The New York Times ran a piece earlier this week about Ray Anderson, who founded and runs a carpet tile company called Interface. Sounds fascinating, right? Well, it turns out Anderson had an epiphany of sorts in the mid 90s, and decided to convert his company into "a sustainable operation that takes nothing out of the earth that cannot be recycled or quickly regenerated, and that does no harm to the biosphere." All with the intention of doing that by 2020. He says that they are 45% of the way there already. Profits are up, and costs are down.
It's really kind of inspiring. They've significantly reduced waste, and buy carbon credits to offset emissions from transportation. Anderson also does a lot of speeches on sustainability and business - 115 last year. There are two things he identified as impediments to his efforts to make the business green, though. First, transportation and the incredible amount of carbon emissions involved with that. But executives have to fly, and materials and product have to be transported. And that's true for any business.
Second, the tax situation. He doesn't argue that taxes are too high, the way I read it, but the burden should be shifted. From income to energy taxes, and lots of energy taxes. That sounds like a pretty feasible approach to generating the tax revenue that will be needed to do some of things we need to. Like expanding the country's infrastructure and use of intercity passenger trains. In the early 1900s, there were 220 million miles of tracks for passenger trains and over a billion passengers per year. Today, we're down to 22 million miles of track and 25 million passengers per year. With a combination of government funding, energy taxes, and proper incentives, high speed passenger and commercial trains could supplant flying and driving as the primary modes of transportation. Because those other two certainly aren't sustainable. I used to ride the Acela trains from NYC to D.C. for business. They were quite fast and very comfortable.
Anderson also provides energy for his factory with methane generated at the local dump. They estimate they can harness enough methane to power the factory for 40 years.