The New Green Economy

January 28, 2010

This past week in Washington, DC, I interviewed the Environmental Protection Agency Adminstrator, Lisa Jackson, at the "The New Green Economy" conference organized by the National Council for Science and the Environment.  The conference was held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington and welcomed 1,000 attendees at this year's gathering.  I caught Adminstrator Jackson as she entered the back of the hall and waited to be announced for her speech.

The keynote session topic was what many of us wonder these days: "The New Green Economy: (How) Can We Get There From Here?"  Since she was waiting to address the group, I asked her what her message for the 1,000 conference-goers would be?  She said she wanted to offer them the encouragement of President Barack Obama's administration and said that all of us must find our places in the new green economy.  She talked about how the future is full of opportunities to Greenify and that businesses, if they want to survive, will need to fit into the new green economy to succeed in business.

We all want that, don't we?  To fit into the new green economy and to succeed in business?  A lot of people are wondering that right now, so that was my other question (you don't get many questions in while waiting to be announced before a speech) to Administrator Jackson.  "Is there a choice to be made between the environment and the economy?  Can American businesses do both?"

Her answer was extremely encouraging.  She said businesses are going to have to do both. We all are worried about the economy, staying productive and growing as a business, but we need to join the new green economy, too.  In fact, she says that now is the best time to Greenify because being greener is often less costly to businesses. 

That's right, both Administrator Jackson and every expert I spoke with this past week said that a greener business is a more productive and cost effective business.   For instance, if you put on a sweater to lower your thermostat and install energy efficient lightbulbs, you will save money.  If you use recyclable paper, you will save the environment and be able to advertise that to customers.  If you drive an energy efficient car, you will pay less for gas.  If you drive a hybrid, you can save even more.  Re-use, use it up, wear it out and recycle your way into the new greener economy. 

It's an exciting time to be in business.  It's a great time to Greenify.  And doing both is the only way to move forward into the future with the New Green Economy.

By the way, I interviewed someone else that I was very excited to meet.  I'll tell you about that in a week or two.  I'm waiting for the video link to go up so you can all see that interview in action.  I think you'll be excited, too!


Grocery Store Greenifying

January 26, 2010

How was your last trip to the grocery store? Did you remember to take your own reusable grocery bags? I keep mine in the trunk of my car and I must admit that last year, I didn't always remember to bring them into the stores with me. But I definitely remember now, because with the start of 2010, the city where I live is charging a fee to use those plastic "disposable" grocery sacks. Nothing like a five cents per bag fee to jog the memory about bringing your own bags.

Bringing my own grocery bags along is something I like to do. I have probably about 7 or 8 of them in varied colors, sizes and styles. Some are made of a flimsy (but remarkably strong) polyester that seems to be the same stuff that is used to make disposable hospital gowns. A few are sturdier black or dark green nylon and rather stiff. (I'm betting these will be around for years.) One is made of burlap and trimmed in red and so stylish that I sometimes wonder if I should drag it along to work.

I've discovered that if I use them and then put them next to my keys, I can remember to return them to the trunk the next time I go out. Even if I forget to take them into the store, that doesn't really matter, does it? I can take the groceries to my car and load them from the cart into the bags in the trunk. Anything to keep that five cents in my pocket a little longer.

I say this because I think that's how a lot of us feel right now. The economy seems to be recovering, but jobs are not and businesses, while surviving, seem to be running a little sluggishly. It's a good time to look at what you can do, easily and inexpensively to remind customers that you're still in business. Have you put your name on some inexpensive reusable tote bags at your business?

Even if you are not in the grocery business, it's still a good idea. The bags are inexpensively made, mass-produced and growing numbers of people are using them, which means that plastering your business name and logo across them and selling them at cost is a great way to greenly advertise. Think of all the uses: groceries, books, school notebooks, kids projects and anything else that could be dragged along, while advertising your name.

But also think of the good you are doing the environment. Those so-called "disposable" grocery bags are a major source of pollution. Over 500 billion of them are produced and used world-wide every year. Most of the bags are not biodegradable, end up overstuffing landfills or worse, flying around in the wind or floating in the water and choking fish, waterfowl and sometimes even the algae.

