Tell Walmart: Take Back the Mercury!

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. has got a lot of cleaning up to do.

Recently, Walmart has been pushing a wide range of ‘green’ initiatives. They’ve been focusing on the environment very big, very public way.

One of their biggest initiatives is their effort to sell 100 Million Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs — one for each of their estimated 100 million customers.

This is wonderful. If they meet this target, they will be pretty directly responsible for freeing up enough energy to provide power for 450,000 single family homes. We applaud them for this effort!

But there’s a catch, and it’s an important one. Every one of these 100 Million bulbs contains Mercury — a chemical poison that means the bulbs aren’t allowed to be thrown out in household trash. Instead, they need to be recycled using special procedures to ensure that Mercury stays out of landfills across America and around the world.

If Walmart is going to sell these bulbs, they should provide a way for their customers to recycle them. Putting brochures in their stores isn’t enough — they should provide some convenient, direct way for customers to recycle the bulbs. Otherwise, these bulbs will end up in local landfills where they could build up over time and require local communities to pay for clean up costs later. And the clean up costs would be huge.

About Walmart

As one of the biggest and most powerful corporations in the world, they literally make almost $1 Billion in profit each month. They exert a control over the manufacturing and retail industries unlike any other corporation.

From Wikipedia:

It is the largest private employer in the world and world’s fourth largest utility or commercial employer, only trailing the People’s Liberation Army of China, the National Health Service of the United Kingdom and the Indian Railways.

They’ve also been the target of some dramatic criticism recently. The recent movie The High Cost of Low Prices chronicled in detail many of the company’s worst abuses.

For example, here’s some information from a recent article in the San Francisco Bay Guardian:

Five of the 10 richest people in the country are from the founding Walton family. But to help the company offer its proclaimed “Every Day Low Prices,” workers are paid an average of $17,530 a year, nearly $2,000 below the poverty level of a family of four. Almost half of the children of those associates are uninsured or on Medicaid.

Walmart has been doing some good things for the environment recently, and they deserve credit for that. Their 100 Million CFL bulb effort has gotten them a lot of press, including this interview on NPR, this article in Fast Company.

Is it too expensive?

Of course, the reason they don’t provide recycling already is that it costs too much. It will reduce profits.

But according to Wikipedia, they earn almost $1 Billion in profit each month. Clearly, they won’t lose money if provide a way for customers to recycle bulbs.

Other companies are helping consumers recycle products

Also, other companies provide similar services. IKEA, for example, provides recycling of CFL bulbs in each of their stores. Why doesn’t Walmart?

Sony, Dell, Apple and HP are all unveiling recycling programs to allow customers to recycle products they buy from them. Why doesn’t Walmart?

Walmart even held a recycling day in 5 US States and accepted CFL bulbs from customers for recycling. It was a single day, 8-hour event, but they took in a lot of bulbs.

Pressure from customers will be key in determining when they role it out permanently. They’ve announced no plans to do so as of yet. But, with pressure from us, I’m certain they will.

What should you do?

So what should you do?

Well, to begin with the first thing is to contact Walmart and tell them to Take Back the Mercury! If Walmart wants to sell 100 Million CFL bulbs they should arrange in-store recycling for the bulbs. It’s that simple.

Right now, the best contact information I have is this contact page on Walmart’s corporate site. For e-mail, this form is the best I can find.

I’d prefer more direct contact information — preferably to Andy Ruben, Vice President of Corporate Strategy/Sustainability for Walmart. If you have better contact information please leave it in the comments here and I’ll add it to this page. For now, here’s the contact info from their corporate contact page:

Contact Walmart:

By e-mail
To contact us by e-mail, fill out our online feedback form.
Submit feedback for your local Wal-Mart
Submit feedback for our corporate headquarters

Via mail
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Bentonville, Arkansas 72716-8611.

By phone
If you’re a customer, call 1-800-WAL-MART (1-800-925-6278).

If you’re an investor or analyst, call 479-273-8446.
If you’re a journalist, call 1-800-331-0085.

How Social Media Sites Expand Reader Comments on our Site

Social Media sites like Digg, Stumbleupon and Twitter (among others) have dramatically changed how readers find and discuss our website. I thought it would be interesting to talk about this a bit and show the rest of our readers how different people discuss our posts using these different sites.

