When I first began my journalism career in local media, one of my favorite articles that I wrote was about a community’s annual Earth Day activities. The community dedicated a tree to a recently deceased former village employee who  was an advocate for sustainable, earth-friendly programs. The day also included numerous games and activities to engage children at the event. Seeing this community come together made working on a Sunday feel less like work and more like enjoyment.

Although I am no longer covering local Earth Day events, connecting with brand owners, suppliers and everything in between has shown me that environmental emphasis still is a part of my journalistic career.

In this month’s cover story about Vermont Hard Cider Co. (page 30), Bret Williams, president and chief executive officer of the Middlebury, Vt.-based company, describes a number of initiatives and programs the company utilizes as part of its sustainable practices. For example, the company has been using recycled post-consumer paperboard for years on the secondary packaging for its six-packs and currently receives 25 percent of its power from CVPS Cow Power, a manure-to-energy program that supports local Vermont farmers, Williams explains. 

The Cow Power program also has a double benefit, Williams says. “The byproduct of that process is almost like a sawdust that’s used for bedding with the cows,” he explains. This process is not only a help to the environment but also helps the farmers save on bedding, some almost $100,000 a year, Williams adds.

The rest of the beverage industry continues to show environmental interest, too. The Dr Pepper Snapple Group (DPS), Plano, Texas, recently announced a partnership with Keep America Beautiful (KAB), Stamford, Conn., to focus on increasing recycling in city, regional and state public parks across the country. As part of the one-year collaboration, DPS donated $300,000 to KAB primarily to fund placement of recycling bins to provide greater access to recycling systems in public parks.

“We are pleased to work with Keep America Beautiful on efforts to make recycling more accessible for park guests,” said Tim Gratto, vice president of sustainability for DPS, in a statement. “Recycling is a shared responsibility for consumers, companies and communities, and we see this partnership as a meaningful way for DPS to be a part of the solution.”

Beyond in-house initiatives and support measures, brand owners also are embracing educational opportunities. Honest Tea TEAeo Seth Goldman gave the opening session keynote address at the third annual Green Schools National Conference, Feb. 22-24 in West Palm Beach, Fla., which focuses on how individual schools and school districts can work toward “greener” schools, including sustainability and healthy eating choices.

Goldman’s presentation, titled “Bending the Rules,” encouraged people to think about how for-profit companies can help address public issues like health, nutrition and sustainability.

 “The movement to create healthier schools has a strong group of passionate leaders and gives us a reason to be optimistic about the future,” he says. “Thoughtful, committed educators will be essential to changing society.”