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Kai Ryssdal: A couple of weeks ago on this program, we had analysts predicting the economic crisis could put the brakes on corporate efforts to green their businesses. One exception, they said: Eco-friendly changes that save companies money. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Sarah Gardner says that's exactly what's happening with the company behind the grand-daddy of all those sports drinks. Gatorade.
Sarah Gardner: Business isn't exactly bubbly at PepsiCo these days. Profits were down 10 percent last quarter, and the company is planning factory closings and layoffs. But one thing PepsiCo won't be laying off is its water conservation campaign...
Edrian Oliver: We challenged ourselves to save 20 percent per gallon of Gatorade. And, as of right now, we're tracking at 15 percent, current to date.
That's Edrian Oliver. He manages PepsiCo's Gatorade plant in Dallas, Texas.
Oliver: Water is critical to our operation. It's the main ingredient in our products. We're a major water user.
The plant here pumps out millions of gallons of Gatorade and Propel fitness water every year, and it takes more than twice as much water to do that. Water's used for everything from cleaning the plant to purifying the water for the drinks to cooling the products.
[swishing sound] But that's not the sound of water you're hearing. That's the sound of Gatorade bottles being sterilized with ionized air, instead of hot water. PepsiCo was among the first to adopt the technology a few years ago.
Oliver: So you see the bottles are upside down right now. After that air sprays in, that ionized air, everything that could have possibly been a contaminant is out of the bottle.
But the most recent water-saving change at the plant is one inspired by the severe drought in Atlanta. The Gatorade plant in that city was under the gun last year to save water, co managers there started using a silicone spray to lubricate the conveyor lines instead of H2O. Now, all eight Gatorade plants in the U.S. have made the switch.
Eudell Hall: Now, if you notice, we have a much drier floor.
That's longtime Dallas Gatorade employee Eudell Hall. She says safety has improved as well, because the floor's not as wet and slippery. These water conservation efforts are saving the plant 12 percent on its water bills. PepsiCo executive Tim Carey says the company's trying to conserve power in its operations as well. Total utility costs have dropped over 30 percent.
Tim Carey: If you do sustainability right, not only do you help the planet, you do good things for the earth, you should save money at it and in some cases the returns are quite attractive.
Those returns can extend beyond the factory floor. Eudell Hall got so jazzed about conserving at work she started doing it at home too.
Hall: I really do cut my water off when I'm running it in the face bowl or maybe I don't do the dishwasher as often.
Of course, PepsiCo's environmental critics say the company could really save water by giving up products like Aquafina, but the company defends bottled water as healthy and convenient, and told Marketplace it's ramping up efforts to soften Aquafina's environmental impact.
In Dallas, Texas, I'm Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.