As an example, let’s look at reader response to our post from yesterday on a new study showing that 87% of Americans were ‘seriously concerned’ about the environment.

The feedback itself was pretty consistent — our readers seemed to be all thinking the same thing: “Yeah, that’s great. But does it mean that people are actually going to do anything?”

And that’s a fair question to ask. It’s one thing for someone to be concerned about the environment, but quite another to for them to be more aggressive in recycling, or sell their SUV and by a Hybrid car.

Regular reader jhimm, summed it up well in his comment on our site :

ok, great, 87% of americans are concerned about the environment. BUT, of that 87% a significant percentage are going to be liberal/progressive and will expect the government to take a leading role in -fixing- the environment and so may not do as much on their own as they should, focusing instead of their “activism” by voting Green (or DNC).

another significant percentage are going to be lazy americans and while they are “seriously concerned” they aren’t actually going to get off their fat asses and -do- anything to -fix- the environmental issues we face.

Reader Jeremy added another comment on this site :

I agree, education is the hardest part, and the part od the equation that is lacking the most. I feel that most people want to live a more ecologically responsible life, but they dont know where to start. They know that they can recycle, but most dont know that there are rules (most of which make recycling harder to form habits around).

I bet a good 95% of the information that people are hearing is trying to just prove the fact that the environment is being depleted.

Social media sites like stumbleupon, digg, and twitter provide another avenue for interaction with readers — as well as new avenues for readers to comment on content.

For example, this story was submitted to stumbleupon, where stumbler tecknopuppy left the comment:

I am utterly amazed at the results from this study about how 87% of Americans are seriously concerned about the environment.

I posted a link to the story to twitter, and twitter user greenskeptic (who blogs at The Green Skeptic ) responded (in the standard twitter 140 characters or less):

concerned, but will we DO something about it? Will we change our lifestyle?

The Climate Heretic commented on the post on Digg:

This is what I am trying to get answered, what are people prepared to really do it about it? I am trying to understand the level of frustration that is portrayed in the media about the lack of action on this issue, not just here in North America, but globally. I am a skeptic, but I would like to know what people think on this, If you have time drop by http://www.theclimateheretic.com and post a reply, or post the reply here.

I personally think this is great. It gives readers more options and expands the opportunity to collaborate with more like-minded people. It also gives the story itself a wider readership and helps us get feedback from a more diverse group of people.

We’ll be back next week with our reader comments of the week post on Friday. Thanks for reading!

New Study: 87% of Americans “seriously concerned about the environment”

Consumers are ready for a change?

A new study was released today that revealed some interesting trends among Americans.

According to the study, 87% — or “the vast majority” — of Americans are now “seriously concerned about the environment“.

This demonstrates what many of us in the ‘green blogosphere’ have known for a while — that there are radical changes underway right now in how Americans look at the Environment and Environmental Issues. According to the study:

The top five environmental issues weighing heaviest on America’s minds are water pollution and rainforest destruction (56%), diminishing fresh water supply (55%), fuel and energy shortages (54%) and man-made outdoor air pollution (53%). Asked who should take the lead in addressing these and other environmental issues, half of consumers (50%) rank the federal government first and 62% believe current legislation does not do enough to positively impact the environment.

Regular readers will probably remember that we’ve discussed the role of government in changing people’s behaviors before — here and here.

The role of government has been one of the most contentious issues we’ve discussed on this blog, and now we find, according to this survey, that most Americans believe that the government should take the primary role in managing our transition to a more sustainable future.

This, of course, leaves me little doubt that the process will be horribly mismanaged, do too little and arrive too late — unless individual citizens step up and lead/force the government to respond. And according to this survey, we Americans may be getting ready to do just that.

In a classic bit of consumer modeling, the study also classified Americans into different groups based on their beliefs and gave each group a catchy name — for example, “true blue greens” (30% or those surveyed) seem to be those people who are actually changing their habits, while about 18% are “apathetics”, or people who really don’t care.

Interestingly, “apathetics” as a group get most of their information on environmental issues from television. (For this reason, I’ve considered writing and asking them to rename this group using the more accurate term, “Fox News Viewers”.)

