National Geographic: A ‘Green’ Hero & A Young Girl’s Memory
When this writer, and many others, think about the environment, going ‘green,’ recycling, saving the animals, enhancing and preserving the planet – two names come to mind: National Geographic and The Wild Kingdom.
I can’t tell you how fun it was to sit every Sunday night and watch Perkins and his assistant save animals across the globe in The Wild Kingdom. Dad and I would watch those beautiful scenes and talk about one day going to Africa or Australia and walking through that startling environment. He was an animal aficionado and the animals truly loved him back.
Now, when it came to National Geographic – Mom was the librarian in the clan and would always make sure that we had these magazines in the house. Not only would we see the stunning scenes of wild animals running through the most majestic landscapes in the world, but we would learn about other societies, cultures – everything there was to learn when it came to people across the globe. So it comes as no surprise that The National Geographic Society is one company whose mission is to be an international leader for conservation and environmental sustainability. And the most fun part about NG is the fact that they start their ‘green initiatives’ at home, in their workplace in Washington, D.C.
The Society has formed a ‘Green Team’ and a ‘Green Guide’ that helps the rest of us do right by the environment so that it will last a good, long time. The NG has created, developed and utilized ‘green’ initiatives over the years that are related to everything from water to energy; recycling to employee programs that inspire others to save the planet.
It was in 2007 that the Society first launched the GoGreen initiative by inviting all of their own employees to help National Geographic walk the talk they’d been talking about! This led to seven subcommittees being formed which have, together, brought about a huge list of accomplishments that focus on sustainability. Think about that! With one step you are talking about thousands of employees between the Society and the NG Channel who have set an amazing example for the rest of us by using their employee status to achieve change.
And when we speak about accomplishments, we speak about a ton of things from measuring the carbon footprint of the Society and doing something about it; even making one of the NG headquarters Energy Star (US EPA) compliant, They have completely erased plastics from their own cafeteria and introduced locally grown, organic foods; they have created a composting program where all food waste and non-recyclable paper products, including bathroom hand towels, are taken care of effectively and with the least amount of strain on the environment; and have even gone all the way to installing video conferencing so that they could reduce business travel by over twenty percent. New commuting plans for employees, car pools, mass transit…they even implement ‘Green Fridays’ that have the office closing down ten days in the summertime to reduce energy use in the buildings.
Now, considering we are speaking about a company whose magazine was (and is, really) the end-all and be-all when it comes to the environment and ecology, the NG even dove head-first into researching and changing the ‘life cycle’ assessment of their most popular product. (*A life cycle assessment (LCA) is an attempt to capture and measure all the carbon emissions associated with a product from ‘cradle to grave,’ from the sourcing of its raw materials all the way through its manufacture, use, and disposal.*)
Now the main purpose for doing this is to explicitly understand where the carbon emissions in production is coming from, so a company can determine with complete accuracy the total emissions that are associated with the creation, use and disposal of their product. When it comes to the ever-popular magazine, the NG was able to identify where carbon reduction was needed and get to it!
The National Geographic Society initiated their own LCA on the National Geographic magazine in 2008, completing the study in 2009. The main goal was to identify the carbon emissions that came from the creation of the magazine content. Now this didn’t only mean paper and ink, mind you. It meant everything from the travel that their employees had to make in order to get the story and pictures necessary for the edition, and even took into account all the emissions that everyone involved in the magazine had to contend with. That meant all their suppliers, vendors (the trucks that delivered), chains of service providers that brought the magazine together – all of these facets are a huge part of the creation and delivery of a magazine to members of the Society, as well as the entire marketplace. And even once they figured out all of this, they also had to work in the carbon issues when it came to disposal of the magazine.
I don’t think people know of the work that goes into a publication. Whether you are an NG fan, or more ‘entertainment’ oriented and like the whole tabloid press thing we have going on, either way, one magazine creates thousands (heck, hundreds of thousands) of jobs when you add in the creation, marketing, advertising, delivery and disposal of that work. You have to take into consideration the floor space, the staff, the energy and power of machinery and equipment used, forestry and maintaining our natural environment while still being able to produce an intelligent and invigorating publication; chemical suppliers, paper manufacturers, and employees that are needed for story development, editing, advertising – everyone is a must when it comes to getting that publication from their minds to our doors. And if we ever even witnessed and broke-down the amount of issues that one publication brings up in the environmental world, we would all probably stand with mouths agape and eyes open wide wondering how all of that could possibly be necessary for a simple magazine.
As I said, it comes as no surprise to me that National Geographic is the company that truly uses their time, energy and money to not only educate us, but also educate themselves on how to save the planet that needs saving.
Although Fate didn’t work out to allow my father and I the ability to get on a plane and see the world, I will always have the NG and Wild Kingdom as two very amazing memories where we learned, shared, and had a great time!
Help save this planet for the kids coming up behind us who really love sitting with their parents and grandparents and learning what an amazing world is out there!
Until Next Time, Everybody!
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