The strange thing about them is, they started out as an answer to paper bags. Manufacturing the plastic bags compares favorably with producing paper bags. They consume 40 percent less energy, generate 80 percent less solid waste, produce 70 percent fewer atmospheric emissions, and release up to 94 percent fewer waterborne wastes, according to the Society of the Plastics Industry.

But now we know the better answer is to make stronger reusable bags that will stand up to months of use and reuse. Advertising on the bags gets one more use out of them for yourself. It makes them just a little bit greener, don't you think? If you want to Greenify your grocery experience with the help of Green Business Alliance, click here to view our reusable bags for purchase.


Green Business Ideas

January 22, 2010

Want to get into a new and greener business this year?  There’s no time like the present to start greenifying.  And in case you wanted for a few ideas, I’ve got some right here.  These are things you can do to make the world a little greener while greening your bank account, too.  They can be part or full-time.  It’s up to you and what you make of each proposal.

Recycling Business.  You know what this is, right?  It includes anything from thrift shops to art galleries.  Also scrap metal dealers help reuse and recycle.  (These guys are the “junkyard dogs” of this business.) Can it be recycled or reused? If so, look closely for a business opportunity limited only by your imagination.

Green Schools and Education.  This includes hundreds of opportunities from energy efficiency to curriculum writing, to green job training vocational schools, being a school district vendor of organic foods for the cafeteria.  You can bring greener ideas into your children’s educations.

Green Lawyer.   A green litigator could help resolve anything from a neighborhood dispute about shade tree positioning to solar panels being integrated into design to representing corporate America on environmental clean up operations.  Also, you could specialize in helping green businesses get started or resolve their issues, too.   Just think of the possibilities.

Cool Roofs.  From actually doing the roofing jobs to supplying the products that help reduce heat gain in buildings both residential and commercial. Reflective roofing material and other technology.  For the most “low tech” of the solutions, how about a coat of white, heat-reflecting paint on rooftops. 

Green Light for Green Lighting.  Have you thought of the opportunities?  You could make good money in designing lighting fixtures that use CFLs and LED lighting to reducing energy consumption through natural lighting (solar tubes) and specializing in interior design lighting to businesses effeciently light retail spaces and offices.

These are just a few ideas for businesses that Greenify.  There are hundreds more out there.  We’ll be offering more ideas here as the year goes on. 


Greenifying Haiti

January 21, 2010

Most of us, at some point in the past week, have turned our eyes, minds and hearts towards the Caribbean nation of Haiti. As we all know, this country, the poorest in the world, was hit by a terrifying earthquake one week ago. The quake measured 7.0 on the richter scale, making it the most severe earthquake in 200 years and one of the largest natural disasters of our times.

The resulting agony of Haiti will be months in unfolding, but most immediately, at least 50,000 are dead and the number could rise as high as 200,000. In a nation of nine million, this loss is very painful. The capital city of Port-au-Prince was flattened and all of Haiti's plans for economic development have been put aside in favor of rescue and recovery.

The United States has promised $100 million in assistance and already sent at least 12,000 U.S. military personnel to the region to assist the United Nations and other agencies in recovery and peacekeeping operations. Other countries around the world including China, Brazil, Britain, Japan and Italy have or will send assistance, also in the millions of dollars.

Also being sent are individual donations. If you are considering such a donation, you are to be commended. It's a difficult time in Haiti and if there is a chance that a few dollars could make a difference in someone's life, then surely we all want to help out.

Whether you send that money through your church, a private organization or by offering the money to a public group such as the Red Cross or the fund that President Obama asked former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to set up, we want to offer you some reassurance about a greener future ahead for Haiti. This is part of a statement by President Bill Clinton (made on Fox News on Sunday) about what he sees in Haiti's future:

"Before this earthquake hit, Haiti's per capita income was about $780 a year. Seventy-five percent of the people were living on less than $2 a day. One of the big problems was the deforestation. One of the reasons that the hurricanes hurt more there is its trees have been taken down. People will cut for fuel. They cut up the trees for charcoal, (to) cook dinner.