But there was one piece of news that I felt was very positive — that more people would change if they only knew how:

Lack of Education Hinders Many from Going Green

Though the American mindset has shifted to become more environmentally-conscious, half of consumers say they “do not have the information to be personally involved in increasing their green behavior” and “aren’t sure which products and packaging materials are recyclable.” Nearly half (49%) also state they would do more for the environment if they only knew how.

America in many ways is a sleeping giant. Once awoken, it can work miracles. Let’s hope this study is an indication that that’s what’s happening now.

Carnival of Green Living #03!

Here’s the third installment of the Blog Carnival of Green Living! As usual, we have some great blog posts for your reading pleasure — and you might learn something too!

The Blog Carnival of Green Living!
One of the common threads in this week’s set of articles is a topic that I think is under-served both the corporate media as well as many ‘green’ bloggers — reducing your consumption. If you want to reduce your impact on the world the easiest way is to simply consume less.

To drive this point home, here’s a thought-provoking post from Millionaire Mommy Next Door on a family decision not to make a major purchase: Memories are made of the things we DO, not the things we BUY posted at Millionaire Mommy Next Door.

In addition to reducing your impact on the planet, reducing what you consume can have a direct impact on your financial security and success, as laid out by Andy in this post: How to Determine Financial Success posted at moneywalks.

In one of the best ‘list’ posts I’ve seen recently, Sagar Satapathy presents some great tips to reduce waste in your office with: Working Green: 50 Tips To Reduce Your Office’s Waste posted at Bootstraper.

What is required to call food ‘organic’? Jimson Lee explores the answer to this question in Organic This, Organic That – What Exactly is “Organic” Food? posted at Speedendurance.com.

In a straight, from-the-hip post outlining his personal feelings toward being a vegetarian, James D. Brausch presents Why I’m Not A Vegetarian posted at Weight Loss Dude. (I know many of our readers are vegetarian and I felt this post would help people understand a different point of view toward this important subject.)

As the overall population ages, there is a growing need to understand how to integrate older people into the workforce. Alvaro Fernandez presents us with this well-written post on Training the Aging Workforce posted at Brain Fitness Blog.

Here’s a short post from Leon Gettler reflecting on Pepsi’s recent announcement that their bottled water was really nothing more than normal tap water: The bottled water lie posted at Sox First.

And finally, here are two posts that examine the use of medicinal herbs as a more natural approach to healing:

Aparna presenting Medicinal uses of Bael (Bilva) posted at Beauty and Personality Grooming, and Lucynda Riley presenting Swollen Lymph Nodes in the groin posted at Quietly into the Night.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to review some of these great posts. All these writers have something to say and I’m glad they chose to share it with us.

We’ll be back next week with another round of postings!

Announcement: Carnival of Green Living is now Weekly!

When we launched the Carnival of Green Living, we had no idea that we’d get so many excellent writers submitting articles. In fact, we’ve been a bit overwhelmed — which, of course, is a good thing.

Given this response, we’ve decided to change the carnival from twice a month to weekly. We’re still getting a regular flow of submissions and from what I’ve seen the bloggers who are submitting posts are seeing traffic as a result — which is good news all around.

For more information or to submit an entry for publication, check out the details here at our listing on blogcarnival.com.

600 Naked People Can’t All Be Wrong


Greenpeace has released a new YouTube video today focused on climate change. It’s an interesting film in which 600 people strip naked and lay beside a glacier to protest climate change.

It’s just one more instance where people are moving ahead of governments and speaking out. The governments won’t respond until the people lead and force them too — and this short film demonstrates people who are speaking out and leading.



These 600 people took their clothes off in front of cameras as a way of speaking out against climate change — what have you done?

Links from Readers

Links!

Sometimes readers send me links. I think it’s great because I get to know what interests people. Here are some recent ones:

Our twitter follower bythebayou @replied me a link to Co-op America. They look interesting — I like that they encourage people to take action.

Another twitter follower monkchips, sent this link on saving energy by turning computers off at night! He recently learned that in Japan, insurance companies offer lower rates to companies that turn their servers off in the evening, since the believe it lowers the risk of fires. He describes it as “a commitment to not 24/7, not follow the Sun, not have uptime for its own sake.”

