Jennifer van der Meer

WALMART LAUNCHES SUSTAINABLE DESIGN COMPETITION

by , 03/21/07

Walmart, Green Electronics, Sustainability, Green Electronics Council, Green Consumer Electronics and packaging

How Green is that Laptop? Ask Walmart.

Walmart knows its own power. Following the release of a packaging sustainability scorecard last year, Walmart has followed up with a call to the consumer electronics industry – go green and prove it. In partnership with The Green Electronics Council’s EPEAT program (which we’ve mentioned before), Walmart will co-develop a standards scorecard that will evaluate products for energy efficiency, durability, upgradability, end-of-life, packaging, and use of innovative (less toxic) materials. Big business saves the world?


Walmart, Green Electronics, Sustainability, Green Electronics Council, Green Consumer Electronics and packaging

Some of Walmart’s suppliers are already integrating the metrics into their products. Currently, many of the computers and televisions sold at Wal-Mart are compliant with the Reduction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) standards, including the popular Toshiba Satellite A55 laptop. To encourage suppliers to start implementing the scorecard metrics into their products now, Wal-Mart is co-sponsoring an innovative design contest with the Green Electronics Council. Suppliers are encouraged to submit a consumer electronics product that puts the scorecard metrics into practice. The winner’s product will be carried in Wal-Mart stores throughout the nation.

As suppliers are encouraged to become more sustainable, Wal-Mart is continuing with its own sustainability initiatives in its Electronics Network. In February, Wal-Mart co-hosted a series of electronic waste (e-waste) “Take Back” days. Together with Hewlett-Packard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Wal-Mart collected more than 140,000 pounds of old electronics for recycling from residents in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. In addition to the Take Back days, Wal-Mart offers year- round in-store recycling of cell phones and ink cartridges and encourages customers to buy energy efficient products.

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17 Comments

  1. peggy December 27, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    I turned in a Sprint cell phone to Walmart for “recycling”, but the phone was taken & used for $600 worth of calls which was deducted from my bank account. Sprint & Walmart both refuse to refund anything.

  2. Motorcycle Guy April 22, 2007 at 10:58 am

    I think this is a step in the right direction and people should make it know they support walmart doing this. Walmart could do alot in this direction, but they’ll need encouragement and positive reactions.

  3. Kate April 19, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    This doesn’t smell right.

  4. royalestel April 2, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    I’m an Eco-slob. I don’t care if a hybrid will “save the world” I know that if the technology really is better, it will eventually end up in my car, just because it’s cheaper to operate a car that uses less gas.

    So Wal-mart–My sister worked for Wal-mart, I have a family friend that works for Wal-Mart–they like it all right. Just because Wal-mart doesn’t want unions doesn’t make them the source of all evil. I hate unions myself. I hate being forced to pay dues that won’t be used to benefit me at all.

    As for Wal-mart greening up, it has major impacts for the environmentalist crowd. Just convince Wal-Mart to take up your pet project, and you’ve changed the world. And I really do believe that green tech is the wave of the future–Wal-Mart does too and is just being fiscally smart.

    Purist motives have nothing to do with true ecology. Self-preservation has everything to do with it.

  5. e.p. March 28, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    Steve –

    If anything Walmart has an easier time at being green than Mom & Pop **because** they are a large, multinational company. With corporate headquarters and an efficient distribution system, there is no way on a per-store basis than an equivalent mom&pop store could compete, in green-ness. The mom&pop stores are getting goods from multiple suppliers, each using their own transportation network, whereas Walmart is using a fleet of trucks which – by definition, if they want to minimize cost – will be routed as efficiently as possible and not be redundant over the last mile, like a mom&pop store. You can hate all you want, but the efficiencies required for a large chain to survive will lead to greenness.

  6. Victor S. March 28, 2007 at 1:07 am

    I in my mind think comes in a time where its mostly a PR issue. They just started to do this, so you can say that its somewhat band wagon. Any Walmart and I mean any Walmart throws lots of trash at any given time(cos i work there) My MHR classes tell me that they are in it to minimal standards to doing the majority of policies, that law requires or not to break an violation or get fined. They genuinely feel that they are out to get them on some slip up.

    They do recycle cardboard and I think they make money for that.

    This is one more step into saving the company cents and look good doing it. And they are all about saving money and cost in all aspects(even in employees wages).

    Obviously, this comes after the E.U. just said that they are planning to change into energy saving lightbulbs by the end of the 2010.

  7. Nick Simpson March 25, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    I agree with Bob – we have to continue to work towards the Eco-Slob principle, where even the laziest person is green simply because it’s the easiest way to live. But in Michelle’s defence, when you know Walmart are only doing these things for PR you know you have to watch their every move as they’ll do a cheap greenwash on anything they can if you let them. THAT’S the difference between them and a company/individual who genuinely cares. As for worker’s right, I never quite understood this. If they’re so bad to work for, find another job… It’s not a 3rd world country, people have options.

  8. Will March 24, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    don’t care. a corporation is a corporation and within, wal-mart is wal-mart

  9. Steven Lagavulin March 24, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    I think it’s important to bear in mind that large, multi-national corporations cannot be green–not ever, in any significant way. Their very existance IS the antithesis of green. You could even rationally go so far as to state they are the manifestation and agents for the destruction of the Natural world, since the reason any corporation becomes very large is by being extremely efficient at producing and/or distributing ever-greater resources among an ever-greater number of people. It’s also important to keep in mind is that the very largest corporations come to dominate by having acquired an almust unassailable control of the basic resource-supplies themselves, regardless whether those resources are oil, timber, seeds, DNA, money, computer operating systems or (in Wal-Mart’s case) human labor utility. Now certainly we can’t exist on the planet without consuming resources, but we should never waver from the recognition that, for whatever “green” means to you, at the end of the day it must include the pursuit of localized, personal enterprise and not massive, least-cost “economy of scale”. We should therefore resist the temptation to laud GE for producing a handful of energy-efficient or non-toxic products within just one tiny division of their vast conglomerate, just as we need to remember that the ideals of natural, organic food production and the “ideals” of Wal-Mart are always irresolvably at odds.

  10. Cullen March 22, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    The bottom line (so to speak) si that they _need_ to treat their employees better. This sort of thing, hopefully, will put their social practices into the light a bit more, but the point is, the more people are empowered (read: educated, healthy and finanicially secure), the more they can do to help these sorts of thing.

    on a side note, my company is directly involved with these community recycling events and honestly, i wish people would look at the recycling process as closely as they do the recycler. it can be pathetic at times. to bob and those agreeing – i totally agtree that there is no difference in which impacts the envirnoment more, but coming from an employee of one of the largest recycling/reuse centers in the US, if my company were more motivated by environmentalism, i would guess we could save close to double what we do. for starters, we do not recycle paper, whether it is used internally (memos, newspaper, etc) or if it comes in (cardboard and the like). Why? because it costs money (even though we are ltierally across the street from a paper recycling plant). There is no encouragement for mass transit use or bicycling within the company. there is no push to use sustainable material, or renewable resoruces (recycled paper, solar panels on teh roof, biodiesel in our trucks). I agree that on a personal level, for the most part, it does not matter what your motivation is. but on a larger, enterprise level, it simply does matter. i tihnk its very hard for most people to fathom how much waste a company actually [puts out. i worked at a large department store for a while (starts with an s, ends with some ears), and we would fill 8 large dumpsters a _day_. we tried to recycle cardboard and paper, but that was picked up weekly and once full, the paper was thrown. i threw away dumpsters of shoes, baby strollers, clothes, electronics, store fixtuers, you name it. please do not fool yourself into thinking that a company (regardless of the industry) is gfreen simply because they say they recycle, or support the relatively lax standards such as ROHS. much of the material you will be donating to walmart for recyckling literally si shipped overseas to be thrown in a landfill – huge lots of monitors and electronics will be bought for a small part of the items, and the rest is tossed in a landfill. this is not recycling, its damn near criminal.

  11. Jennifer van der Meer March 22, 2007 at 11:13 am

    Bob-

    I like your idea of action vs. intention. The reason why we think this is a huge moment for the consumer electronics industry is because until there is a standard, all the PC and device makers can live in the world of intentions. I’m not saying Walmart is perfect, but investing the time and energy to develop a scorecard for their buyers, and for consumers, is going to radically change the PC and device industry. Watch them move even faster to deliver on their promises.

  12. Orrin March 22, 2007 at 7:18 am

    You make a very valid point Bob. I look forward to the days when green ways of doing things are not just about been socially accepted as “aware” and are just ingrained in our culture. It’s not about being in the cool club, it is far greater than yourself.

  13. gail March 22, 2007 at 7:06 am

    If Walmart want to be greener they could start by not defrauding customers by pretending food is organic when it isn’t:

    http://www.commondreams.org/news2007/0117-05.htm

    CORNUCOPIA, Wisconsin – January 17 – When the staff at The Cornucopia Institute surveyed Wal-Mart stores around the country last September, analyzing the giant retailer’s pronouncement that they would begin selling a wide variety of organic food at just a 10% mark-up over similar conventional products, they were surprised to discover widespread problems with signage misrepresenting nonorganic food as “organic.”

    Now, Cornucopia, one of the country’s most prominent organic watchdogs is even more surprised that more than four months after informing the company of the problems, which could be interpreted as consumer fraud, and two months after filing a formal legal complaint with the USDA, the federal agency regulating organic labeling, many of the deceptive signs at Wal-Mart stores are still in place.

    “It is unconscionable that rather than correct these problems, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. instead responded to our concerns by attacking our comparatively modest public interest group in an effort to discredit our organization in the media,” said Mark Kastel, codirector of the Wisconsin-based Institute. “It is not as if a product recall or store remodeling would have been required to correct Wal-Mart’s deceptive consumer practices. They could have simply sent out an e-mail to store managers and corrected the problem instantly.”

  14. Dan Wodarcyk March 22, 2007 at 1:46 am

    Sure, this is very well intentioned but simply bandwagon publicity, a notch on their belt so to speak. Sustainable design is well beyond “electronics.” Think packaging, household items, Wal Mart shopping bags, base building store designs.Think reuse. If you’re going to do it, Wal Mart, then really go all the way.

  15. Bob Ellenberg March 21, 2007 at 11:25 pm

    I’m not torn at all. Since when does the motive make the action somehow greener? To me the fact that it is good business for Walmart to jump on the ecological bandwagon shows how huge and impactful the movement has become. There are only a handful of purist out there and if they are the only ones doing something very little will happen. When it makes sense for others to be green (in Walmarts case perhaps that is spelled “cents”) the movement grows.

    One person drives a Prius to save the planet. The next person drives a Prius to save himself money on fuel. Does the first person have a bigger impact on the environment than the 2nd?

  16. Orrin March 21, 2007 at 9:50 pm

    It is nice to know that even when corporate America tries start doing something responsible some people will never give them a chance.

    Does this mean wal-mart will gain a place on the inhabitat-loved Retailers?

  17. Michelle March 21, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    This makes me feel torn: On one side I hope no one enters the contest because it’s Walmart fer gawd’s sake! Sure they are trying to minimize their footprints on the planet, but how about those dusty footprints they leave on their employees backs after they trample all over them? Of course this is PR dogoodery and probably a nice distraction to keep people from noticing the other kinds of stunts they pull.

    But then again they are so huge it could make a difference.

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