Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Going Green can be Financial Windfall

Posted on Mon, Jun. 01, 2009 to the Miami Herald.com
My view | Going green can be financial windfall

Special to The Miami Herald

When Al Gore released The Inconvenient Truth, he forced many of us to re-think the ways in which our actions affect the global environment. He also pointed out loud and clear how America is lagging behind other countries in the cause. Those who never before considered a carbon footprint let alone wrestled with the question of ''paper or plastic?'' were suddenly racing to hardware stores to get new energy-efficient light bulbs for their homes. Add $140-per-barrel oil, and many started to look at trading in SUVs for compacts. Then, almost overnight, thanks to the downturn of the economy, the skeptics have resurfaced with their age old chant ``we cannot afford Green.''

However, something has been lost -- going green can be a financial windfall as well. Europeans are ahead of their American counterparts in these types of investments, and European businesses with U.S. subsidiaries frequently adhere to many of the European standards when developing their U.S. business plans.

South Florida is starting to embrace this concept, and Mayor Manny Diaz's recent actions to create a greener city should be applauded. Proclaiming that Miami will become the leading green city in the nation is more than great public relations, it will ultimately provide for a better environment and a tremendous amount of savings for Florida business owners. These ripples will have seismic effects for our region in the future.

Green has now become part of the economic discussion in a positive sense. Unlike a decade ago when the thought of signing on to the Kyoto Protocol was countered with talk of ruin to our economy, in the past eight years, further research and development, gas rising to a high of $4.50 a gallon and a severe economic recession have started to change our perception of the Green Movement. More and more companies are finding that capital investments that help reduce their impact on the environment are as profitable as their other investments.

Sure, the economy is still in a state of recovery, and that is the very reason to go green. Never before has minding the bottom line been as important. Even small inroads into the ''greening'' process are producing immediate returns for companies.

Our company, Transwestern, which is one of the largest privately held commercial real estate and development firms in the United States, has been working with the subsidiary of a large European conglomerate operating a distribution center in Miami that had a corporate mandate to reduce their impact on landfills by recycling. With a $15,000 investment in cardboard compactors, this client began recycling cardboard boxes and reduced their garbage haul-away fees by $60,000 per year. In addition, they started selling the cardboard for $20,000 per year, yielding a $65,000 profit in the first year alone. Good for the environment and great for the bottom line.

Another subsidiary of a European company we work with was interested in reducing the energy cost of a new warehouse they had leased for seven years in the Pacific Northwest. The client replaced all warehouse lighting with new, high efficiency fluorescent bulbs controlled by motion sensors. Easy, right? This client recouped their investment in less than two years and expects a more than 300 percent return over the life of the lease.

In business, just like in people's own homes, small investments in environmentally friendly products, processes or services can yield significant savings. Reducing our impact on the environment by improving energy efficiency, recycling and re-using is a great start. What's good for the environment also makes great business sense.

Walter Byrd is managing director of the South Florida office of Transwestern, one of the largest privately held commercial real estate and development firms in the United States and a leader in sustainability.

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