Green for Good

This Earth Day, embrace green trends that promote good business without the tree-hugger rhetoric.
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Something about Earth Day irks me.

It's not because I want to see my planet's resources depleted to the point where lunar real estate looks appealing, but rather that it fires up protestors who believe that cardboard signs and caustic slogans shouted from megaphones will open corporate eyes to the correct moral path.

Companies that offer green services know their corporate clients need more incentive than a clean conscience and a Cat Stevens song. Some of them are proving that Earth-friendly makes good business sense, too.

Driving Change

It's no surprise that

Bauer's Worldwide Intelligent Transportation's Corporate Green Solution in San Francisco is considered one of

Google's

(GOOG) - Get Report

biggest employee incentives.

About 2,500 Google employees get chauffeured to and from the office in Bauer's fully equipped compressed natural gas vehicles with leather interiors, Wi-Fi and tables for conferencing. The drive takes half the time of an individual commute, thanks to HOV lanes, and employees can relax or get work done through an otherwise stressful and unproductive morning commute.

But Google's motives aren't solely altruistic. This perk draws employees to the company, increases potential work time and gives Google the "green" look -- the new key to coolness and a customer-friendly corporate image.

"Just look at the Oscars," says Bauer's CEO and founder, Gary Bauer, "and all the

celebrities coming out of hybrids."

While hybrids used to be associated with squat-looking cars, "you don't have old funky-looking vehicles anymore.

Hybrids are cool now. It's a trend," he says, describing the sleek, popular cars.

At Google, Bauer continues, some employees regularly ride their bikes to work. "Engineers and tech type people are very into what goes on around them," he explains. "They appreciate

the green ride."

"Transport to and from work is the No. 1 employee incentive," he says. "It's a big benefit to the company at the end of the day."

"A lot of

my corporate clients realize that the service makes them look good as a company ... but a lot of companies are just doing it because it's the right thing," says Bauer, who also offers chauffeured luxury transportation in hybrid 2007 Lexus RX SUVs at a price similar to that for regular limousines.

Bauer's company is one of the largest limousine companies to take the green initiative, with 85% of his miles run on clean-air vehicles.

"We're taking less from the environment and giving more to our clients," he says.

Real Recycling

ECO2 Plastics founder Gary DeLaurentiis has exposed recycling's dirty secret: A typical plastics recycling plant consumes about 4,500 gallons of water per hour, 24/7. And those 40,000,000 gallons consumed and dumped down the drain each year are contaminated with detergents, defoaming agents, pH balancers, paper labels and bits of plastic.

ECO2

(ECOO)

never has to worry about dirty drains. It is the first recycling company that has eliminated water and harmful chemicals from the process by using a biodegradable organic solvent in conjunction with carbon dioxide.

Essentially, the company eliminates waste and money spent on resources to produce the same quality product.

"We're hoping that this is the holy grail of plastic recycling," says ECO2 CEO Rod Rougelot.

The process was developed in conjunction with

Honeywell

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, and ECO2 has the exclusive worldwide license for the technology, which is going commercial with one California factory opened and 10 more in the works.

"A lot of businesses are finding ways to use higher recycled content," says Rougelot, who asserts that companies can profit by positioning themselves as green drivers.

"But all recycled plastics are not created equal," he adds. As oil prices, the main drivers on virgin (nonrecycled) plastic prices, continue to rise, companies are finding more ways to generate recycled content that doesn't rely on waning resources.

When Rougelot speaks with companies like

General Electric

(GE) - Get Report

, he focuses on the quality of the product and ECO2's ability to produce it.

ECO2 eliminates the same level of contaminants from the plastic as water-based recyclers, but uses dramatically less money and resources. But the real advantage for clients is supply stability.

"If GE needs 100 million pounds of plastic, they want a supplier that will be there for a long time," says Rougelot.

ECO2's high profit margins, which aren't dependent on as many resources, make it a more stable supply chain partner than water-based recyclers. "Wrap it all up in a nice environmental package and why would you ever buy this other

plastic?" Rougelot asks.

While the products of many green businesses cost more and require more effort, ECO2 is not one of those. As Rougelot says, "We're a very clear example of where green is good."

A Computer in Every Landfill

A computer monitor contains up to seven pounds of lead and has been classified as hazardous waste by the EPA, although some states still let you throw it in the dumpster, says Kory Bostwick, a principal at

PC Disposal.

Those who trash PCs illegally not only face fines up to $10,000, but open themselves up to data theft, as information from corporate documents to credit-card purchases can be left on the hard drive.

PC Disposal will not only recycle your computer and the damaging mercury contained within, but also give you and your company peace of mind with top-of-the-class data cleansing.

PC Disposal deals with Fortune 500 companies, small businesses and even individuals. Their services range from full, in which employees will come in and pack up the computer for you, to DIY, in which the individual packs up the computer and sends it out to a processing warehouse in Kansas City. Rates range from $9 to $35 per computer.

"Most people have no problem with that," says Bostwick. "If a person is given the opportunity to do the right thing, they will ... but they're also getting data security peace of mind."

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