriented plant managers to revisit environmental problems
> that they had thought were solved. To incinerate blood plasma waste
> at a plant in Austria, Baxter had been spending $70,000 a year -
> not a particularly painful hit to the bottom line. Still, at Mr.
> Blackburn's urging, the plant "asked some local professors to look
> at this stuff and get creative." The professors figured out how to
> turn the waste into fuel and fertilizer, which the university now
> uses. The project cost Baxter $350,000, but it cut disposal costs
> to zero.
> "There's a real interplay between environmental and financial
> motives," Mr. Blackburn said, "and we're pushing that idea across
> the entire company."
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