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Apr 042011

From Green Right Now Reports

When it comes to assessing its products with regard to sustainability, IKEA is about to start keeping score – literally.

The Sweden-based retailer plans to rate its merchandise with a scorecard, part of an emphasis on marketing more sustainable products. The IKEA Sustainability Product Score Card evaluates items based on 11 criteria, including use of less material, energy efficiency in the production phase, use of recycled content and improvements in transportation efficiency.

The goal: IKEA wants 90 percent of its sales of home items to be classified as “more sustainable” by 2015 (according to its own standards). To receive that distinction, products have to feature more sustainability aspects than previous versions or comparable goods.

“Today, we have little reliable data on the share of recycled and recyclable materials used for IKEA home furnishing products, but we know that the share of renewable materials remains fairly constant at around 70 percent as cotton and wood are our two most important raw materials,” the report states.

In 2010, the amount of wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council that IKEA used rose from 16 percent to almost 24 percent, while the amount of cotton grown with sustainable practices more than doubled to 13 percent. IKEA plans to have 35 percent of its wood be FSC certified in 2012, and wants all of its cotton to meet the Better Cotton Initiative standards by 2015.

IKEA also aims to increase the efficiency of products that use energy or water by 50 percent, compared to products from 2008. For the moment, however, details are sketchy, since the company only says it wants to “significantly” reduce carbon dioxide emissions and water use.

Sending all waste anywhere but to landfills is another target for 2015, using a combination of recycling, composting, re-use and burning in facilities that turn waste into energy. IKEA claims its stores already keep 84 percent of trash out of landfills and its distribution operations are at 91 percent.

Dec 072010

From Green Right Now Reports

IKEA’s American employees are getting an early Christmas present. The Sweden-based home furnishings company is providing a new all-terrain bicycle to each of about 12,400 employees at its 37 U.S. stores.

About 12,400 IKEA U.S. workers are receiving new bicycles this holiday season. Photo: IKE

“It’s been a good year for IKEA, so what better way to celebrate our success than to thank our IKEA co-workers who made this happen,” said Mike Ward, IKEA U.S. President. “This is our way of saying ‘Thanks IKEA co-workers for being strongly committed to working together.’ We hope this bike will be taken in the spirit of the season while supporting a healthy lifestyle and everyday sustainable transport.”

In explaining the choice, IKEA offered the following regarding health benefits:

  • “Bicycling is an excellent cardio-vascular exercise, which promotes heart health. Just like in any other aerobic workout, bicycling makes your heart pump harder. Also blood circulation increases and eventually, your resting heart rate will decrease.” (Helium.com; Benefits of Bicycling by Erich Rosenberger M.D.)
  • “On average, commuting 10 miles a day by bike in 30 minutes, instead of driving a car burns 110,250 calories (keeping off 30 pounds of fat each year).” (Sources: Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, RailstoTrails.org, Fitsugar.com, Adultbicycling.com)
  • “Cycling just 20 miles a week can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 50%.” (Sources: Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, RailstoTrails.org, Fitsugar.com, Adultbicycling.com)
  • “Countries with the highest levels of cycling and walking generally have the lowest obesity rates.” (Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia)

In terms of sustainable living, the company cited these incentives:

  • “A short, four mile round trip by a bike keeps about 15 pounds of pollutants out of the air we breathe.” (WorldWatch Institute, www.bicyclinginfo.org)
  • “In one year, riding a bike versus owning and driving a car will save an individual $8,000 in gasoline and general car maintenance and insurance costs.” (Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia)

Aug 262010

By Harriet Blake
Green Right Now

OK, so you’ve done the environmentally correct thing and replaced most of your incandescent bulbs with CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs).

CFLs save up to 75 percent of the energy used by incandescent bulbs.

CFLs use less electricity and as a result, reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In an average home, lighting accounts for about a fifth of the electric bill. Because CFLs use about 75 percent less electricity than incandescent light bulbs — and last about 10 times longer, it just makes sense to switch.

If every home in the United States replaced just one incandescent light bulb with a CFL, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), enough energy would be saved to light more than 3 million homes for a year. At the same time, this action would cut back greenhouse gas emissions equal to that of about 800,000 cars annually.

