October 24, 2007 Edition

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Cindy Kinder (left) and Judy Bailey move a railroad tie during a cleanup of a section of Rails to Trails. The cleanup was sponsored by local Wal-Mart associates who are taking the company's sustainability project one step further, trying to make a difference in their community.

Wal-Mart working
toward self-sustainability

Bryan White, a student at Black Rock Elementary, carries one of 70 bags of recyclables collected at the school this summer. Students in Marilyn Craig and Zora Inman's sixth grade classes participated in the project, raising a total of $350, which will go toward educational field trips for the classes.

Sue Hancock, Wal-Mart associate, shows off one of the store's sandwich bales of plastic bags. The bags were collected from local schools, associates and customers and will be sent for recycling as part of the company's move toward self-sustainability.
Amber Adams
Staff Writer

Wal-Mart in Walnut Ridge is one of many around the nation that is taking steps to achieve sustainability. Corporate executives believe revolutionary change is needed to ensure that future generations can enjoy the same quality of life that is enjoyed today. This cleaner, more efficient way is called sustainability.

The world is changing: declining natural systems, climate change and energy crises affect and threaten future generations. "As a large international company," it states on the website, "we know we must play our part to restore the life support systems of the earth. Fortunately, along with that responsibility comes an opportunity to promote restorative business practices across our entire industry."

In 2004 Wal-Mart launched a company-wide, long-term initiative to unlock its potential. Leaders and executives from virtually every branch of the company formed entrepreneurial teams focusing on areas such as packaging, real estate, energy, raw materials and electronics waste. These teams partnered with environmental consultants, non-profit organizations and other groups who helped them examine business practices through the lens of restoration and sustainability.

Kid's Recycling Challenge

As part of this initiative, associates at Walnut Ridge are participating in several company-wide projects including the Kid's Recycling Challenge where plastic bags equal money for schools.

Wal-Mart Foundation, partnering with elementary schools in 12 states, including Arkansas, delivers the opportunity for students to recycle their household shopping and grocery bags. Once elementary schools register for the program on www.kidsrecyclingchallenge.com the Foundation sends each school two collection bins and 60-gallon plastic bags. Students collect their plastic bag waste throughout the year and take them to the local Wal-Mart stores to recycle on Monday, Wednesday and Friday during recycling hours.

Each school receives a $5 credit for each 60-gallon plastic collection bag. At the end of the program year the school that collects the most 60-gallon plastic collection bags can win a monetary award associated with first, second and third place. Additional awards are given to schools for fourth through 10th place.

Several schools in Lawrence County are involved in this program. Last year Black Rock raised $365, Walnut Ridge raised $310 and Hoxie raised $200.

Sandwich baling

Associates at Wal-Mart in Walnut Ridge are also taking part in a new sustainability project called sandwich baling where they use the store's cardboard balers as key tools in reducing plastic waste. By collecting plastics, including shrink-wrap and bags, and using the baler to crush them between layers of corrugated cardboard, this store alone collects 130 pounds of plastic a week. This also increases dumpster space and ultimately helps reduce trash hauls.

The store is also collecting 200 pounds of paper each week for recycling, in hopes that recycling income will increase. Recycled content that will be put back into paper products sold in stores is also generated.

Community outreach

As part of the sustainability goals, associates are reaching out into the community. Several team members have volunteered their time for community service projects including a Rails to Trails cleanup day. In just over an hour-and-a-half, they removed three truckloads of debris from a section of the trail.

Another ongoing project is household battery recycling. Associates and their family members are taking old batteries to Wal-Mart's recycling bin rather than sending them to the landfill. Team leaders at the Walnut Ridge store are challenging residents to do the same.

The teams are participating in several other programs that are not directly environmentally related, but do have a positive affect on the associates, their families and ultimately the community. Judy Bailey who is a team leader and works in the Wal-Mart Pharmacy in Walnut Ridge said they have held a "biggest loser" weight-loss contest, book talks and encourage each other to make healthier food choices.

Personal sustainability practice

On a corporate level, Wal-Mart has already begun making positive differences, from cutting down on packaging waste to reducing energy use in stores. As more and more associates get involved, the program grows because they make changes in their personal lives.

This is where Personal Sustainability Practices (PSPs) come in. According to the company, a PSP is a personal commitment to one or more lifestyle changes - however large or small - which have a positive effect on oneself or the world. They can range from personal fitness goals such as losing weight, to farther-reaching environmental goals such as recycling or saving energy. Not only that, but PSP is a voluntary grassroots program that associates designed and own.

PSPs that have been adopted by local associates include riding a bike to work instead of driving, recycling aluminum cans, participating in the Adopt-A-Highway program and other community service projects.

Upcoming projects

Upcoming projects at Wal-Mart in Walnut Ridge include a contest for the most creative costume made of recycled materials and activities to promote breast cancer awareness, both to be held this month; a canned food drive slated for November 1-16; and free Angel Tree gift wrapping in December.

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