Loca-Procurement

October 28, 2009

So by now you've heard of the "locavore movement."  You may even be using a locavore approach in your own food shopping and dining habits.  Locavores are people who try to eat foods in season and shop for their fruits and vegetables within a limited distance.  One popular approach is to dine only on foods produced within 100 miles as much as possible.  But how about putting your business on a "100 Mile Diet?"  How about if you tried green procurement?
 
Green procurement would be seeking out goods and services that are less environmentally damaging.  A good portion of a product's "greenness" can often be based on proximity.  And here's good news: goods and services that are produced locally are going to be less environmentally damaging than goods and services produced from afar, as less energy is expended getting them to the consumer.  Many times the savings in terms of shipping a product or hiring in a service can be passed along to purchasers.

Even if all you do is purchase your office supplies from a supplier in the local town, rather than driving to another town to purchase them, consider the carbon emissions eliminated by limiting the distance involved.  You'll almost certainly save money on gas and possibly on the investment of your own valuable time as a business person.  If you tally up the mileage, gas, and general wear and tear on your business vehicle, the savings could be considerable.  They certainly could be sizable for our environment.
 
Some things will not be purchasable in terms of the production aspect.  Few enough companies produce pens or paper; but in the service aspect, the local movement may open wide.  And we can supplement green procurement with reusing and recycling.  The savings in terms of carbon emissions and actual dollars may benefit both sides of the equation, if we:
•  make the office more paperless by printing only when necessary
•  use double-sided printing whenever possible
•  invoice electronically rather than sending invoices through the mail
•  use refillable pens rather than "throwaways"
•  reuse old file folders

We've got a long way to go and lots of little ways that will help us get there, if we Greenify together. 


A Greener Halloween Ahead!

October 26, 2009

With Halloween coming up this weekend, we thought we’d take a sneak peek at some of the various green, sustainable ideas around the cyberworld for the annual Day of the Dead. 

All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween as it has come to be known, has been celebrated for hundreds, if not thousands of years.  It was a pagan harvest celebration that turned spooky, and in recent years has become rather commercial.  Jumbo-sized bags of candy are given away to children wearing plastic masks that obscure their faces and visual fields, making the holiday a little troublesome for parents.   So what’s out there that might be a little greener?

This sustainable design site offers ideas, some of which it claims are last minute:
(I’m particularly fond of the “Where the Wild Things Are” head and footgear for little people.)

Click here to view this site which offers ideas for costumes made of recyclable materials: The bat costume (#5) is a great use for old, broken-down umbrellas you never threw out.

Want to make the scene among the SERIOUSLY GREEN?  Click here for an idea on that.

Sending the kids out for tricks or treats?  Give them a reusable bag for their loot, which oddly enough, the Jane Goodall Institute is offering for sale here:
Begs the question “what do chimps know about tricks or treats?” doesn’t it?

If you are hosting or attending a neighborhood party, then you will want to make your own special holiday treats, but otherwise, we all know to stick to the commercially prepared items, because no one wants to worry about tampered with items.  Or see a child upset when parents remove something in question. 

And the day after, don’t forget to remind the kids that candy wrappers go in litter receptacles.  And that jack ‘o lantern will make great compost to be used on your lawn next summer.  So tuck it in the bin behind the house after you’ve enjoyed it for a day or two.  You’ll thank yourself next spring when you have Greenified this orange and black holiday.  And a Happy, Greener Halloween to you and yours!


Green Versus Lean

October 22, 2009

Should Greenification supercede the economy? It's a vital question that a lot of people are pondering these days. Which is more important: economic survival or environmental sensitivities?

"When I came into office there was this kind of belief that you can only protect the environment or the economy, you have to choose between one or the other," California Governor, Arnold Schwarznegger said at an event staged to accept $26.5 million in federal clean air grants. He dismissed the argument bluntly: "We don't have to accept that."

The environment often has been a luxury item for California voters. Though "going green" was always a concern, it seemed to rank higher in interest when economic times were good.

But that view may be changing, as indicated by a July poll from the Public Policy Institute of California. Sixty-six percent of Californians, for example, supported the global warming bill signed by Schwarzenegger. That is still technically "landslide" territory, but it is down from 73% support in 2008. Institute president Mark Baldassare blames some of the slippage on the economic downturn, but he also says some is clearly the result of partisanship: Democrats are greener at 78% support ahead of Republicans at 43%.

