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Corporate Saints?

Pretty soon, you'll be able to feel less guilty about eating Frito-Lay's chips. But not because they're reducing their fat content or switching to healthier ingredients. What Frito-Lay is embarking on is even better: an ambitious plan to completely change the way one of their factories, in Casa Grande, AZ, operates by taking it off the power grid and running it almost entirely on renewable fuels and recycled water. The concept is called net zero, and is backed by the highest corporate execs at PepsiCo, the parent company. Of course, there are benefits besides helping the environment:

Like many other large corporations, PepsiCo is striving to establish its green credentials as consumers become more focused on climate change. There are marketing opportunities, too. The company, for example, intends to advertise that its popular SunChips snacks are made using solar energy.

Regardless of all the motives involved, this really is a step in the right direction. A huge step:

Over the next several years, Frito-Lay plans to install high-tech filters that would recycle most of the water used to rinse and wash potatoes, as well as the corn used to make Doritos and other snacks, and then burn the leftover sludge to create methane gas to run the plant’s boiler.

The company will also build at least 50 acres of solar concentrators behind the plant to generate solar power. A biomass generator, which will probably burn agricultural waste, is also planned to provide additional renewable fuel.

The retrofit of the Casa Grande factory, scheduled to be completed by 2010, would reduce electricity and water consumption by 90 percent and its natural gas use by 80 percent. Greenhouse gas emissions would be cut by 50 percent to 75 percent, the company said.

Frito-Lay hopes the project will help the company save money on energy costs, particularly as oil prices approach $100 a barrel. What works in Casa Grande, one of 37 plants it operates in the United States and Canada, would then be replicated at other sites where possible.

Mmmmm…who's craving Doritos?



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