I confess: I was prepared to be bored out of my mind reading the Mercury Marine 2015 Sustainability Report after it landed in my email inbox. So I put off opening it as long as I could. Suddenly, I had all kinds of important things to do, such as estimating how much interest I will pay on my son’s student loans before he gets a job after graduating next month.

Marine power, at least at Mercury, isn’t a dirty word. Photo by Jay Nichols/Naples Image.

Marine power, at least at Mercury, isn’t a dirty word. Photo by Jay Nichols/Naples Image.

Just as suddenly, I remembered that my refrigerator needed a good cleaning. And then there was all that clothing that had fallen behind the washing machine—back there for months if I had to make an honest guess—that had to be rescued right now.

Finally, I ran out of invented excuses, downloaded the darn thing, grabbed a huge cup of black coffee, and started reading.

And I couldn’t stop. OK, so the 2015 Sustainability Report from the world’s largest marine engine company wasn’t an edge-of-your-seat page-turner. But what it lacked in gripping action it made up in solid, factual information that made me proud of Mercury Marine, dubbed “Black” for its engine colors among performance-boat enthusiasts who know Mercury Racing—the company’s high-performance marine engine counterpart—as “Blue” for its distinctly hued products.

I’ve always wanted some snappy comebacks when I hear how “dirty” the marine industry is and how environmentally irresponsible and selfish those who enjoy its products are. Now I have them, thanks to the report from Fond du Lac, Wis. Last year, according to the report, the company’s environmental sustainability efforts included:

Reducing energy consumption—In 2014, Mercury reduced energy consumption by implementing a number of energy-saving best practices. For example, the company improved machine cell efficiency with the installation of a new grinding operation at its gear and shaft factory that uses 84 percent less energy than the previous system. Overall, global energy consumption at Mercury has been reduced 32 percent since 2006.

Decreasing use of natural resources and minimizing waste—Since Mercury's oily wastewater treatment system was implemented in April 2013, approximately 1 million gallons were treated through the end of 2014. This resulted in the elimination of more than 40,000 miles of highway driving by semi-trailer trucks.

Introducing new products with improved fuel efficiency and lower emissions—In 2014, Mercury introduced several new products, including a 4.5L stern-drive engine and the 75-115hp family of FourStroke outboards that reduce emissions and improve fuel efficiency.

Want to talk recycling? Mercury Marine literally does tons of it, as in 227 tons of mixed paper, corrugated containers, plastic shrinkwrap, and drinking bottles this year. In addition, the company diverted 312 tons of wooden pallets from landfills and reconditioned them for reuse. In 2014, Mercury Marine manufacturing balers recycled approximately 650 tons of cardboard. The recycling of these materials resulted in energy savings of approximately 255,000 kilowatts, which is enough to power 16 homes for one year.

Want to talk goals? Mercury Marine has plenty of them, lofty ones at that. By 2019, according to the report, the company plans to reduce annual energy usage by 45 percent from 2005 levels, reduce annual water usage by 30 percent from 2005 levels, reduce outboard emissions by 74 percent from 2005 measurements and have 80 percent of its employees participating in “wellness activities.” (OK, so maybe that last one doesn’t wow you, but if you worked at Mercury Marine it just be good for you.)

Given all of that, it's no wonder Mercury Marine earned a "Green Master" designation from the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council for the fourth consecutive year in late 2014.

So now you know what I just learned recently -- that, at least in Wisconsin, black is the new green.