But despite their longevity, CFLs eventually do burn out.

And they cannot be tossed in the garbage and added to the landfill because of that pesky small amount of mercury they contain. This mercury, about 4-5 milligrams – just enough to cover a ballpoint pen tip, is sealed within the glass tubing. It is an essential part of CFLs, part of what makes them efficient, explains EPA spokesperson Cathy Milburn, and none of this mercury is released when the bulbs are intact and in use.

But, it wouldn’t be safe to let it leach out into the landfill. So those burned out CFLs piling up in a bag in your laundry room must be recycled.

Look first for local options. Home Depot appears to be leading the way on this front. Beginning in June 2008, Home Depot introduced a free in-store CFL recycling program at all of its stores. Customers bring their spent CFL bulbs to the return desk where they are then handled by an environmental management company. The company packages the bulbs, transports and recycles them.

“The CFL recycling program,” says senior vice president Ron Jarvis, “…empowers customers to make a difference in their own homes and have less of an impact on the environment.”

IKEA, the Swedish-based furniture and accessories store, also offers a Free Take Back recycling program that includes putting a bin for recyclables, including CFLs, in every store.

EPA is working with CFL manufacturers to widen recycling opportunities. Check out www.earth911.com to locate community recycling centers.

The Lighting Research Center, part of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is a non-profit group that studies the effective use of lighting and its environmental impact. LRC also urges the public to refrain from disposing of CFLs with the household garbage and to instead take advantage of local recycling programs, says Mary Cimo, manager of research communications at the LRC.

The LRC also has a list of tips for consumers looking to purchase a CFLs.

Makers of CFLs have not overly helpful in making disposal suggestions. General Electric, for instance, simply says “And at the end of its life, a CFL bulb is fully recyclable and most cities, counties, and states make this fairly easy to do.” Similarly, Philips says to “look to your community for household hazardous waste recycling programs.” The manufacturer adds that consumers should always seal used bulbs in a plastic bag when dropping them off. Philips notes that more and more retailers may offer recycling, now that the demand for CFLs is increasing.

But as CFL demand increases, a new generation of efficient bulbs awaits – LED (light-emitting diodes) light bulbs. How will we deal with them? In another story…..

Copyright © 2010 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network

Apr 132010
Families turn out for a recycling event in Frisco, Texas. (Photo: Frisco Green Living)

Families turn out for a recycling event in Frisco, Texas. (Photo: Frisco Green Living)

By Harriet Blake
Green Right Now

Most everyone is familiar with IKEA, home of affordable, assemble-it-yourself furnishings. But did you know that the company has a code of conduct known as the IWAY?

The familiar blue-and-yellow stores began in Sweden in 1943. As USA Corporate spokeperson Mona Liss likes to say, they “own the whole pipeline,” meaning IKEA controls everything from start to finish, from sourcing to the end product.

“We make sure that everyone follows the IWAY code of conduct,” she says. This means being careful about what chemicals are used; making sure the wood is certified; and that the workers are properly treated. The IWAY code began in 2000 and covers among other things the environment, responsible forestry management, working conditions and the prevention of child labor.

Liss points out that IKEA has been involved in the environmental movement since the early ’90s. “IKEA is a humble company,” she says. “We haven’t been beating our chests, but our sustainability practices have been in place for a long time. Sustainability has always been ingrained in how we work.”

Ever wonder how and why IKEA has such reasonable prices for its furniture?

One answer is “flat packing,” says Liss. Flat packing is a great way to transport furniture, she says. It involves shipping the different parts of a piece of furniture along with its screws and bolts. “Take the Billy bookcase, for example, says Liss. “We can ship 12 Billy bookcases in pieces and boxed for the same price as one assembled Billy bookcase. By shipping in pieces, you can ship more efficiently and use less CO2 in the process. The customer saves money on the item, and the company lessens its carbon footprint.”

On Earth Day, says Liss, “We will for the first time be communicating our ‘Never Ending List’ to the customer.” The list, which cab be found on IKEA’s website but is not usually promoted, features company practices that make IKEA sustainable.

