U.S. Bank, which made it onto Bank Technology News' 2011 America's Greenest Banks list, had a recycling problem, through no fault of its own. At 1,100 smaller branches in its 24-state footprint, there was no recycling. (The bank has 3,085 offices in total.) In some communities within the bank's 25-state retail footprint, there were no local recycling services available, at other very small branches the high cost and inefficiency of setting up a traditional recycling pickup service didn't make sense.

The $340 billion-asset, Minneapolis-based bank and its waste management vendor, CWM, came up with an idea for a new business that would use the United Parcel Service to distribute recyclable waste. The new company, Eco2Go, ships cardboard recycling boxes to the branches, which they ship back when they're full. The bank will monitor this activity and implement traditional recycling programs at branches that are frequently shipping back and forth.

"This leverages a transportation structure already in place that's making deliveries and pickups at our branches every day," points out Lisa O'Brien, senior vice president and director of environment affairs. Recycling pickups are on an as-needed basis, as infrequently as eight weeks apart in some cases. The fee the bank pays to Eco2Go covers the cost of shipping the boxes to the branches and from the branches to the local recycling centers. The service eliminates the need for a waste collection truck to make weekly or bi-weekly pickups, resulting in reduced carbon emissions and lower fixed monthly costs. The bank expects to recycle 50,000 pounds of materials from these small branches on top of the 20,000 pounds worth of shredded documents it already recycles every year.

In other green projects, the bank will install its first solar roof on a Clayton, Mo. corporate center next week. "This is a test case, if we can make it work in this location we may deploy solar technology on other buildings," O'Brien says.

The bank will also put a kiosk in the lobby of that building that displays the real-time energy savings and rate of power generated through the solar system. "When something's on the roof, it's hard for people to understand what it's accomplishing," she notes. The solar panels should generate enough power to fuel the equivalent of that consumed by four or five homes. One reason the bank chose this Midwest facility is that Clayton is going for the EPA's greenest city award, which comes with grants and incentives.

A third environmental effort involves social media. U.S. Bank has its own version of Facebook, called UsBook. An environmental affairs community operates on UsBook to gather feedback and ideas from employees. In a recent UsBook event, 40,000 people called in or gathered in conference rooms to hear about what the bank is doing to be environmentally friendly. "It's important for employees to know what their company is doing, what we stand for, and the steps we're taking to reduce the natural resources we consume," O'Brien says.

The bank also recently ran a video contest in which employees made one-minute videos about their green resolutions. The finalists were posted on UsBook and employees voted for their favorites.