Greenify by Cashing Out a Clunker?

January 29, 2009

A measure introduced this past week by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) would establish a national voucher program to encourage drivers to trade in older, less fuel efficient cars, trucks or SUVs for a more fuel efficient vehicle.

It’s billed as the “Cash for Clunkers” program.  It would give drivers a credit of between $2,500 and $4,500 to turn in fuel-inefficient vehicles to be scrapped, and purchase a more fuel efficient vehicle. The traded-in vehicles would have to be drivable, have a fuel economy of no more than 18 miles per gallon, and have been registered for at least the past 120 days. Vouchers could also be redeemed for transit fares for participating local public transportation agencies. The program would operate for four years, from 2009 – 2012, and is expected to encourage the early retirement of up to one million vehicles per year.

This is Congress’ attempt at encouraging drivers to trade in less fuel efficient vehicles in a tough economic client. 

“If enacted, this bill would be an important part of helping getting America’s struggling automobile industry back on its feet – and help consumers who are concerned about covering the cost of buying a more fuel efficient vehicle,” said Senator Feinstein.

The bill would also…

  • Save an estimated 40,000 to 80,000 barrels per day of motor fuel by the end of the fourth year.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 6.6 million metric tons to 7.6 million metric tons, or the equivalent of removing 1.1 million to 2.2 million vehicles from the road in one year, (based on an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 vouchers issued per year).
  • Reduce nitrogen oxides, which cause ground-level ozone (a leading cause of respiratory health problems, like asthma), by 3,043 short tons (2,761 metric tons) by 2013, (based on an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 vouchers issued per year).

The senators hope this will compliment a new fuel economy law, which if passed, will raise average fuel economy standards for America’s fleet of vehicles by at least 10 miles per gallon over 10 years or from 25 to at least 35 mpg by the year 2020.


Green the Environment or the Economy?

January 28, 2009

What has you feeling most concerned: Greenifying the environment or the state of our economy?  A recent poll shows for most Americans, worries about jobs and the economy outweigh their concern about environmental issues.

According to the latest survey by the Pew Research Center, strengthening the nation’s economy and improving the jobs situation now rank as the two top priorities by a respective 85 and 82 percent of those surveyed. 

In the jobs category, this is up 21 points since the previous version of this same polling material, one year ago. 

As a category, “protecting the environment” fell 15 points on our national worry list in the past year. While it’s still a top priority with 41 percent of voters, that’s down from 56 percent in the past 12 months. 

There is still concern about the energy debate, with 60 percent of Americans calling it a “top priority.”  Energy prices and the need for independence from fossil fuels has risen steadily for the past six years beginning in 2002, when the poll found 42 percent cited energy concerns as a top issue.

While the poll shows that some voters are less concerned about the environment and more concerned about the economy, it should be noted that the mood among those surveyed seems to be a group concern.  That obviously not everyone polled is unemployed, therefore they are being concerned about their fellow man, which ought to be a prime concern of all of us.

The survey also showed that while a growing number of us are worried about the economy, there is attention being paid to the economic benefits that clean energy systems can provide, with a growing number of home and business-owners having first-hand knowledge of those good qualities because they’ve already begun to Greenify.

And PS: Going Green is often more economical than not!


President Barack Obama’s Greener Days Ahead

January 26, 2009

Our new President of the United States seems very bent on Greenifying all of us.  This week, he’ll direct federal regulators to move quickly on an application by California and 13 other states to set strict automobile emission and fuel efficiency standards, according to administration officials.

This latest action makes good on an Obama campaign pledge and at the same time, reverses Bush administration policy.   Granting California and the other states the right to regulate tailpipe emissions would be one of the most emphatic actions Mr. Obama could take to quickly put his stamp on environmental policy.   He’s also removing his predecessor’s efforts which markedly expanded our carbon footprint.

The Bush administration rejected California’s previous application.  EPA regulators are now expected to reverse that order after completing a formal review process.

Once they act, automobile manufacturers will quickly have to retool to begin producing and selling cars and trucks that get higher mileage than the national standard, and on a faster phase-in schedule. The auto companies have lobbied hard against the regulations and challenged them in court.  Not surprisingly, environmental groups are thrilled.

“This is a complete reversal of President Bush’s policy of censoring or ignoring global warming science,” said Daniel J. Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress in Washington. “With the fuel economy measures and clean energy investments in the recovery package, President Obama has done more in one week to reduce oil dependence and global warming than George Bush did in eight years.”

In this week’s action, Mr. Obama will order temporary regulations to be put in place by March so automakers have enough time to retool for vehicles sold in 2011. Final standards for later years will be determined by a separate process.

The next part for you and I will be stepping up and buying these new vehicles in support of their stricter standards.  The new standards don’t work until someone starts using them to Greenify.


How Green Is My Orange?

January 22, 2009

Have you ever wondered how green your morning glass of orange juice is? Tropicana, owned by PepsiCo, is taking steps to find out and Green the Orange.

