Sustainability: America's emerging green movement

That sound you hear is the sustainability movement accelerating.  America is becoming a deeper shade of green.

 Businesses are expanding their sustainability efforts from board rooms to supply chains and now to energy providers. More companies are flexing their corporate muscle, and pressuring legislators to support efforts to boost use of clean energy and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Their so-called "green teams" are moving outside corporate walls.

Mindy Lubber of the advocacy group Ceres writes in this Sustainable Business Blog of a new "business voice", which is also being transferred to employees. She quotes organic yogurt- maker Stonyfield Farm founder Gary Hirschberg as saying, "We reject the notion that climate and energy legislation is going to be costly. . . Climate action offers economic opportunity rather than economic penalty."

The same blog notes that Nike and 14 other heavy hitters asked Congress to extend the Production Tax Credit that has helped propel wind energy (more here).

More businesses are setting sustainability goals, and in some cases (Hello, Sony) exceeding them. They are raising their sustainability profiles in concert with the military, professional sports and the public, which, according to latest polls, is increasingly linking climate change to the recent wild weather, and is willing to pay more for clean energy.

Meanwhile, prices are dropping, and energy sources such as wind and solar make more sense economically. Solar energy is expected to reach parity with traditional sources of power within  a few years. In fact, there are those who contend it already is at parity in some places. See this.

Energy efficiency also is gaining a higher profile, as evidenced by this huge investment into a new lab at University of California, Santa Barbara, and by this announcement that the telecom industry plans to invest billions of dollars into a sustainable infrastructure by 2016.

Still, the U.S. is without a national energy plan, even as some nations - even those blessed with oil (read about Saudi Arabia here)- forge ahead with renewable energy programs because of dwindling resources. Even Mexico passed a climate-change bill.

But, the pressure to do more is building. The sustainability movement is still in infancy, but a great awakening is under way, says Sam Geil, founder of the International Green Industry Hall of Fame in Fresno, CA.

 "Because sustainability has such a strong economic component, all businesses and the general public are just now starting to understand the overall benefits," Geil says.

He notes the military's burgeoning green efforts. "The War in Iraq is a great example. Transporting fuel was a big challenge, and getting it to the field operations was becoming more and more hazardous. With the use of solar and alternative fuels, the military can actually offset the threats of attacks on the tankers carrying gasoline and diesel fuels."

And let's not forget tomorrow's leaders. Today's young people are growing up with a green tint and more of them, such as my 19-year-old daughter, are seeking out environmental careers. Universities are adding sustainability programs even as they cut back in other areas.

"Young people are growing up with a green mindset and understand the value of recycling, reusing, and rethinking," Geil said.  "The Green Movement is here to stay and growing every day."

Photo of soldiers using a solar blanket