April 22: Earth Day 2010!

March 16, 2010

It's our favorite time of year at the Green Business Alliance. I'm sure you know why.

Spring is on the way and in the spring, our young-at-heart thoughts turn to Earth Day! And this year, it's the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

As glad as we are that the world has enjoyed forty years of marking the importance of taking care of our world, it seems the planet needs our care and attention more than ever. Climate change is likely to be the biggest challenge of our lifetime.

Earth Day 2010 is a focus point: a moment for some to begin turning their minds and hearts to trying to help clean up and care for the planet. For others, it's a time of renewing the commitment to work together to make sure that our planet is cleaner, that we live a more sustainable life and attempt to help others to do the same. Earth Day 2010 is our annual day to think and act more greener than ever before.

What can we do differently and better this year than last? Where are the small changes that we can make? What are the more long-term, engrossing and community projects we can take on? Are there change we can make at work? What about at home? Is there some small contribution you can make or a leadership role among many that you can take?

For those who have been focused on efforts to Greenify for some time, it may be harder to find new ways to commit to a more planet-conscious approach to life. The road ahead to improve is likely to be found in little tweaks and bits of taking down one's carbon footprint.

If you're just starting to go green, well, you're just in time! There's always room for more and a world of ideas, big and small, for greenifying. We like them all and we like to talk about them here at the Green Business Alliance. So stick around, because Earth Day 2010 is just around the corner and we'll have more information and ideas here at www.GreenBusinessAlliance.com for on how you can get yourself and your business involved.


Recycling the Good(will) Old-Fashioned Way!

March 11, 2010

We don't often endorse green businesses here at the Green Business Alliance Blog. But I have to say, that there is one recycling operation that I have been in love with since I was very small: Goodwill.

I grew up with a mother that loved garage sales. She loved to hop in the car with a friend and drive around on a Saturday morning, looking at other people's stuff for sale. Garage sales, rummage sales, flea markets; she loved them all. But her favorite was Goodwill.

The reason? Because Goodwill is not only recycling other people's used but still serviceable items. Goodwill also recycles people. Read their mission statement:

“Goodwill Industries International enhances the dignity and quality of life of individuals, families and communities by eliminating barriers to opportunity and helping people in need reach their fullest potential through the power of work.”

The business itself provides jobs for the people taking the goods in, cleaning and organizing them and then reselling them in retail outlet stores. They are sustainably recycling people, too.

I can't tell you how many times as a child, my mother would finish with the garage sales and drag us off to Goodwill for another hour. Or two. (There was more than one Goodwill location in our area.) I recall her buying everything from old trunks (great for storing toys in!) to sheets and towels (which she tore up to use for household cleaning) and the occasional clothing item. She never bought used shoes; she felt that shoes sometimes molded to feet and othertimes, well, they might actually contain mold.

When I graduated from college, I made a beeline to Goodwill Stores for household goods. They were all I could afford. I bought a couple of small tables, four or five chairs, some flatware and dishes, and even a broken Moped there once. I thought I could get it running, but I never did. I recycled that one myself, taking it right back to Goodwill and redonating it back to them. II wonder how many times it cycled through the system before it found a home with someone who knew how to get it running again?)

I like recycling more things these days. I'm always excited to see how little actual “refuse” I can put out on the curb, compared to the larger amounts of recyclables. But I'm pretty sure I got my good start at liking recycling, sustainability, renewable resources and making the most of things from shopping at Goodwill.

Goodwill Industries is a plan to Greenify unto itself.

 


Greenifying the Workforce

March 9, 2010

I wish I had comforting things to say about business on this blog this week.

I'm sure everyone reading here was pained by last week's unemployment figures that showed the country's unemployment is holding steady at 9.7 percent. Some of you live in places where things are even worse, as high as 12 or 13 percent. A few are in places where things aren't as tough, but still painful indeed. Very few Americans at this point can say that their lives haven't been touched by the unemployment of a family member or friend, or perhaps they themselves are struggling with it.

All of us are interested in green business practices, but these days, it seems that the greenification is coming from workers who are having to do more with less. They are doing it to try and give their employers the best chance of staying in business, and thereby, hoping to avoid unemployment themselves.