That mirrors national polls. Last year, 73% of the more than 1,000 Americans surveyed said they favored an expansion of offshore drilling for oil and natural gas in protected U.S. waters, even though many environmental advocacy groups have deemed offshore drilling as hazardous to the environment.

But environmental activists argue that choice may not have to be made.

"It's a false dichotomy," said Carroll Muffett, deputy campaigns director at Greenpeace. "In truth, what is truly good for the environment is what is truly good for the economy, because a shift to better energy solutions would create jobs."

That's on a large scale. On a small business scale, we are idealists here at Green Business Alliance, but we also need to be realistic. For the average small business, survival in a difficult economy has to come first. There are some out there who are facing such choices and although we hope that's not you, if it is, we understand. We hope you'll continue to do the things you can and look for more ways to greenify through the recovery period that we all know is ahead.


The Business of Green Marketing

October 21, 2009

So now that your business is green and has been marketing itself that way for awhile, what's ahead? It seems like everybody these days is trying to market themselves as the environmentally conscious, greener, alternative solution with a lower carbon footprint. And that's a good thing. Aren't we glad that we're all doing these things and that society is coming to care (and care all the way deep down in its pockets) about protecting our planet, preventing environmental damage and cleaning up past damage as best we can? Yes, indeed, but what's next?

Here are a few predictions offered by Jacquelyn Ottman, president and founder of J. Ottman Consulting. These predictions were made in a recent article for Advertising Age. They may give you some insight into where things stand and where to look next in your approach to Greenifying.

1. Ottman predicts now that the "green hype" (and some of it is purely hype) has hit a high, there will be a slowdown and maybe even an end to the use of meaningless green marketing terms. This would be helpful. We are seeing that there is a lack of supervision and a need for better definitions of some terms. We need standards to be set in order for business and the consuming public to truly understand what these terms mean. She also predicted there would be a slowdown in the creation of eco-marketed house brands.

2. More electronics companies will create take-back programs, thereby reducing the use of toxic chemicals in order to market themselves as green. In some cases, this may backfire. A recent "60 Minutes" segment covered the illegal and unethical actions of one "take back" program claiming to handle the toxic chemicals but which illegally exported and dumped them in a foreign country. The company involved in that program is now being prosecuted.

3. More green products will be marketed in order to satisfy retailer demands for reduced packaging and better energy efficiency. Consumers will be thrilled to see an end to hard plastic clamshell packaging. Standard green marketing claims will take a back seat to pitches based on such things as higher performance levels, aesthetics and cost effectiveness.

4. Green products sales will soar behind the major brand acquisitions (Remember Clorox buying Burt’s Bees and Colgate snapping up Tom’s of Maine), which will help increase sales of green stand-alones like Method and Seventh Generation.

If these predictions are accurate, 2009 will continue to be the "Year of the Green Business" but in new and different ways that we hope will help your business profit.


Preparing for Winter: Go Green

October 15, 2009

Can I give you a little advice about greenifying, keeping heating costs low, staying warm and being fashionable this winter?   Put on a sweater. 

The government has been advising us for more than 20 years to put our thermostats at 68 degrees daytime (and another 10 degrees cooler at night) in the winter to try to conserve energy while staving off winter chills.  If you can do that, you’ll realize a savings of as much as 10% annually on your electricity bills.

Sweaters can be an answer.  Along with socks, an occasional thermal shirt, pajamas and maybe even a bath robe.  Put some rugs on that tiled bathroom floor.  The tiles will benefit, too.

Sweaters are going to big fashion news this fall.  They are in all the best stores and available in all kinds of price ranges.  This isn’t our normal stuff here at Green Business Alliance, but in the interest of helping you greenify, let’s discuss sweater materials.

Cotton: the fabric of our lives.  It’s comfortable, soft, and so very washable.  Not the best choice for harsh winters, but definitely what you’d choose next to your skin.

Linen: prized for its lightness and beauty, but not for warmth.  Linen is favored in the summer.

Wool: the crimped hair of domesticated sheep.  Because of the crimp, wool fabrics have a greater bulk than other textiles, and retain air, which causes the product to retain heat. Wool makes some people itch, yet makes others comfortable because of its elastic and water absorbent properties. Because some wool must be dry cleaned, it can be less environmentally friendly.   But carefully maintained, it wears for years.  And many wool sweaters don’t require dry cleaning, if you check the label.  Wool, like all animal hairs, is naturally flame-retardant.

