Founded in 1980 in Austin, Tex., the food retailer has about 270 stores in North America and the United Kingdom. Whole Foods has a list of 80 ingredients it refuses to sell in stores, for ethical and health reasons. Among them: artificial colors and flavors, bleached flour and fois gras. Whole Foods Market has reportedly installed solar panels on roofs of some of its stores to generate electricity on a larger scale. But green can have its limits: Whole Foods recently has stumbled financially in the economic downturn and, while sticking to its organic and natural mantra, has begun to emphasize price and value more.
The Monrovia, Calif.-based retailer, which operates over 280 stores in 23 states, has several green initiatives in place, beginning with the Trader Joe’s in-house label — which contains no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, no MSG and no added trans fats — and it features vegan and gluten-free products, as well. The company also sells fabric NYC grocery bags to reduce paper and plastic waste, and tries to buy directly from producers rather than food distributors.
It’s all about the Prius for the Japanese auto brand. In 2007, Toyota sold half a million hybrid cars — the firm now has six variations of the hybrid, though the Toyota Prius (left) remains the most fuel-efficient passenger car in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency — increasingly important in these days of spiralling gas prices. Steve Sturm, group vice president of communications for Toyota Motor North America, noted at the American Apparel & Footwear Association’s sustainability conference in June, “The Prius is now Toyota’s third-best-selling auto. About 11 percent of sales are hybrids and Toyota claims an 80 percent share of the U.S. hybrid market.”
Honda ranked second, behind the aforementioned Toyota Prius, on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of most fuel-efficient cars with the Honda Civic Hybrid (left). In July, Honda released its first zero-emission sedan, the FCX Clarity, and in 2009, the firm is planning to launch a more affordable hybrid model. In addition to its cars, Honda has developed a line of railcars (on which Hondas are shipped) that are more fuel-efficient. The brand is also constructing two of its U.S. building facilities to be “greener” by featuring more energy-efficient lighting, heat-preserving roofing and utilizing steel made from recycled materials.
In 2007, Google announced it would begin its efforts to become “carbon neutral.” In corporate buildings, for example, the company is replacing incandescent bulbs with higher-efficiency lighting, and at the Mountain View, Calif., headquarters, Google is using one of the largest corporate solar panel installations in the U.S. — at left is a shot of the company’s headquarters and the building’s solar panels. Last winter, the computer search engine giant launched RE<C, an initiative to develop electricity from solar thermal power and wind power technologies.
Blaine, Minn.-based Aveda was founded in 1978 by Horst Rechelbacher. The company’s latest green campaign: getting people to purchase one liter of a product at a time, to cut down on plastic waste. In May, the subsidiary of The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. launched Green Science skin care, a lineup of plant-infused facial treatment products. “Packaging ranges from 50 to 100 percent recycled material, and the products are produced with 100 percent wind power,” WWD reported. Aveda vows to use “green ingredients” whenever possible: Ingredients originate from renewable, sustainable or organic plant-based sources and do not negatively impact the ecosystems from which they are sourced, and are biodegradable.
Zipcar, based in Cambridge, Mass., is a newcomer to the auto rental scene. The service is designed to provide rental cars to urbanities who rely on cars, but not on the level that would require them to buy one. It’s cheap, too: Gas and insurance included, the rental cost is an average of $11 an hour. The company claims it has helped to remove 25,000 cars from the road, helped 40 percent of its customers sell their personal cars and caused members to use public transportation roughly 47 percent more than previously (which also helps to relieve parking congestion and construction). Zip Car is also working with 30 universities to help reduce car use.
The L.A.-based brand is the only specialty apparel retailer to make the top 10. Why? “American Apparel is not only a green company — its products are very relevant to this age group,” noted Barbara Bylenga of Outlaw Consulting. All the brand’s clothing is manufactured in L.A. — the company recycles 30,000 pounds of cutting and fiber scraps a week (an initiative that began in 2002) that would otherwise be dumped in landfills. Last year, the brand developed a line of organically combined cotton clothing called The Sustainable Edition T. “Our ultimate goal is not to use conventional [nonorganic] cotton at all,” Erika Martinez, overseer of American Apparel’s Sustainable Sourcing Programs, told WWD.
The Swedish furniture and accessories retailer is planning to supply all of its stores with renewable energy sources and has a goal of becoming 25 percent more energy efficient by reducing energy used for heat and to provide more efficient lightbulbs. In addition, the retailer doesn’t use illegally logged wood or wood that comes from intact natural forests for its products. Ikea currently works with the World Wildlife Fund to identify and develop ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its operations. The company also has a plan to reduce plastic bag use by 50 percent by charging 5 cents on every “throwaway” plastic bag used — the proceeds will be donated to the American Forests organization.
The Burlington, Vt.-based consumer products brand was founded in 1988 and has been making plenty of headway with environmentally conscious consumers. Seventh Generation sells 100 percent recycled paper towels, tissues and napkins, and offers natural cleaning products (seen left) and garbage bags made with roughly 50 percent recycled plastic. Most products are plant-based and nonhazardous, chlorine-free and not tested on animals. Jeffrey Hollender, president and founder, has set a company goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
Apple’s sleek, minimalist design approach to its products is actually helping the environment: Flat-panel displays (such as MacBook Air, seen left), which are just computers with a thinner build, eliminate more than two pounds of lead, consume up to 80 percent less energy in sleep mode and weigh half as much as other computers. The Apple take-back and recycling program has helped recycle 21 million pounds of equipment since 1994 that would otherwise have ended up in a landfill. The company also offers incentives to customers who participate: Apple recycles old iPods and offers 10 percent discounts on a new iPod purchase. And 95 percent of all its paper packaging is recycled, as well.
THE BODY SHOP
This U.K.-based beauty and cosmetics retailer, which was founded on green initiatives (such as no animal testing on its products), has committed to becoming a carbon-neutral company by 2010. At the end of the month, the company will unveil its latest ad campaign that touts its commitment to the environment. The campaign will include in-store advertising with posters featuring slogans such as “Less packaging, more beautiful.”