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Joel Makower's Posts


ULE'll love this idea

Introducing ULE 880 — Sustainability for Manufacturing Organizations

A new sustainability standard for companies is being released for public comment: ULE 880 -- Sustainability for Manufacturing Organizations, a partnership between UL Environment, a division of Underwriters Laboratories, and my colleagues at It is a day that I've been awaiting for the better part of a decade. A 45-day comment period opened Aug. 2, and we hope you will review the draft standard and provide detailed feedback. ULE 880 is the first in a series of company-level standards and certifications that are being produced by this ULE-GreenBiz partnership. It results from about eight years of work -- initially by a …


Inside Newsweek’s new green corporate rankings

Cross-posted from GreenBiz. On Monday, Newsweek magazine unveiled its first annual Green Rankings, the fruits of a near-Herculean endeavor: rating and ranking the environmental performance, achievements, and reputation of the S&P 500. The list, published today in a 12-page special section in the magazine as well as online, is the culmination of an 18-month journey. The resulting rankings are straightforward, almost elegant, but it wasn't a straight or easy path. Like most such rankings, they're imperfect. They'll likely be challenged and debated, especially by some of the lower-ranking companies, not to mention the activist/blogosphere community. But it may well be …


Colleges and universities are learning what it takes to go green

The dawn of the new school year has brought with it a corps of fresh-faced ideas and initiatives aimed at making colleges and universities cleaner and greener. And, like any freshman class, they are all beaming with potential: Most will succeed, a handful will excel, and a few will end up disappointing their parents. Campuses are going green -- and not just with ivy. Photo: iStockphoto The greening of academe is nothing new, but it seems to have taken root in a big way. Today, it's not just about doing a few good, green things -- recycling, buying green energy, …

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Getting a toehold on your company’s climate footprint

"What's your company's climate footprint?" It's a hot question these days -- one being asked increasingly of companies by customers, investors, activists, regulators, and others. OK, it may not be exactly that question, but it's probably in some form, like, "What's your company doing to reduce its climate impacts?" Or, "How do you call yourself environmentally responsible when you take so damn many plane trips?" Photo: iStockphoto Whatever the question, providing an answer will require understanding what, exactly, your company does to contribute greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. And therein lies a challenge: Calculating a company's climate footprint (sometimes referred …


Companies that green their supply chains can find savings galore

How many light bulbs does it take to change a supply chain? In the case of Baxter Healthcare Corp., just three. When Jenni Cawein, manager of corporate environmental health and safety engineering at the Illinois-based $9.8 billion health-care giant, arrived six years ago, she saw that the company was losing ground on waste. "I asked my boss, 'Who's working with purchasing?' It turned out it was nobody," she says. Cawein set out to build a case for integrating environmental criteria into the company's procurement process. Show them the money. Photo: iStockphoto. "I asked what the purchasing department cared about the …


How a business can pick the best packaging

You've created the World's Greenest Product, and you're shipping it off to your first big customer. You've made it from the most environmentally sensitive materials, using only renewable energy. It's the pinnacle of eco-friendly everything. Special delivery. Photo: iStockphoto. So what are you going to pack it in, cardboard or plastic? And how are you going to keep it safe: Styrofoam, newspaper, popcorn, peanuts, Crackerjacks? Last month, this column reviewed the impacts of shipping by plane, train, and automobile (and ship, of course). This time we dig a little deeper, looking at the impacts of the actual packaging materials that …


How companies are driving down the impacts of shipping

We all know that planes, trains, and automobiles use gobs of fuel and spew mega-gobs of greenhouse gases and other pollutants into the atmosphere -- and that makes freight transport a particularly dirty business. Your new iPod is in there somewhere. Photo: iStockphoto. The environmental impacts of shipping goods hither and yon are significant but relatively obscure, the true costs hidden amid complex shipping tariffs and product price tags. Businesses that rely on products being moved from one place to another have been able to do little to change the performance of truck, rail, and marine cargo companies. Moreover, cargo …


How companies are tapping the benefits of saving water

Name this critical and declining natural resource: It is pumped through pipelines and delivered by trucks. It is essential to our daily lives and to every business process and function. Its uneven distribution around the globe leads to vast chasms in countries' development and economies. Wars have been fought over it. Water saved is a dollar earned. Photo: iStockphoto. If you've read the headline, you already know that the resource in question is not oil, but water. For companies, it's a liquid asset that's long been undervalued and overconsumed. The world's freshwater supply is at risk, and the question is …


Hospitals and doctors’ offices look to cure their environmental ills

The irony is almost too obvious to state: tens of thousands of hospitals, doctors' offices, medical laboratories, and assorted other health-care providers spew toxic substances into the environment, or dispose of trash containing a noxious mix of contaminated or infectious waste. Some of it will make its way into the air, water, and soil. All of it potentially endangers the health of people and other living things. Mask not what you can do for your country. Photo: iStockphoto. Talk about a health-care crisis. For years, the health-care sector -- which employs more than 10 million people in the U.S. and …


Eco-friendly furniture meets the cubicle culture

The email query came not from you, dear reader, but from a staffer at the Mothership: "Grist is moving offices this spring, and we're looking into environmentally friendly office furniture," it read. "I've been tasked with researching some companies, and it was suggested you might be able to identify good places to look into. Any thoughts?" Any thoughts, indeed. A Grist staffer hard at work. Photo: iStockphoto. Buying eco-friendly desks, chairs, cabinets, space dividers, and other furniture is getting easier. With government agencies, universities, and corporations specifying greener products, furniture makers have been fairly quick to put environmental options on …