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green@work : Magazine : Between Blue & Yellow : May/June 2007

Between Blue and Yellow

Looking Back on Forward Thinking

by Jeff Orloff

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 lifestyle.

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.

Jeff Orloff
Associate Editor

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