Finally, regular reader jhimm e-mailed me a link to a rant of his on some current Chicago news — the recent proposals to add a 10 – 25 cent tax to all bottled water sales. Let’s just say jhimm is a bit upset by the news. We’ve been discussing the role of government (see here and here) in changing people’s behaviors, so thanks jhimm for adding to the conversation.

If you run across something that’s big news where you are or that you think we should be covering, let us know through a comment on the site or send us an e-mail at ’21c AT 21st-century-citizen.com’.

My Crazy Uncle

I have this crazy uncle. I don’t want to say his name, but suffice to say that he works in software in a suburban community.

He has some crazy ideas sometimes. But he’s pretty smart. He’s always got his fingers in a lot of pies – he seems to follow everything.

Like one time a few years ago he sent me an e-mail about an on-line poker site he was playing:

So anyway, you should come on-line and play with me sometime. We’d clean your clock, though — these guys are the big boys. They’re crazy.

They’d take your money, send you to Brazil and then turn you over to the feds. You’d be Karl Rove’s cabin-boy on the good ship ‘Office of Strategic Initiatives‘ inside of a week.

On second thought, don’t sign up. You’re mother would hate me.

He was always saying things like that. I never really understood him.

So anyway, he sends me an e-mail last week and says he wants to write for the site.

Kid, I heard you launched a website. Something about the the environment your mother told me.

Let me tell you, back in the 70′s we were into the environment too. We invented Earth Day, remember? What have you guys done?

So, I’ve decided I’m going to start doing some writing for you. I’ll send you some articles. I’m already working on some ideas.

I’m not sure what to make of this. I’ll let you know.

One of our stories is rising in on Digg

And we’ve never been on the front page of Digg.

It’s our story on How to Clean up a Broken Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) Bulb.

Carnival of Green Living #02!

Here’s the second installment of the Blog Carnival of Green Living! We have some really nice posts from a great group of blogs that are the perfect follow-up to our blockbuster first edition!

The Blog Carnival of Green Living!

The first entry this week comes from one of my favorite green blogs, Lighter Footsteps. Their focus is on the individual and how they can reduce the environmental impact they make. This week, they’re presenting Lighter Footstep – Switch from Detergents to Natural Soap posted at Lighter Footstep.

One of my other favorites, is the Aussie blog A New Green Earth. It’s written by artist Winsome Gunning and I love both her art and her writing. This week she brings us Are You a Carbon Fatty? posted at A New Green Earth.

Another well-written Aussie blog, Nourishedmagazine.com.au, brings us this great post on Clean and Green: Natural Cleaning Formulas.

We also had our first submission from a cartoonist this week. The blog Welcome To The Future http://www.wttf.org presents Radiation Suits posted at WTTF: Welcome to the Future.

Frugal Panda, a blog that’s new to me, brings us a well-written and detailed post on saving water (and saving money!) with How to Save Money with Xeriscaping posted at Frugal Panda.

Here’s an interesting post from “eco-friendly bed and breakfast innkeeper in Montana”: The Dog and Pony Show posted at INNside Innkeeping in Montana. There’s good info there on organic pet foods, for those of you with dogs.

Stretch Mark Mama presents a way to let kids have some fun and beat the Summer heat with her short and practical post Sustainable Squirt Guns posted at Stretch Mark Mama.

Renata Vincoletto shows us ways to recycle left-over computer parts at Geeks United! It’s time to recycle! posted at > systemcall dot org.

Finally, we have two submissions that have something in common. Both are from bloggers who are waking up and re-evaluating their commitment and understanding of how to live in a less impactful way.

The first, is a short, soul-searching post by marguerite manteau-rao Converse ad posted at La Marguerite. Not a long post, but nicely written.

Finally, No Credit Needed discusses a bit about E85 flex-fuel (which generated some good reader discussions on biofuels in general) with Potentially I Could Be An Accidental Environmentalist posted at No Credit Needed.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to review some of these great posts. All these writers have something to say and I’m glad they chose to share it with us.

We’ll be back next week with another round of postings!