For the longest time,
the choice to live a sustainable lifestyle was reserved for those
who could afford higher-priced organic products. To many, sustainable
business practices were implemented only when they would save money,
or when forced upon them by government regulations. As a nation
of consumers, the shadow cast on the green life was one of negativity
and at times weakness. For whatever reason—fear of the unknown,
guilty conscience or just plain apathy—the American public
overall did not see the purpose in practicing sustainability. I
also fell into this blanket statement. I can’t say what opened
my eyes. I just know they see a bit more clearly now.
Reflective of my change, the American public has taken a 180-degree
turn in its opinion as well. As a free market economy, American
business relies on the simple theory of supply and demand. When
goods are in demand, business had better increase its supply, or
suffer the threat of lost profits. When we look at the American
economy, one of the largest indicators is the retail giant Wal-Mart.
When Wal-Mart wanted Radio Frequency Identifier (RFID) tags on all
pallets coming into the warehouses to better track their inventory,
suppliers all over the world changed their technology. During the
holidays, the economy is often measured by Wal-Mart’s numbers.
So when Wal-Mart made the decision to go green, it validated that
the American public has come around to embrace a more sustainable
Not only is this a glimpse into the economic demands of the American
consumer, but as Dennis Walsh points out in this month’s cover
story, Wal-Mart is making a company wide effort to bring associates,
suppliers and its customer base into sustainability.
Green living has permeated other avenues of everyday life as well.
Two articles in this issue focus on the way buildings are designed
with sustainability in mind. They demonstrate how running everyday
operations in a particular facility can be equally beneficial to
the environment as well as the product the company produces.
Another industry that has been making strides toward green practices
is the hospitality industry. This month, Stephanie Hanson takes
a look into what hotels are doing to attract environmentally savvy
customers. From the Green Hotel Initiative to the Green Hotel Association,
the hospitality industry is searching for ways to conserve energy,
reduce its carbon footprint and produce less waste in order to promote
sustainable practices and fight for its share of the marketplace
in a changing economy.
The environmentally savvy customer—this is who deserves the
credit here. The purchasing power of individuals who decided years
ago that they would rather spend a few dollars more on something
that would promote environmental well-being are the ones who have
given birth to this growing marketplace. The consumer who decided
years ago that doing the little things, and ignoring the jests from
family and friends that they were “wasting money” on
organic items or that their hybrid car looked silly, is the one
who should be thanked. It is those individual consumers who collectively
changed the attitude of the American economy, and have led the change
toward protecting the planet for our grandchildren’s children.