Fayetteville becomes center of "Green Valley"

Yes, that Fayetteville. In Arkansas, home of Wal-Mart.

Yes, that Fayetteville. In Arkansas, home of Wal-Mart.* The same Wal-Mart that recently announced it had annual sales of $375-billion. As a nation Wal-Mart would rank right below Switerland in GDP, and ahead of such oil-rich countries as Saudi Arabia and Norway.

It's Wal-Mart's dominating presence in the retail marketplace that got Casestack founder and CEO, Dan Sanker, to move to Fayetteville. I recently spoke with Sanker and he explained how he became ever more aware of the need to conserve energy and other finite resources, how he then realized that for him to be truly effective in managing his own corporation, and in altering the old patterns, he had to be in Fayetteville, Arkansas. You see, Casestack is a distribution specialist, getting food and other retail products from maker to buyer.

In Casestack's own words: "CaseStack supplies a Fortune 500-caliber service that delivers high-volume purchasing power, efficient transportation options, a nationwide network of warehouses, dedicated account team and cutting-edge technology that augments our sophisticated infrastructure."

GETTING GREEN

Sanker talked to me about what Casestack has done. They now use biodiesel when it's feasible. That reduces greenhouse gas emissions. They work with shippers and retailers to ship in fully loaded trucks, increasing the efficiency of distribution. Casestack also encourages its clients to re-think how they package, ship and store products to reduce waste and energy.

Not content to wait for services and processes to slowly improve, Sanker started a non-profit to actively solicity ideas and innovation that can improve the efficiency and environmental effects of making, shipping and retailing. His organization is called Green Valley Network. And that "Green Valley" is the huge retail business concentration around Fayetteville where hundreds of consumer product businesses have major offices to work with Wal-Mart.

FUTURE FUEL

Sanker admits that current biofuel tech is not efficient enough to make more than a small dent in fossil fuel use. His firm has lowered emissions from its diesel truck fleet. Further savings have come from load consolidation. Overall diesel trucks account for more than 5% of all CO2 emissions in the U.S. Yet, Sanker is optmistic. He points out the petroleum industry has had a century to get big and effective. Modern agriculture and the coal industry had been around even longer. Biofuels are yet in their infancy. And Sanker expects continued interest, investment and research to change the energy landscape in the U.S. and globally. And he expects his Green Valley cohorts and competitors to play a major role in that.

In Rogers, Arkansas, Sanker told me, Wal-Mart's beginning to experiment with wind turbines on some of the many light standards that rise out of every Wal-Mart parking lot across this land. In fact there are sixty such standards in every Wal-Mart parking lot. There are 3500 Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores in America. Times 60. That could be a few wind turbines generating electricity.

One of Sanker's favorite research institutions is The Danforth Center. They're working on a number of projects concerned with renewable fuels.

* Some clarification. One talkback suggests that I think Wal-Mart is actually in Fayetteville. I said "Arkansas, home of Wal-Mart." Fayetteville is the largest city in that northwestern corner of Arkansas, and thus the nexus of much of the development. Wal-Mart is in the next county north, Benton, and in the town of Bentonville.

Another talkback suggests that I hate Wal-Mart because they make/have a lot of money. Huh? The point of pointing out Wal-Mart's enormous wealth is to show how powerful they can be in the retail business. If Wal-Mart goes (as they have) for organic cotton, that's a huge shift across the cotton business. If Wal-Mart starts changing business practices for any reason from financial to environmental, it will have huge reverberations, just as if the U.S. government or General Electric or Microsoft made a significant change in practices.