By the same token, Port-au-Prince and the other cities, like most cities in poor countries, hardly pick up the garbage and they have these unsightly landfills that are public health menaces.

There is a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince which brought the crime rate down and the employment rate up by collecting the garbage, taking the organic material and turning it into fertilizer for farmers, recycling the plastic and the metal, and taking the paper and mixing it with charcoal -- I mean, with sawdust and wetting it then drying it and cutting it into these little briquettes.

And three of them will burn as much for as long to cook dinner for a Haitian family as charcoal, and at about a quarter of the price.

So it's -- you employ 10 times as many people in the process. You save money for the families. And you reduce the incentives to tear down the trees. And if you do that and at the same time build income-earning trees, like mango trees, and reconstitute the mahogany forest and other of these fast-growing trees you can cut down without deforestation. That is, the roots stay and they grow up again."

There is hope for Haiti and we can help them Greenify as they recover from the disaster that has befallen them.

 


Greenifying Business 2010: Part B

January 14, 2010

We’re continuing our ideas for new businesses (or updates to existing businesses!) that Greenify.  How about…

6. Green Marketing Expert. You can help companies develop marketing plans that reduces costs and improve their reputations both with consumers and in their communities. From social media marketing to cooperative marketing and using green promotional products, green marketing methods are in demand!

7. Green Investment Adviser.  People that are concerned about the environment want to put their money where their mouth is.  They are looking for green ways to invest and want someone to do the due diligence to find green companies as opposed to green washed companies to invest in.  Could you be that person?

8. Green Business Consulting.  Help businesses that can't afford full time environmental management departments, take the steps toward sustainability.  We’ve got a lot of experts here at the Green Business Alliance that will help you help them.  (We’re ready to help anyone who wants to put a greener foot forward!)  If you can get in there and help them develop a plan, we’re all for that.

9. Boutique Organic Foods for Restaurants.   This truly is a new, small business idea and much of it depends on what kinds of things you can produce.  It can be done on a small scale on less than 5 acres of land and can provide local restaurants with seasonal produce at premium prices.  Might take a deft hand with a hoe and a good supply of the neighbor’s cow manure, but you could find yourself sitting in clover.  And  producing honey.

10. Green Plumbers.  You could help homeowners and businesses reduce their water costs and pollution by promoting, selling, installing green toilets, faucets, and water heating systems.  This one is obviously not meant for a “quick start,” but is more of a lifetime commitment and we wish you luck.

As we wish everyone luck who starts a green business or any new venture this year!  Good luck Greenifying in 2010.  The Green Business Alliance wants to encourage you in every way possible.


Greenifying Business 2010: Part A

January 12, 2010

I thought to start this year off, we’d go with some Greenification ideas that are maybe off the beaten path.  These are ideas for people who might be considering going into business or perhaps have a business that they might want to update in more environmentally sensitive fashion.   For instance, what about…

1. Green Salons.  These would be salons and spas that use organic hair products (coloring products and nail care in particular) and water and energy conservation efforts, plus green furniture (lots of bamboo!) and all natural tools such as wooden combs and bristle brushes.  Going into the business?  (Or making a few changes!)  You can design your salon to be eco friendly and market it as a green Salon, which will greatly appeal to younger consumers.

2. Eco Gym.  It’s time to get back to basics.  Get rid of the electronics and design all exercise areas to optimize green heating and cooling, reduce air conditioning costs using green cooling (Ice Bear) and create a more healthful environment with all natural, sustainably produced flooring and eco-friendly decor. Incorporate natural health supplements in your shop and bamboo and organic cotton sportswear.

3. Green Lobbyist.  If legislation and government peak your interest, then you should know the field of environmental lobbyist positions is growing with the potential to open your own green lobbyist firm.  This is a high growth field.

4. Green Gardener.  Help local homeowners reduce their water use (critical in California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico) by becoming a specialist in drought tolerant greenery and replacing wasteful grass lawns with native plants, stone gardens or organic herb gardens.