Click here to read the story in its entirety from today's New York Times.


A Greenification Success Story: U.S. Postal Service

January 20, 2009

We all know that this year, we’re going to have to Greenify in two ways: for the environment and for our back-pockets.  The economic concerns that are hitting our businesses are mounting but what if we could help the environment AND cut our costs?

The United States Postal Service said it did that last year, saving $5 Million by consolidating some of its transportation. 

The USPS deployed a transportation optimization system that consolidated trips.  The program was developed with IBM to analyze operations, loads, and routes to determine the best way to make sure the mail gets through while saving gas and expensive employee hours.

The Highway Corridor Analytic Program (HCPA) was put in place in 2006.  It helps USPS find the best way to allocate mail among its transportation resources.

Of course, the Postal Service has various transportation methods for moving around mail, depending on the type of mail and when it needs to be delivered. Our letters and packages flow through a number of networks, along processing routes and into distribution centers with some trips still overlapping.

But they did it!  They looked for ways to conserve and they did, saving energy, lowering cost, shrinking their carbon footprint and in the end, cutting the bottom line.  (You may use mostly email, but doesn’t it still bug you every time they ask for an increase in the price of stamps?)

Could you use a similar system on a smaller basis for your business?  You might be able to do it the old-fashioned way, on paper (or a spreadsheet) and without involving IBM.  Organize your schedule of weekly (monthly, quarterly) deliveries and pickups.  Talk to your drivers and customers.  Then lay out the routes, times, truck capacities, and end points. 

This year may be the year that doing a little extra brain-work offers the extra businesses that keep the bottom line in the black.  Simply spotting a few overlapping delivers could save money and allow you to Greenify.

Back to the USPS: savings of $1.3 million annually in Chicago, $3.7 million on the West Coast, and $400,000 in Greensboro and Pittsburgh, adding up to more than $5 million and over 615,000 gallons of gas saved per year.  That’s Greenification that gets thru in wind, sleet, or snow!


Inaugurating the Green!

January 19, 2009

With the new administration coming into the White House, there are big events playing out in Washington this week.  Millions of extra visitors are coming to this historic event as the first ever African American President of the United States is inaugurated.

And the District of Columbia is preparing in the greenest of styles. 

The Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) is trying to be as green as possible, including a recycled carpet and runner for the platform where the new President will take his oath of office and a plan to scoop up all of the manure from the horses in the parade and sell it to a nearby farm.

“We’re committed to holding an Inauguration that isn’t just the most open and accessible in modern history, but also as environmentally friendly and sustainable as possible,” said Kevin Griffis, a spokesman for the PIC.

The PIC has planned to have 6,000 volunteers pick up recycling along the National Mall and the parade route after the day’s events.

The blue recyclable carpet on the platform was installed last Tuesday along with the runner, which has a blue center and red borders. They extend about 725 square yards and were made by employees of the Chief Administrative Office (CAO).

Few previous presidential inaugurations have attempted to take such environmentally friendly steps. But the Chief Administrative Officer, who is appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), has been working to reduce the Capitol’s carbon emissions as part of the “Green the Capitol” project for the past year.

Not bad for a party with an estimated 4 million expected guests.


Start at the Beginning!

January 14, 2009

If you’re going to Greenify this year, where’s the best place to start?  Obviously, you want to start at the beginning.  But that means you need to know where you are now. You’re going to have to assess where you stand on putting your business firmly on the green.

That means figuring out what you’re already doing.  Are you recycling?  Are you, your employees and sometimes, even your customers doing what you can to put recycling programs into play?  Are you sorting out recyclables for pick-up?  Are you taking computers and other obsolete or broken computers and gadgets to drop-off locations where they or their materials can be properly rerouted back into service and away from landfills?  Do you send computer printer cartridges back for refill or reuse?

Are you using recycled products yourself?  Sometimes, we all know they can cost a little more.  But even if you can only afford to use recycled products for one week per month or a few days, every little bit helps.

What about water?  Are you filtering the water or still bringing in the bottled products?  If you haven’t already, get off that expensive and carbon-costly water wagon as quickly as possible.  You’re doing yourself, your community and your landfill a favor by doing that.
 
Look overhead.  Still using the old-style lightbulbs?  Get the CFLs.  They’ll save you money long-term.  Also take a hard look at your thermostat and the temperature gauge on your water-heater.  Dropping them even a few degrees saves energy, saves you money on your energy bill and helps to Greenify your business.

Do you encourage your employees to ride-share into work?  That can open up valuable parking places for customers, too.

“You can’t reduce what you don’t measure first,” says Allison Hannon, Midwestern regional manager for The Climate Group, which is a group that helps companies and governments address global warming issues.  The time to assess where you’re at in in the process to go green is now. The time to start doing more, of course, will be as soon as you’re doing figuring that out.


