Giving back to the Earth

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together … all things connect.” —Chief Seattle

One of the best examples of unconditional giving is our Mother Earth, who showers on us with her bounties without condition, without prejudice.

And one way to repay this is to help preserve this our this endless source of sustenance, joy and wonder. As we march towards progress, environmental concerns of climate change, energy use, water and air pollution, waste management and the health of our oceans and fisheries are becoming a matter of great concern. We all including individuals and corporations can play a part in leaving the world a better place than we found it.

That’s especially true of the youth. They prefer to buy from companies who are socially conscious and assume responsibility for their impact on the environment. In the decade ahead, those companies that invest in initiatives that help people and the planet as well as their bottom line and who can communicate those efforts effectively will have a competitive edge.

Google uses renewable energy to power 35% of their operations, and is aiming to increase that to 100%.

Another company that has explored green supply chain management across the board is Starbucks. In addition to purchasing Fair Trade Certified™ and certified organic coffee, the company is setting out to achieve LEED® certification for all new company-owned outlets. By focusing on creating “green” stores, Starbucks has been able to reduce both operating costs and the environmental impact of its business practices.

IKEA is proud of its flat packaging which squeezes every millimeter of use out of every box, enabling the company to pack its trains and trucks more efficiently. The packaging saves on fuel cost per item, while also reducing the number of trees cut down.

While Seventh Generation, the Burlington, VT-based company sells a a line of products that includes biodegradable, vegetable-based cleaning products, chlorine-free tampons and paper towels and natural lotion baby wipes. The company has an employee bonus program that awards workers who figure out ways to make the company’s wares even more sustainable.

While the footwear giant, Nike enforces strict emission standards at all of its factories, and has been able to reduce its overall carbon footprint by approximately 80% since the late 90s.

The Body Shop was sold for £652.3 million in 2006. Its value was enhanced by its great mix of social consciousness and business practices. The founder, Anita Roddick, was a strong proponent of human rights and environmental and other worthwhile causes.

We as individuals can also play a part within our own sphere of influence.

Anna Hazare, transformed a small village Ralegan Siddhi, which was plagued by drought and extreme poverty into a self sustainable green village. He persuaded villagers to construct a watershed embankment and associated works to stop water and allow it to percolate and increase the ground water level and improve irrigation in the area. These efforts solved the problem of water scarcity in the village and made irrigation possible. Since then Hazare has helped farmers of more than 70 villages in drought-prone regions in the state of Maharashtra.

My son, Tawfiq, had an out-of-town soccer league game recently, a 45-minute drive away. I take Tawfiq to all the soccer games when I am in town because it is a bonding time for us, but this time I asked Tawfiq if he was okay to carpool with Peter, his teammate, because it was not environmentally friendly to take two cars. I told him that I’d make up the missed bonding time. At first he was surprised that I would miss his league game. However, he understood my logic and went with Peter.

A few things ensued. We arranged to carpool more frequently, taking turns with Peter’s family. I saved four hours of travel time and game time. I got caught up with my work and thus was able to make up bonding time with Tawfiq. It was also a good example for my son about the need to be environmentally friendly. Setting an example is always more effective than just telling kids what they should do.

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