Besides flat-packing and the IWAY code of conduct, the list includes joining forces with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to increase the availability of FSC certified wood and to address the problem of illegal logging; moving towards having its buildings supplied with 100 percent renewable energy for electricity and heating; printing the colorful IKEA catalog on totally chlorine-free paper; featuring at least one organic dish on all IKEA restaurant menus; and encouraging customers in some countries not to use their car by offering free shuttle buses. In Switzerland, some IKEA stores give discounts for home deliveries to customers who use public transit.

“The reason we call it our ‘Never Ending List,’ is because sustainability has no end point,” says Liss.

“One of our earliest initiatives was to phase out plastic bags,” says Liss, noting that IKEA was one of the first retailer to do so. “We reached out to the customer in 2007, announcing that we were beginning the phase-out. We gave them a six-month window. Then we began the phase out in 2008, selling our blue IKEA bags for 59 cents. If customers wanted plastic, we charged them 5 cents which we then gave to American Forests (a nonprofit conservation group).”

The program reduced plastic bag consumption by 92 percent, says Liss.

Another green initiative that IKEA has undertaken is the “I’m a Tree Hugger” program. The company’s trademark is wood furniture. Besides using wood that comes from certified forests, IKEA also plants trees to supplement the trees that are cut down to make their products. “We have planted well over a million trees,” says Liss.

Many of IKEA’s products are environmentally friendly, too. The Norden birch table makes use of the knotty top part of the tree trunk, which previously had been burned as firewood. The Klippan sofa, which is very bulky, has been made into a knockdown piece in which the armrests and back slip into the seating base, making it easier to transport and save on carbon emissions. The Lack side table and the Besta storage system are made with a wood-based frame filled with recycled, honeycombed paper – using less raw material than particleboard. Dvala bed linen is made with cotton that is grown sustainably, using less water, chemical fertilizers and pesticides. And the Mandal bed frame with storage boxes is made from birch and pine, both renewable raw materials.

In addition to IKEA’s sustainability efforts, the company is involved in several social initiatives such as UNICEF and Save the Children. From Nov. 1 to Dec. 24, all IKEA stores sponsor an annual soft toy (stuffed animal) campaign. IKEA donates one euro for each toy sold to UNICEF and Save the Children projects in more than 25 developing countries including Albania, Bangladesh, Russia, Vietnam, the Ivory Coast, Uganda and China.

On a local level, IKEA often partners with its home community on environmental issues. In Frisco, Texas, IKEA has joined with the city for the fifth year to sponsor “Clean It and Green It,” as well as “Chunk Your Junk” programs.

“Clean It and Green It is a citywide clean up,” says the Frisco store’s public relations manager, April Berg. “Anyone can participate.”

“Clean It and Green It is a citywide clean up,” says the Frisco store’s public relations manager, April Berg.
“Anyone can participate by contacting the City of Frisco’s Environmental Services division. Individuals and families can register the day of the event, pre-register online at <a href=”http://www.myvolunteerpage.com” target=”_blank”>myvolunteerpage.com</a> or contact volunteer coordinator <a href=”mailto: kdaniel@friscotexas.gov”>Kris Daniel by email</a> or at 972-292-5078,” she says.
Home Owners Associations, schools, churches and community groups also are encouraged to pre-register and hold “Clean It and Green It” events in their own neighborhoods. They pick up litter and debris in the areas of which they are assigned.
After the volunteers fan out throughout Frisco collecting trash, they then return to the store for a barbecue and green prizes. Frisco Mayor Maher Maso also makes an appearance.
The “Chunk Your Junk” program is held at the Frisco IKEA parking lot at the same time. Frisco residents can bring items for drop off or disposal. They must bring a copy of their current water bill for proof of residency. Residents also may bring their hazardous waste products and other items for recycling.

All IKEA stores have drop-off sites where customers can drop off recycling items from home such as light bulbs, paper and plastic. And all stores have recycling canisters throughout the store for shoppers.

Every IKEA store has a recycling center for customers for disposal of cardboard, light bulbs, glass, plastic and paper. The service is strictly for consumer usage, not businesses, says Berg. This type of recycling is a requirement for all stores.

