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Making Their Own Energy

The EPA, through its Green Power Partnership, recently recognized companies and organizations that are producing their own green electricity. And the names may surprise you.

From major corporations to municipal departments, groups all over the U.S. are implementing solar, wind, hydro and biomass power more often, representing greater percentages of overall energy consumption.

In fact, the EPA says, the green power consumed by just the top 20 organizations generating renewable energy on-site is 736 million kWh annually – enough to power 61,000 homes.

I was surprised to hear some of the big-time companies on the list. Guess I figured their PR machines would’ve made me aware of their green do-goodness already. These are household names, like BMW, Macy’s, Wal-Mart and Kohl’s.

But the big daddy, No. 1 on the EPA’s list, is none other than traditional eco-baddy Kimberly-Clark. Perhaps they’re compensating for a lack in other sustainability areas. Or perhaps it’s just convenient and economically prudent to use biomass energy because they’ve got so much tree refuse lying around. No matter the reason, it’s pretty cool that a massive conglomerate like K-C gets 7% of its annual energy consumption – nearly 193 million kWh a year – from on-site renewables.

Suhas Apte, Kimberly-Clark’s VP of Environment, Energy, Safety, Quality and Sustainability (kinda sounds like a ministerial position out of 1984), says, “Kimberly-Clark’s number one ranking on the EPA’s On-Site Green Power Users List is a reflection of our commitment to sustainability in our operations. Our teams around the globe are continually working to reduce our environmental footprint, and we are very proud this work has been recognized by the U.S. EPA.”

The biggest surprise to me, though, was Kohl’s. You never hear about them being green. Wal-Mart, BMW, those guys you hear stuff about. But did you know 50% of Kohl’s energy comes from solar power? Most of it is bought from other providers, but 2% it actually produces itself at its stores and distribution centers. That’s pretty neat.

Dominating the list are government organizations, and even entire cities. The Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts, San Jose/Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant, and Alameda County, CA/GSA Facilities are joined by the likes of San Diego; Nassau County, N.Y.; San Francisco; Portland, Ore.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Gresham, Ore.

San Diego stands out as getting 27% of its power from methane, solar and hydro plants right in the city. This blows away other major metro areas and shows the city of more than 1.25 million people is well on the way to its goal of becoming “energy independent.” (Though it looks like it’s got some friendly competition from a northerly neighbor.)

How does your city, or your favorite company, compare? Check out the entire on-site green power usage list. And let us know how you feel – should we be celebrating companies for being 7% green, or be outraged it’s that low – by commenting below or e-mailing us at kscribner@captivate.com.

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“Making Their Own Energy”