Saving Planet Earth -- One Store at a Time

But going green has expanded beyond the retail sector. Chairlifts at Vail, Heavenly and other Vail Resorts mountains are now powered by wind energy. The ski company, which nearly 6.2 million skiers visited last year, started purchasing 100-percent wind power offsets this season for all of its electric needs at the resorts.

From the lifts to stores and Vail-owned hotels, that's nearly 152,000 megawatt hours a year and equivalent to taking 18,000 cars off the road.

Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz said that wind power cost more, but that it was the right thing for the environment.

"We have almost a special duty and a special opportunity to really be a leader in this effort," Katz said. "Not only is it protecting our product very directly but it's also really connecting with our guests and reminding them over and over about how beautiful the environment is [and] how important it is to take care of it."

The company is not part of any environmental political movement in Washington, Katz said, but hopes to instead lead by example.

"I'd rather walk the walk than spend my time talking the talk," he said. "We're going to do the right thing for the environment without getting into a broad political debate about it."

While many companies are making changes on their own, some are directly lobbying the federal government, typically through partnerships or trade groups.

Take the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a group of companies and environmental groups that have joined to call on the federal government "to achieve significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions."

The group, like many corporations, is pushing a cap-and-trade system where limits are set on greenhouse-gas emissions. Companies can exceed those caps by purchasing credits from more-efficient, less-polluting businesses.

The partnership includes Alcoa, DuPont, General Electric and Lehman Bros.

Katie Mandes, communications director for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, one of the partnership's members, said companies were joining for several reasons.

"Probably the biggest thing that brings these guys to the table is: They want a seat while policy is being shaped," Mandes said. "They don't want to wait until the policy is done and then have to adhere to it. Instead they'd rather be there and help and make sure their concerns and sector issues are considered."

A lot of the companies -- especially those dependent on coal -- are going to be making large, long-term capital investments and therefore have a huge interest in what the regulations will be. Then, Mandes said, there are just some who are worried about the future of Earth.

"There are a certain number of CEOs who feel like it's time to give something back, a sort of legacy approach," she said. "Many of these folks are grandparents and they're looking at the world they're going to leave behind."

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