All food waste from the Frisco IKEA restaurant and bistro, says Berg, are processed and either composted or converted to biodiesel fuel. Not all food items are locally produced, says Berg, since much of the menu is Swedish. “But all our factories do abide by green standards,” she says.

Caring for the environment in their humble and modest way may be a reflection of IKEA’s Swedish roots, but company spokesperson Mona Liss believes these also may be traits that other countries, including the U.S., aspire to as well.

Copyright © 2010 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network

Jun 052009

By Sommer Saadi
Green Right Now

As I unloaded my groceries onto the conveyor belt, I realized I was buying more than could fit in my reusable bags.

“Can you try to fit everything in these?” I asked, handing over my assortment of canvas totes.

“I can try,” the cashier answered. “But it’s no big deal, I can just use plastic bags for whatever we can’t fit into  the ones you brought.”

“Oh no,” I said. “No plastic bags. Please.”

She stared back at me. She had already stretched out a plastic bag and was ready to load.

“I have this thing,” I told her. “I just really hate plastic bags.”

I wasn’t lying. I really do hate plastic bags, and I was on the last day of my one-week challenge to only use reusable bags for every purchase I made.  I wasn’t going to let the two gallons of milk, a watermelon and a Gatorade six-pack that wouldn’t fit in my totes stop me.

“Just put the stuff that doesn’t fit right into the cart,” I told her.

I made it to the car and my groceries made it to my home without the help of a plastic bag. I learned after going a week without them, shopping bags were simply unnecessary.

I got used to the idea of refusing plastic bags at the grocery store during the year I studied in London. Some stores would charge you if you needed a plastic bag while others would give you credit if you brought your own. And it made sense to bring a sturdier bag since you’d most likely be walking your groceries back home.

Carrying a reusable bag in London was trendy and cool. The U.K. is the birthplace of the ubiquitous “I’m Not A Plastic Bag” tote created by activist organization We Are What We Do, which encourages people to use small, daily actions to change the world.

Reusablebags.com reports an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That comes out to more than one million per minute. And the bags that get dumped pollute soil and water sources and are the cause of death for thousands of animals each year. Plastic bags do not biodegrade. They photodegrade, which means they break down into smaller and smaller pieces that contaminate the environment.

And paper bags aren’t much better. Research shows that more greenhouse gases are emitted during the manufacturing and transporting of paper bags than plastic bags. So the best solution is to use a reusable bag.

So the What We Do organization asked British bag guru Anya Hindmarch to create an affordable and environmentally friendly bag people could use instead of plastic or paper bags. And when 20,000 of them were released at 450 supermarkets across England in 2007, women got in line at 2 a.m. and all were sold by 9 a.m. Women in the States had a similar reaction. Within three hours of it being offered for the first time across the U.S., it had sold out of every Anya Hindmarch boutique across the nation.

Apr 202009

By Laura Elizabeth May
Green Right Now

The Ethisphere Institute announced its annual selection of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for 2009. The companies selected must promote ethical business standards and practices by going beyond legal minimums, introducing innovative ideas benefiting the public and forcing their competitors to follow suit.

Ethisphere examined 35 different industries and selected 99 companies that demonstrated the sustained and real leadership worthy of the distinction. This year 22 new companies received the honor such as Dell, Best Buy and T-Mobile. An impressive 44 firms have retained the recognition for three years in a row including General Electric, American Express, PepsiCo, McDonalds, Starbucks and Ikea.

Researchers at the institute reviewed over 10,000 companies’ codes of ethics, investment in innovation and sustainable business practices as part of their research.

They evaluated the companies’ for good corporate “citizenship”, innovations that contribute to the public well being, industry leadership and integrity track record. See more about the methodology at the Ethisphere website.

“After a rigorous and competitive selection process, the companies on this year’s list have demonstrated an understanding that ethical practices are not only necessary, but can support a stronger and more sold business overall,” said Alex Brigham, Executive Director of the Ethisphere Institute in a statement.

Ethisphere began identifying the ethical companies in 2007. A full list is available at their website.

Copyright C 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media