Bush’s Greenification Legacy

January 12, 2009

With just days left in his final term, President George Bush is making an effort to Greenify his legacy: he’s designating three remote Pacific Ocean regions as national monuments, thereby establishing the largest marine preserve ever created.

The new Mariana Trench, Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll Marine National Monuments encompass 195,280 square miles of high seas barred from fishing, mining and other uses. 

The Mariana Trench is famous as the world’s deepest canyon at 36,000 feet and the surrounding area will be the largest of the three protected regions at 95,222 square miles.  It’s a natural wonder that most of us will never see, but home to billions upon billions of living organisms.  A chain of 21 underwater volcanoes and vents ring this deepest of all ocean floors.

Endangered birds, sharks, and other marine wildlife live within all of these regions.  The seven-island Pacific Remote Islands monument covers 86,607 square miles while he Rose Atoll is much smaller at 13,451 square miles.  The smaller monument includes the world’s smallest coral atoll which is just 15 acres.  “These locations are truly among the last pristine areas in the marine environment on Earth,” says James Connaughton, head of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality.

The protected area eclipses the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument at 139,797 square miles, designated by President Bush in 2006, and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Reserve at 133,000 square miles.

“Taken together, this president has protected far more of the threatened and vital places in the sea than any other,” says Joshua Reichert of the Pew Environmental Group, which advocates for conservation of ocean areas.  But not everyone favors the plan.

We feel the monument is not based on science and is a feel-good attempt by the administration to leave some sort of legacy on the environment,” says Wayne Heikkila of the Western Fishboat Owners Association, in Redding, CA.

While no one is suggesting that this means the Republican President will go down in history as a “Leader for the Environment,” it seems clear that if more world leaders would attempt to “feel-good” the same way, we’d have more Greenification at an international level, more inspiration to act for the environment by business and individuals, and generally, a world that more of us would feel good about.


At Home with Greenification

January 8, 2009

This blog is being written at the computer of a favorite niece at her home in a small rural town.  My niece and her husband are a struggling young couple with two small children and a desire for her to be able to stay home and raise well-balanced, productive and contributing adults.  I just asked them if they had any plans to Greenify this year?

“Well, we just bought CFL light bulbs and switched those out on all our lamps and fixtures,” said Niece.  Her husband added that he's still focusing his attention on his electric car that he's been alternately building and burning out the engine.  (He's quite handy, and truly the consummate recycler with finding ways to change and reuse different items.)

They aren't a wealthy pair.  He was laid off late last year and fortunately, has since found other employment for some of his graphic arts and animation talent and skills.  But he's still poking around for the “perfect job.”

But they want to keep the beautiful area (adjacent to several national parks) unspoiled and reduce their carbon footprint.  I overheard them discussing the roof they recently had replaced, saying that the old one apparently sealed in the heat much better than its replacement.  The old roof was effectively gathering heat and warming the rest of the house. In order to be energy efficient, it seems they may need to consider adding more insulation.

They are also fortunate that they don't need to drink bottled water.  The area where they live is in a remote and arid part of a western state.  Water bubbles up from natural aquifers, tasting sweet and pure. By drinking it and giving it to their children, they are getting a few natural minerals and the little bit of fluoride (beneficial to their children's teeth) provided by the tiny community in which they live.

It's a good life they have, here in this remote area where neighbors often don't lock doors at night and crime is almost unheard of.   But they are doing what little bits they can to Greenify: light bulbs that consume less energy, an electric car (sometimes!), energy efficiency in heating and air-conditioning, and fresh, good tasting, healthy water from their taps.  It's the little things that make life and Greenification worth doing, don't you agree?


A little Greenification to Get Started

January 7, 2009

2009 may be a tough year to Greenify.  If it's tough for you, as it may be for many businesses during this recessionary economy, consider taking smaller steps towards reducing your carbon footprint.  Using recycled paper is one such area.    

Recycled paper is the end product of paper recycling. The production of recycled paper has significant environmental advantages over virgin (nonrecycled) paper production, including less impact on forest resources, less air pollution, less water pollution, less water consumption, less energy consumption, and less solid waste.  

Recycled paper is produced in most varieties that virgin paper is produced, with quality generally equal to virgin paper. 

But here's the problem: prices for recycled printing and writing papers are generally slightly higher than for virgin printing and writing papers, because of a much smaller economy of scale for recycled paper production. Recycled papers still comprise less than 10 percent of the printing and writing manufacturing and market.

That cost margin can hit a small business like a ton of bricks, weighing down on profits that already may be slipping in the last several months.  What can be done?  Some businesses may want to take smaller steps this year.  And that's an excellent place to begin

If every business would buy and use recycled paper for even a few days or one week per month, the savings in carbon output would help Greenify our planet.  We have to begin somewhere and while a small step may seem insignificant to some, it is not unimportant to the whole of our environment.  You can afford to Greenify, even if only for one day or week.  And our world can't afford not to start someplace.


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