See something, say something

Recently I attended an event sponsored by Saint Arnold’s Brewery known as “One-Pot Showdown”.  This annual event has been held for the past 13 years at the brewery and features 80 teams (each team – four individuals) competing to win the distinction of having prepared the best dish (e.g., chili) “in a single pot”.  Everyone’s recipe must incorporate one or more of Saint Arnold’s beers – and the wonderful selection of available beers adds to the variety of dishes.  This Houston event, held the weekend before the Super Bowl, is extremely popular and tickets to attend sell out early.  The competition benefits Kid’s Meals, an organization that provides healthy lunches to preschool-aged kids living in poverty.  I participated in a team last year and our team made a crawfish and corn chowder we named “Space City Chowder”.  To our pleasant surprise, our team (Saint Hayley’s Comets) was judged to be one of the 16 finalists (which we figured probably made us 4th since 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places were specifically named). But, regardless of our actual place, it was a lot of fun cooking, enjoying St. Arnold’s beer, and also sampling the fixings of other teams.  And while we didn’t compete again this year, we sampled lots of great food.

I like supporting smaller companies like Saint Arnold’s because they are local and part of my community.  Purchasing Saint Arnold’s beer helps reduce carbon emissions since their beer hasn’t been shipped from across the country or from another company (See Local Sourcing).  Saint Arnold’s has a nifty recycle program that exchanges prizes (t-shirts, mugs, etc.) for those plastic six-pack carriers that otherwise would end up in a land fill.  And each attendee at “One Pot Showdown” receives a really nice fold-able, metal “spork” to sample dishes, in lieu of throwaway plastic spoons.

Last year, I “gigged” Saint Arnold’s for not having “recycle bins” for all the aluminum beer cans and in response, they said it was an oversight and would be fixed this year.  But unfortunately, and disappointingly, this year’s event still lacked recycle bins. ☹  So, I gigged them again; they agreed, and said they planned to continue to improve their operations.  I also suggested at next year’s event, Saint Arnold’s use compostable 2-ounce sample cups in lieu of plastic cups.  (I was able to find some on Amazon which were competitively priced.)  Some might disagree with criticizing a company you like – and I do like Saint Arnold’s.  But I think, it’s important to give companies feedback about what they are doing right, as well as where they are falling short.  See something, say something!

While borrowing a phrase from Homeland Security (which on the surface seems a bit risky) I think the phrase “see something, say something” is an action all of us can take – and perhaps affect positive changes.  Like suggesting to a restaurant, they should use only compostable products for their take-out containers.  Like thanking your waitress or waiter for not automatically providing you a straw with your drink.  Like choosing to say “no” when offered a bottled water at a hotel or with a car rental.  Like saying “I don’t need a (plastic) bag” when purchasing something – regardless of whether or not you have one of your own bags.  Many restaurants have “comment” cards inviting suggestions. These are easy choices and collectively, will make a difference.

Businesses are paying attention to consumer input.  Business like to be viewed as environmentally friendly as consumer sentiments are increasingly becoming more aware of ways to reduce waste and reduce their carbon footprint.  Almost every day, there is a story in the newspaper highlighting a company that is announcing steps to be more environmentally friendly – whether it’s reducing plastic waste or their carbon footprint.  For example, just this month, Starbucks, by 2030, is targeting 50 percent reductions in carbon emissions, water useage and waste sent to landfills.  And that’s a big deal.  Starbucks in 2018 was responsible for emitting 16 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, using 1 billion cubic meters of water and dumping 868 metric kilotons — more than twice the weight of the Empire State Building — of coffee cups and other waste. 

In August, a Forbes article sited 101 companies or governments that have committed to reducing their carbon footprint. I’ve provided the list below (it’s long) but many are familiar companies and many of the steps and commitments being made are impressive. The list is organized by industry groups:


  1. Land O’Lakes, the large co-op, provides resources to agriculture startups and gives them resources to follow eco-friendly farming practices.
  2. John Deere, the farming equipment company, aims to recycle 85% of materials and reduce carbon emissions on 90% of new products to create sustainable inventory.
  3. Cargill maps emissions to lower carbon output through the entire supply chain and has a goal to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 10% by 2025.
  4. Monsanto was among the first to create carbon-neutral crop production practices that it uses on millions of acres of farmland.
  5. Nutrien encourages innovative practices from its farmers to create healthy soil and environmental sustainability.
  6. Archer Daniels Midland is among the first to create sustainability-focused labs and provides resources to smaller farmers around the world.
  7. Indigo Agriculture has a goal to capture 1 trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide from farmland by encouraging sustainable soil practices.
  8. Coca-Cola is fiercely dedicated to sustainable agriculture and is working towards sustainably sourcing all key ingredients by 2020 and reducing its carbon footprint by 25% by 2025.
  9. Good Eggs, the grocery delivery service, limits its carbon footprint by only sourcing local, sustainably grown food and requiring a completely transparent supply chain.
  10. Stonyfield Organic plans to cut its carbon emissions by 30% by 2030 by focusing on energy and waste conservation, sustainable packaging and logistics.


