What Walmart and Kermit Have in Common: It’s Not Easy Being Green

A liquid cooler atop the new Wal-Mart Supercenter in Las Vegas. Photo courtesy of the Associated PressAnd if you were to ask Lee Scott, Walmart’s CEO, he’d say Walmart isn’t green at all – which doesn’t seem too much of a stretch.

Walmart has been vilified for destroying America’s “Main Street”, exploiting workers all over the world (including here in the U.S.), and helping fuel a consumerist environmental mess on a scale not even possible by smaller, lesser retailers. They have one of the largest commercial truck fleets on the planet and consume more electricity than any other private user. Walmart is the big (really big) elephant in the room we call “retail commerce” and the footprint they leave throughout the world is a large one – to put it mildly.

We love to hate Walmart.

But even if Walmart isn’t green, they’re pretty good at making money and maximizing profit. And with efficiency comes lower operating costs, more profit, and more money.

Efficiency is the name of the game with their latest generation “Supercenter”  in Las Vegas that utilizes new cooling technology expected to reduce overall energy use by 45%. Since 2005, Walmart has reportedly put in place a program aimed at increasing overall energy efficiency throughout the chain, reducing packing waste, and adding more sustainable products to their shelves.

If that isn’t green, it is more efficient. You don’t always have to be green to do the right thing.

 

Turn Off the Lights When You Leave the Room!

When I was a kid, I got into the habit of turning off the lights when I left the room unoccupied. Not because my young sensibility leaned inherently toward saving energy and reducing my carbon footprint (nobody even had a carbon footprint in the 60’s), but because I didn’t want to get in trouble with my parents. Eventually (when I started paying the electricity bill), I turned off the lights because it was cheaper and made more sense to be more efficient with my electricity consumption. Of course, it’s also the right thing to do.

Some kids grow up to be CEO’s of enormous corporations.

As Wood Turner, Project Director of ClimateCounts.org said on a recent post at TreeHugger.com, “When did waste become a viable business strategy?” Instead of “green” for its own sake, efficiency and sustainability is simply the smarter business decision. For Turner, that’s a “breath of fresh air” from those that would trot out the latest trendy green buzz words and declare themselves “green”.

But Walmart does engage in some buzz-word campaigns touting their environmental responsibility – to the chagrin and near outrage of some – new technology, higher efficiency, and changing policies notwithstanding. To them there may be nothing that Walmart can do to wash away the sins of their past; they are – and always will be – a big, evil, giant.

A giant that caters to hundreds of millions of customers.

I’m reluctant to give Walmart a pass, but they don’t exist in a vacuum. People apparently love to shop at Walmart. At some point corporate responsibitly aligns itself with consumer complacency.

Whether Lee Scott and Walmart are green, they are the big players in big box retailing and aren’t going away anytime soon. I see no reason not to maintain a healthy skepticism (and there remains much to be skeptical of), but if they can direct suppliers to use less plastic in their bottled water, demonstrate new technologies for greater energy efficiency, reduce the amount of waste in the packaging of their products, it’s a step in right direction.

 

 

 

 

Tom is the founder, editor, and publisher of GlobalWarmingisReal.com and the TDS Environmental Media Network. He has been a contributor for Triple Pundit since 2007. Tom has also written for Slate, Earth911, the Pepsico Foundation, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, and many other sustainability-focused publications. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists