This past weekend I watched a documentary called Food Inc., and it reminded me to dust off a column I wrote back in October that I never published about green principles.

I wrote the column while compiling our green issue, and I became very interested in some of the things Wal-Mart is doing in its quest toward sustainability. For example, the corporate giant is looking at principles such as embodied energy and product life cycle, and is challenging its suppliers to embody some of their own sustainable principles. For example, the company has developed a sustainable product index.

The first phase of the company’s green program included a survey that included 15 questions that will serve as a tool for Walmart’s suppliers to evaluate their own sustainability efforts.

In phase 2 of the program, the company plans to create a group of universities that will work with suppliers, retailers, NGOs and government to develop a global database of information on the lifecycle of products—from raw materials to disposal.

In the final phase the product information will be translated into a simple rating for consumers about the sustainability of products. Maybe I’m an environmental geek, but this is pretty exciting to me.

So when writing that past column I went to the sustainability section of the Wal-Mart website to check a few facts and stumbled upon a video titled, “the Secret Life of Sour Cream,” just sitting there on the main page of the sustainability section with no explanation. So I watched the five-minute video (CLICK HERE to view it) and was intrigued by this explanation of the manufacturing process of Wal-Mart’s Great Value brand of sour cream. One of the things I learned is that cows produce 120 pounds of manure per day. This manure emits methane, which is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases emitted. “This has a greater impact on global warming than all the tailpipe emissions combined,” according to the video. Who knew?

I also learned that a machine called a methane digestor can capture the manure and turn it into electricity that saves one farmer in the story $12,000 per month.

That farmer said this, “Imagine a world where cows are producing the milk for Wal-Mart, then produce the electricity to cool the milk at Wal-Mart and provide the lighting and electricity for Wal-Mart.”

So long story short, watching Food Inc. made me think of Wal-Mart again as they also profiled the company for a brief segment in the film. The company talked about how it listened to the consumer who wanted organic products and that’s how it partnered with companies like Stonyfield Farm.

Whatever your thoughts on the company, I only highlighted them to get you thinking about your sustainability efforts. Are you listening to the customer and giving them what they want while also being profitable and energy-efficient at the same time? How are you lowering your environmental footprint? Are you looking at the product life cycle of your products? Just a few things to think about.

P.S. If you haven’t seen Food Inc. I recommend it. It’s one of those movies that stays with you and really makes you think.

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