Forward thinking businesses such as Google Inc are leading the charge in the use of renewable energy in the corporate sphere. They power 100% of their operations with renewable energy. In 2007 they installed the largest corporate solar panel installation of its kind with the long term understanding that their investment would pay for itself from energy savings within fifteen years time.
If all of the corporations of America thought as Google does when it comes to harnessing renewable energy than the environment we live in today would be much cleaner. Certainly going green for a corporation is not just a cost savings but it also is a good public relations tool. Google’s commitment to renewable energy makes for great news editorials (such as this one) and because they are the most aggressive corporate American company when it comes to the use of renewable energy they stand to get a lot of coverage and attention as a result.
The 100% commitment they have to renewable energy sets them apart from just about every other corporation in America today and that makes them newsworthy. Businesses operating on a smaller scale who understand this also benefit from local and national media coverage. Let’s look at the example of the greenest restaurant in America which is found in Chicago, IL and called Uncommon Ground. They have solar panels, and electrical charging stations for electrical vehicles in the car park, and they have bike racks and numerous other energy saving and environmentally friendly practices. They have worked very hard to be as energy efficient as possible and stand out from the crowd in a positive way.
The owner of Uncommon Ground Helen Cameron is quoted as saying, “There are many actions we have implemented, including purchasing energy star rated equipment which uses less electric, gas and water, we have installed low flow aerators on all sinks,” she says.
“We have switched to electric hand dryers (saving each restaurant about $12,000 a year in paper towel expenses and eliminating that carbon footprint entirely), installing LED lightbulbs everywhere, which reduced our electric bill by around $500 monthly at each location and the need to purchase/replace halogen bulbs repeatedly as the LEDs last longer–also they don’t contain mercury and are not toxic to us and the environment; we have very well insulated dining rooms and the windows are double paned, the majority of our purchasing is focused locally (less food & beverage miles),” she continues.
“We have our own certified organic rooftop and sidewalk farms as well as the first certified organic brewery in IL, Greenstar Brewing, which buys only local grains, hops and yeast and because anything organic does not use petrochemical fertilizers, GMO’s and poisonous herbicides, pesticides and fungicides, we eliminate a great deal of carbon footprint and unhealthful ingredients around our food and beer production,” she says.
“Both Uncommon Ground locations have solar thermal panels which heat our water. The Green Restaurant Association has calculated that those panels supply each restaurant with approximately 10% of its overall energy needs. We were able to get a state rebate and a federal tax credit for the panels which paid for approximately 40% of the cost of the panels. We were able to recoup the remaining expense in less than 4 years time in our gas savings, so the ROI was relatively quick. Now both restaurants get the benefit of the savings on our gas bill on a continuous basis,” she says.
In terms of the positive impact these practices have had on Uncommon Ground’s public image Helen says, “Uncommon Ground has been at the cutting edge of sustainability in the restaurant and small business world. We take the lessons we have learned and connect in any way possible with our neighborhoods and community at large to provide working examples of a large variety of actions that anyone can take to improve energy efficiency, waste reduction, decrease expenses, eat & drink local, seasonal, organic foods & beverages, and hopefully in our own way help the planet and it’s residents survive the climate change we have created.
“This year we will be celebrating our 25 year anniversary, and I believe that one of the reasons that we have been able to stay in business for so long is that we have developed a reputation for doing the right thing, helping raise awareness of these important issues in a way that our guests and staff can relate to, and we have been able to reduce our expenses in a way that have helped us succeed over the long term,” she concludes.
So the lesson from Google and from Uncommon Ground is that there are benefits in positively standing out from what other companies are doing in terms of the environment. In the world of business marketing one would call that striving to be a purple elephant. There are many elephants with gray skin and are unremarkable but if you ever saw a purple elephant you would always remember it because it was remarkable.
About The Author: Steve Constable has been working in the home improvement industry in Chicago, IL for a number of years and is the owner of Kitchen Remodeling Chicago. He is passionate about the environment and works to educate his clients about the benefits of green building. He also enjoys writing articles for publication on the side and worked in Journalism early in his career.