  1. BMW Group is regularly named the world’s most sustainable car manufacturer for its efforts to create fuel-saving and alternative cars with clean production processes.
  2. Valeo is ranked as the 5th most sustainable French company in any industry, Valeo has invested millions in sustainability and creates innovative solutions to lower its cars’ carbon emissions.
  3. Honda is ranked as one of the most fuel-efficient auto manufacturers in the U.S. because of its innovative practices to cut carbon emissions and develop a hydrogen fuel-powered vehicle.
  4. Ford, in 2010, set a public goal to cut its carbon emissions by 30% in 15 years, but with aggressive initiatives it reached that goal in half the time.
  5. Tesla is known for its electric cars; everything Tesla does is sustainable; from the cars it creates to the manufacturing processes to build them.
  6. Toyota created the Prius as the first mass-market hybrid car and continues to push the envelope with innovative designs to lower carbon emissions.
  7. Subaru and its parent company Fuji Heavy earned a perfect score in water productivity for eliminating excess water use during manufacturing.
  8. Volkswagen recently introduced sustainability ratings for all of its suppliers so it can better pinpoint environmental concerns and create a carbon-neutral manufacturing process.
  9. Hyundai and Kia have made huge strides in recent years to create high-efficiency models of their sports models, which lowers fuel consumption and carbon emissions.
  10. Fiat-Chrysler, in the past few years, has cut carbon emissions by a third and dropped the waste generated per vehicle by nearly 60%.


  1. United Airlines invested more than $16 billion to replace all of its airplanes with more fuel-efficient models and looks to continually lower its carbon emissions.
  2. Celebrity Cruises: The entire LED light system of its Solstice ship is powered by on-board solar panels, plus it has a filtration system that almost completely cleans wastewater.
  3. Hyatt is working to reduce water use per guest per night by 25% by 2020, as well as increasing recycling and building sustainable new hotels.
  4. ANA Holdings named the world’s most sustainable airline, is the first global airline to issue Green Bonds to offset carbon emission and raise money for eco-friendly programs.
  5. Kimpton, among its many sustainability efforts, uses all-natural cleaning products and recycles soap and hygiene products.
  6. American Airlines has made large efforts to move towards renewable energy; all of the electricity purchased at its DFW headquarters now comes from renewable sources.
  7. Greyhound’s entire fleet of buses use clean-burning fuel and avoids idling to cut carbon emissions.
  8. Hilton Hotels has an aggressive program to cut its footprint in half by 2030 and increase its sourcing from local suppliers.
  9. Lyft rides are carbon neutral because the company makes donations to offset carbon emissions, including offsetting a million metric tons in its first year.
  10. Alaska Airlines was the first airline to remove plastic straws from its flights and airport lounges.


  1. Disney, at all of its parks, uses zero net direct greenhouse gas emissions and has a zero-waste policy so that nothing ends up in landfills.
  2. Starbucks, the coffee giant aims to be free of plastic straws by 2020 by redesigning its cold drink cups with a straw-less lid that is being rolled out in the U.S. and Canada.
  3. McDonald’s, switching to energy-efficient appliances at its restaurants cut energy waste by 25%; it also plans to source all of its packaging from recycled materials by 2025.
  4. Dunkin’, the coffee brand, will switch all of its coffee from foam cups to paper cups by 2020, which will eliminate 1 billion foams cups from landfills each year.
  5. Taco Bell sources its ingredients sustainably and is a leader in meatless options made from eco-friendly ingredients.
  6. Subway, the sandwich chain, gets many ingredients from sustainable family farms to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions from transporting food.
  7. Shake Shack locations are powered with renewable energy from wind farms, and the restaurant recycles packaging and cooking oil and composts food waste.
  8. Panera Bread made headlines for its innovative sustainability when it updated its menu to include ethically raised food in compostable packaging.
  9. Chipotle, a strong supporter of sustainable farming, uses eco-friendly ingredients and installs solar panels on many of its restaurants.
  10. Domino’s uses 100% recyclable boxes and lowers its carbon footprint by experimenting with robotic pizza delivery.