5. Green Bed and Breakfast.  If you’ve been one who has always dreamed of owning a bed and breakfast, then consider this: solar or wind powered, organic cotton or bamboo sheets, green meals (locally produced meats and fish and organic produce and fruits), and beautiful natural settings will attract eco-vacationers no matter where you are situated.

If you are opening a new business or considering making changes, we’ve all seen in that green marketing does provide motivation for new customers and clients.  You’ve got more reasons now than ever before to Greenify.  And we’ll have more ideas later this week.


A Year of Greener Business Straight Ahead!

January 7, 2010

We’re right back at the start again, aren’t we?  The start of a new year is always exciting.  We’ve got the chance to rethink our approach, start with fresh eyes, a new balance sheet and an open road ahead to Greenification.  It’s all waiting for us.  So where to start?

Here’s a basic checklist of things you’ll want to consider in plotting your green business year ahead:

Sustainable energy sources.  Does your business consume a lot of energy?  Some use more than others, and some energy sources are certainly more renewable than others.  Look for those that produce the optimum results with the minimum carbon footprint left behind.  Sometimes that isn’t immediately apparent, so check carefully. 

Building design.  Energy-efficient design for new construction and/or remodeling will utilize efficient equipment while optimizing the use of natural energy sources. The ultimate goal is to provide increased comfort with reductions in energy costs and greenhouse gas pollution.

Using paper.  You may not think of your business' paper use as an area to save energy, but it is. Paper manufacturers in the U.S. consume a significant amount of energy each year in the production of paper - not to mention the energy spent harvesting and shipping trees, and shipping paper products to your business.  Will this be the year your business goes paperless?

Manufacturing processes and packaging.  Using environmentally preferable products and services is an encouraged practice for business in the retail industry. You can find information on greening suppliers, product packaging, selling and buying green products and transporting your products.

Recycling and waste management.  This is the most obvious of these topics.  How much are you recycling each week?  Does your recyclables exceed your waste product?  I hope so.  But we’ll talk more about that in coming weeks.

Business trends.  Millions of small businesses across the United States are also trying to learn these same principles. Some are your competitors; others are not.  But if we are all trying to achieve benefits for all, shouldn’t we work together a little more?  Surely the results won’t be the same for every company, but the benefits will be enjoyed by all. 

What may be even more important, every little bit helps.  The effects are cumulative.   We’ll be talking about all these topics this year and information is of course, always available here at the Green Business Alliance website.  We hope you have a great, successful 2010 and surpass both your business goals and goals to Greenify in the next 12 months!


A Greenification Challenge for 2010

January 5, 2010

Simple is better.  Greenification is grand.  And it’s growing.  Isn’t that what we learned in 2010?   If you looked around at the newspapers (they may be struggling, but we need them!) over the last week, you probably saw all kinds of stories about how Americans “did more with less” and “learned to buy experiences instead of gadgets” in 2009.  It’s a lesson we’ve needed to learn for a long time.

As the greatest nation of consumers the world has ever seen, we needed to take a step back.  The numbers show we’re doing that now.  We’re saving more than we spend.  We’re making it a goal to use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.  We’re learning not to throw aside something just because there’s a newer, flashier product in the market.

And we’re finding satisfaction in doing that.  Look at this challenge from one of the nation’s top financial writers...click here to view.

By doing this, we could Greenify both our bottom line and the planet. 

During the last year, I’ve wondered if we, as a people, would be forced to choose between the environment and the economy.  But what we’ve seen in the last 12 months has shown that most of us believe the choice doesn’t have to be made and that in fact, just adhering to a few more economically advisable policies would have the natural outcome of greenifying our lives.    We’ve done well and now we’re ready to move forward even stronger.

I challenge you to a “green fast” for the year of 2010.  Let’s make this year the best, Greenest year we’ve seen so far.  Let’s make 2010 a year in which we truly do use things to their fullest potential: use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without all the way to a greener style of business and life.


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