Another Big Loser Gets the 'Green' Light

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During the making of An Inconvenient Truth I met an eco-activist brainiac who approached green issues with the efficiency and logic of a mathematician. I tried desperately to hire Lisa Day to be the executive director of my non-profit, Unscrew America, but when I called her last fall she had just taken a job at Twentieth Century Fox as energy initiative manager, heading up their "Cool Change" effort to reduce greenhouse gases. I thought, What is the Queen of Green going to do at a large company like that?

Plenty, it turns out. The changes Lisa has made in the six months since she started at Fox are numerous, too many to list here, but I do want to share some of the very simple moves she made that could easily be implemented at advertising agencies—ideas that could also be passed on to clients. These are changes that have been made at a corporate level and in all cases, once the numbers were crunched and the savings demonstrated, there were no barriers to implementing them.

My favorite is the automatic computer shutdown that Lisa developed with the IT department. At 10pm if your computer is still on, a little message flashes asking you if you are still working. If you're unlucky enough to be working at that time of night, the computer will periodically keep asking you this question until 4am. If at any time you do not respond, an automatic shutdown is implemented. I'm not free to release the exact numbers, but between Fox's Los Angeles campuses and Fox Australia, the savings in the first year alone approached $500,000. The cost cutting is being further extended with new equipment standards and server virtualization, a process of consolidating workloads onto smaller numbers of machines, resulting in reduced energy costs as well as less hardware.

Another easy one was abandoning water bottles. At Fox, large five-gallon Arrowhead-type water stations were set up and reusable mugs and water bottles were passed out. Today, they are exploring water filtration for the sinks, a process that will reduce waste even further—not to mention help filter out contaminants. For those of you who have seen the new studies on pharmaceutical drug trace residue in tap water, good filtration will make you feel better about drinking it.

All production and general offices use recycled paper, catering guidelines were set up that include recycling waste, buying locally grown food whenever possible and all meats are organic and fish is line caught, not farm-raised. Employees receive rebates for purchasing or leasing hybrid vehicles as well as rebates for taking public transport that make the bus practically free. Carpools also get preferential parking, which if you've been on the Fox lot, can save quite a bit of time.

And, of course, they did a lighting overhaul that will pay for itself in 17 months, replacing almost 1000 incandescent light bulbs with CFLs, traditional fluorescent fixtures with higher efficiency fixtures and the lighting in exit signs with LED units, just to name a few examples.

Every time I ask Lisa if she met with any resistance, she says the approval process involves numbers, and the numbers always go down. Virtually everything she has tried has made financial sense so the initiatives get approved. And Lisa and others at Fox take things one step further and request that many of their suppliers follow these same initiatives.

I'm thinking agencies can do the same with their clients. See what you can "green" light at your own company and be a carbon loser, too.
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