  1. Helsinki, Finland. The vast majority of Helsinki’s hotel rooms are certified environmentally friendly, and it creates a clean city by encourage residents to bike and walk.
  2. Rejkavik, Iceland. The city plans to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 by encouraging residents to walk or use public transportation on its new hydrogen-powered busses.
  3. Vancouver, Canada. Vancouver produces the lowest greenhouse emissions of any major city in North America and has initiatives for continued environmental improvements.
  4. San Francisco, California. The city is working towards diverting all of its waste away from landfills in the next few years and has banned harmful items like plastic bags and water bottles.
  5. Berlin, Germany. The innovative city has a huge network of electric bike charging stations, rental kiosks and bike paths to encourage residents to leave their cars behind.
  6. Portland, Oregon. Portland’s use of renewable energy is far above the national average, with one-third of all power coming from sustainable sources.
  7. Cape Town, South Africa. The city invests heavily in renewable energy and wind power, as well as public transportation and safer bike paths and accessibility.
  8. Stockholm, Sweden. Stockholm is investing in smart and eco-friendly improvements in an effort to remove the use of fossil fuels by 2040. 
  9. Copenhagen, Denmark. The city regularly receives environmental awards for its overwhelming use of public transportation and is on pace to become the first carbon-neutral city in the world by 2025.
  10. Curitiba, Brazil. The city recycles 70% of its waste and offers residents incentives for recycling and reusing household items.


  1. Levi Strauss & Co is fighting the fashion industry’s notorious waste with a line of jeans made of recycled water bottles as well as partnerships with other eco-friendly clothing brands.
  2. Walmart stores use 100% renewable energy sources, and the company even cut ties with suppliers that had manufacturing or distribution practices that added to carbon emissions.
  3. Brooks the running shoe company created a completely biodegradable shoe that is both durable and eco-friendly.
  4. Target stores makes efforts to conserve light energy, and the company prioritizes eco-friendly products made with sustainable materials.
  5. Nike has strengthened its connections with environmentally friendly suppliers around the world and has a line of sustainable products made of recycled materials.
  6. Patagonia, the outdoor company is committed to having at least 75% of its materials sourced from sustainable places, and it donates 1% of profits to groups cutting carbon emissions and helping the environment.
  7. Ikea’s cotton and half of its wood is sourced from sustainable farmers, and it is working to become a net energy exporter by 2020.
  8. Panasonic moved its headquarters to a LEED-certified building to cut down on employee commuting pollution.
  9. Home Depot invests in eco-friendly products, including lumber from sustainable tree farms, and updated energy usage at its stores to promote conservation.
  10. REI, the outdoor co-op, has high sustainability standards for its products and works to ensure eco-friendly practices throughout the entire supply chain.


  1. Siemens has big plans to cut its carbon emissions in half and become completely carbon neutral by 2030 by using renewable energy at its factories.
  2. S.C. Johnson, the household product manufacturer, replaced nearly all of its coal power with natural gas and cut millions of pounds of waste from manufacturing its products.
  3. Pratt & Whitney, using new manufacturing methods, cut back 90% of the ingots it uses to make jet engine blades, leading to a huge drop in wasted materials and much lower factory emissions.
  4. HP Inc, revamped its products to make every item completely recyclable and runs e-waste recycling plants around the world.
  5. Unilever aims to double the company’s business and half its environmental impact in 10 years.
  6. Dow DuPont continually pushes new sustainability goals, such as lowering its greenhouse gas emissions by 7% and reducing non-renewable energy use by 10% by 2020.
  7. Samsung is replacing plastic packaging with sustainable materials like recycled items and bio plastics and updating product designs to cut waste.
  8. Philips drastically increased its energy efficiency in manufacturing and creates innovative and award-winning green products.
  9. Umicore, named a top 10 company in the world for sustainability, recycles materials to recover more than 20 types of metals that can be reused.
  10. Dixie Chemical Company uses on-site recycling and water reclamation processes to cut waste and water and air pollution.