Mohair: fabric made from the hairs of angora goats.  The younger the goat, the softer and finer the hair, which means that clothing is usually made from the younger goats’ coats.  Mohair is warm and has great insulating properties. It is durable, moisture-wicking, stretch and flame resistant, and crease resistant.  It doesn’t “itch” as much as regular wool because the scales on the hairs are not fully developed.  Also needs dry cleaning.
Cashmere: considered the King of Natural Fibers, it is a fiber obtained from the cashmere goat.  Cashmere wool is fine in texture, and it is also strong, light, and soft; when it is made into garments, they are extremely warm to wear.  Also needs dry cleaning.

Other choices for sweater materials including polyester, spandex, viscose and nylon are man-made materials.  While a little nylon may give your sweater some durability, and some spandex improves the fit and styling, adding man-made fibers can make a sweater less breathable and therefore less comfortable. Also, a polyester sweater will “pill” underneath your arms faster than Mom saying “school’s closed for a snow day” makes a sick kid feel better.

So do yourself a favor and pick up a few sweaters. Better yet: GET OUT YOUR OLD ONES.   Your wardrobe will thank you and so will your electric company.   Green is definitely the style for this season!


A Few New Green Gadgets

October 13, 2009

So have you thought about your greenifying your home appliances?  Everybody knows about the government’s Energy Star program.  It’s a seal of approval given by the government for appliances that help businesses and individuals protect the environment through superior energy efficiency.

It’s all very utilitarian in most cases, though.  What about those other newer electronics?  Have you thought about those?  

Your computer is the first place to look.  I speak from experience on this.  You know how they say “leave your computer on, all the time”?  Have you ever seen what that will do to an electrical usage bill? 

To put it in a rather simplistic way, most laptops run on 65-90W power supplies. Contemporary desktops are using ballpark 350-500W power supplies.  The average homeowner uses 80 percent less energy by turning off the personal computer and clicking on the laptop.  At current laptop prices, the cost could be recovered within six months. 

Another item worthy of checking the green-stats on would be televisions.  Those huge new flat-screen televisions can hit you with a double whammy.  They are costly at the store and costly to operate. 

But some of those wide-screens can have much smaller electric consumption rates.  The Samsung 8000 series features 46 to 55 inch screens that operate using 40% less electricity than competitors.  You’ll want to check how much electricity your TV (or TVs) are using.

There’s also a device to do just that.  The Energy Detective is a device on the small side of an alarm clock that measures electrical usage.  You hook up the device, cleverly acronymed as “TED,” and within seconds are shown information about usage and cost.  If you can see it, you can manage it.  (Find out more at www.theenergydetective.com)

It’s all part of being a better energy consumer.  Greenifying is not always easy, but it is always worth it to all of us.


Greenify on a Personal Level

October 4, 2009

Want to do something small, important, and unseen to Greenify?  Change the tissue in your bathroom at home to a brand made of recycled materials.  

American bathroom tissue, okay, yes, toilet paper is a key issue in environmental circles right now.  The reason?  Brand name manufacturers of paper products, in their never-ending attempts to get us to buy their specific product, took it to the next level: three-ply tissue.

And it sold.  24 million packages of Quilted Northern Ultra Plush in the last year alone.  That’s a lot of tissue.  That’s a lot of trees.

The super plush toilet paper we love so much in the United States is made by chopping down old growth trees, grinding them up, spewing them through processing plants and stamping the stuff out into little squares that are rolled up onto long tubes of cardboard then sliced into the inches-long roll of multi-ply tissue that we’re all familiar with.  

Let me point out that Europeans use recycled paper to wipe.  Are they so much tougher than we are? Can they take it, but we need to be so much more pampered at such a higher price?  More to the point, can we afford to be this wasteful?  Bathroom tissue (rolled toilet paper and facial tissues combined) constitute 5% of the U.S. forest products industry.  Paper and cardboard use 26% and newspapers another 3%.  But is this a 5% we need to blatantly waste?

It turns out that 75% of bathroom tissue in commercial restrooms is made of recycled materials.  But when it comes to home use, American consumers believe softer is better.   We use the recycled products during work hours, but go home believing that “fluffy and soft is better.”   But “better” is also a lot harder on the environment.   

Here’s the bright spot on the horizon.  Kimberly-Clark has agreed to Greenify its practices.  By 2011, 40% of materials used in making their products will be recycled or from sustainable forests.  It’s not perfect, but it’s a sizable step in the right direction.

So the next time you’re in a forest enjoying the view, listening to the birds sing, and pondering the age of that beautiful pine or cottonwood or any other tree next to you, consider whether: would you rather look at that tree or use it in the bathroom?

 Trees, by Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.


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