Monday, September 09, 2002

Daily Grind

Recycling drives company

        Conserving on energy as much as possible or feasible has long been a goal for the most hard-core American environmentalists.

        Wind energy, compost gardens, energy-saving light bulbs and water-saving household devices, passive solar windows and hot water heaters and earth-sheltered housing are many of the ways that people seek to reduce consumption.

        When conservation occurs, it's often because of an individual's effort.

        Collective energy conservation is a far more complicated and complex issue for people and companies to embrace. That was the challenge for one Fairfield firm that has a regional - even global - reach.

Cutting edge

        Fredric's Corp., distributor of Aveda products for Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan, has long sought to stay on the cutting edge of environmental concern.

        Boxes are made almost entirely of post-recycled materials. Packaging foam peanuts here are made of cornstarch and, if any get out into landfills, they will simply deteriorate.

        Products are made from organic or natural ingredients and not tested on animals.

        Energy conservation at the order-processing facility led to design of conveyors and workstations. The company just installed a cardboard crusher and baler to recycle material on-site.

        But how to expand the concept into employees' lives at home?

        That was the question that Frederic Holzberger learned the answer to earlier this year when he sat in on a class being taught by Carol Macy, the company's Indianapolis-based director of education.

        At each of her sessions, she preaches the virtue of her new car.

        It's a Toyota Prius, a hybrid electric-gas powered car that gets 52 miles per gallon of gas on highways and 48 miles per gallon during city driving. It already had 18,000 miles on it, even though it was only 7 months old.

        It is not so new anymore but that doesn't stop her from preaching about how people need to vote with their dollars for environmentalism.

        When Mr. Holzberger heard what it had done to Ms. Macy's life, how valuable the car was to her personally and professionally (she drives a lot) he decided that he had no choice but to get one for himself.

Role models

        The best chief executives are, after all, role models for everybody else in the organization. Or they should be.

        Mr. Holzberger decided that he would make her purchase a symbol for everybody who works at the Fairfield offices.

        Prius drivers would get premium parking spots, he decided. It's not much in the way of a reward, really.

        It's a symbol, more than anything else. But symbols have power and usually impact, too.

        Small acts of individual passion can sometimes lead to much larger developments - that law of unintended consequences, after all, works in strange and wondrous ways.

        The company hopes to be the first in the region to buy a fleet of the next generation of Toyota hybrid: a mini-van. It all started with Ms. Macy's personal choice.

        It hasn't ended there either.

        “Today, every choice I make about companies that I buy from, I make consciously with the environment in mind,” Ms. Macy said.

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