  1. Google relies on renewable energy and purchases enough renewable energy to match the electricity it consumes.
  2. Dell uses big data analytics to track energy consumption in its facilities and make cuts as necessary, including changing its packaging to wheat straw that requires 40% less energy to produce.
  3. eBay employs a robust return policy and used item marketplace encourages customers to exchange or reuse items instead of throwing them away.
  4. IBM embraces sustainability at the core of its mission, and it leads the way with smart buildings and water resource management to reduce demand and support sustainable energy.
  5. Adobe has earned awards for its efforts to move to net zero energy and to create LEED-certified offices and reduce water consumption by more than 60%.
  6. Amazon’s vast facilities use energy-efficient lights and solar panels, plus 10 renewable energy farms that power most of the data centers.
  7. Facebook is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas footprint by 75% and use only renewable energy by 2020.
  8. Apple runs completely on renewable energy and has lowered the energy output of its products by 70% in the last decade.
  9. Intel is also focused on water preservation and aims to reduce its per-unit water consumption by 2020.
  10. Microsoft has a goal to reduce its carbon footprint by 75% by 2030 and has an internal carbon fee that it charges departments for carbon emissions to encourage them to be more eco-friendly.


  1. Turner Construction Company, committed to being a green builder, is cutting on-site construction greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption in half by 2030.
  2. Wilmott Dixon offsets its carbon emissions by investing in global programs to reduce carbon by the same amount that it produces.
  3. ThyssenKrupp, the steel company, is switching from coal to hydrogen power to purify iron ore, which will drastically cut carbon emissions.
  4. Central Concrete, the California cement company, is transitioning to low-carbon cement mixes and turning carbon emissions from other companies into an important ingredient in its own materials.
  5. McCarthy is dedicated to sustainability in all its operations and builds net zero energy buildings that create as much renewable energy on site as they use.
  6. Clark Construction Group as one of the top green construction companies in the U.S., has delivered more than 68 million square feet of LEED-certified projects.
  7. LafargeHolcim has, by tweaking the chemical makeup of its concrete and cement, lowered its carbon output by 40%.
  8. Hensel Phelps, by expanding its fleet with hybrid vehicles, is able to reduce on-site carbon emissions at its LEED-certified construction sites.  
  9. Holder Construction uses recycled materials and energy-efficient systems in its projects, as well as designs made with the environment in mind.
  10. Swinerton, instead of relying on paper, uses an app to streamline processes as it expands its renewable energy projects.

Pure Innovation

  1. OmniEarth is transforming the agricultural and lawn care industries with the ultimate renewable resource: worms for better soil and crops without pesticides.
  2. Bank of America, over five years, has cut its paper usage by 32% and recycles 30,000 tons of paper every year with an innovative recycling program.
  3. Voya Financial, by limiting employee travel and reducing paper and water waste, has drastically cut its carbon footprint.
  4. Sprint has one of the most environmentally friendly campuses in the country at its Kansas headquarters, which include solar powers, a water recapture system and even a PETA-approved dog program to control the bird population.
  5. Lush Cosmetics offers free products to customers who bring in empty containers to recycle and designs its products to limit packaging and waste.
  6. Citibank is investing $100 billion in a 10-year commitment to sustainable growth and plans to be completely powered by renewable energy by 2020.
  7. UnitedHealthcare Group performed a waste audit to see areas for improvement and is moving towards completely paperless internal communication, which could save 130,000 trees.
  8. Nestlé recycles coffee grounds to supplement fuel in 22 of its factories around the world.
  9. Seventh Generation changed its industry by showing that cleaning products can be effective and eco-friendly by removing harmful chemicals and using recycled packaging.
  10. Cisco relies on renewable energy and designs its products so they can easily be returned instead of getting thrown away.

Admittedly, some of the phrasing from this list sounds like PR from the company.  But that shouldn’t be surprising; companies want to be viewed as eco-friendly.  And since this article was published, numerous other companies have announced commitments to reducing/eliminating greenhouse gas emissions including JetBlue, which announced it has become “carbon neutral” by buying carbon offsets, and Ernst and Young (EY) which recently announced its commitment to be carbon neutral by the end of 2020.  We should applaud these companies and hope their rivals will “one-up” their commitments and monitor any backsliding.  Competition is often such a healthy exercise!

So, whether you’re a leader in a major company like the ones listed above, an investor or asset manager like Blackrock, which recently announced its commitment to considering climate as a leading factor to evaluating investments, or a consumer at a fast-food chain, your voice can make a difference.  See something, say something and you might make a difference.  If you don’t, you won’t!  Businesses rely on our business and we can make a difference by letting them know we appreciate their steps to reduce waste, and reduce carbon emissions as well as offer suggestions in areas they can do better.  It’s a collective effort, with collective results.  Our future depends on it. 

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