We already know that there simply isn't an easy way out of the tight spot that we've worked out way into. If there was, we would have already gone for it and be in a happier spot already.

So instead, I'm going to suggest that we take a minute at the start of each day to consider how we can best help each other that day. Take a moment to consider how you, as a green business owner, can help your employee feel better about their job and more secure. Stop and think if there's any way you can bolster a neighboring business or someone whose services you may use. Ponder for just a few seconds as you go through the week on the question of what your best, greenest goals for your business will be in the future.

I can't promise that any of this will solve your problems. But if it helps you stay in business one little bit longer or encourages the person in the shop next to you to provide better, more marketable services or helps your employee to feel a little more confident, maybe that's helpful. And maybe that's all the “better” your business can afford this week.

I'm hoping to be blogging about more upbeat topics to Greenify soon. But until that “bright light appears on the horizon,” perhaps just trying to imagine the attitude that goes with those, for as many minutes as we can, will help lighten the load a little.


Good, Clean and Green

March 4, 2010

Have you ever seen those household products labeled "all natural" and wondered "what's really in those bottles?" I know I have. I recall my mother's attempts to make homemade laundry soap a few years back (rendered animal fat and lye?) and I am unsure about how that will affect my clothes and my skin.

There is good news on this front. The Natural Products Association (NPA) is starting to certify home care products that meet its standards; a certification that will bring a new level of consistency to the marketplace.

You may remember this group from two years back when they started to certify products. They began with personal care products like body washes and soaps. Over 340 personal care products carry the group's seal, and it expects home care products to start showing the seal in the coming months. Now they are expanding to include household products like laundry soap, surface cleaners and dish detergent.

In order to earn natural certification for products, a full 60% of a company's products have to meet the NPA's definition of natural, even if only certain products are to be certified. That may make things a little tough on some businesses, but think of the benefits of encouraging such certification in businesses.

The NPA standard certifies product as "natural" if 95 percent of its ingredients are all-natural or derived from natural sources (flora, fauna, mineral), while the remainder, up to 5 percent, can come from a list of allowed synthetic ingredients.

Products cannot contain any ingredients that are suspected of causing human health risks, and non-natural ingredients can only be used when commercially viable natural versions are unavailable. Animal-based materials created in situations where animals are harmed and byproducts of animal rendering are also not allowed. (I must admit, my mother's "Natural" laundry detergent wouldn't qualify, but at least she was trying not to waste resources.)

Companies can only use specified processes, and none that significantly or adversely alter natural ingredients. They cannot engage in animal testing unless it is required by law. And they must fully disclose all ingredients.

This sounds like a lot, doesn't it? And Greenifying can be a comprehensive undertaking at times. But I know I will be looking for these types of certifications in products that I purchase in the future. And I'll be buying them with a lot more respect.


Greenified Business Opportunities

March 2, 2010

Looking for more ideas for Greenified businesses? They are out there. Some are obviously "side businesses" and others will take awhile to grow, but that's the nature of all green things, isn't it? Here are some ideas just to get you thinking:

What about starting a business for "green maid services." This is a small, home-based business idea involving having cleaning personnel go to a home or office, but only use all natural cleaners for their customers. The appeal is great because many people are becoming sensitive to chemicals, perfumes and other aspects. This is an idea whose time has come.

Along the same lines, natural pest control. If you are already in the business of pest control, then you know how important this is. It's time to open up the doors on pest control, and either go for it fully with all natural pest control involving no chemicals (always preferred) or at the very least, begin selling those services in a special offering. We've seen here at the Green Business Alliance that consumers will pay more for green services and this is one that would undoubtedly sell.

Green Dry Cleaning? Same goes for these customers. Using safer solvents and advanced technology for non perc (a dangerous carcinogen affecting industry workers and too often, the properties where these chemicals are used) is an attractive alternative. It's a big selling point, particularly among those of us who have known people in the dry cleaning industry. It's a lot safer for everyone.

Lite packaging consulting services. If you've ever consulted, this may be an area where companies are reconsidering. You could provide information about greener packaging to save money and landfill. Information services require extensive research, but the information is out there and available. If you are the one providing it to businesses, you could recoup some of the money you help those companies save on their packaging.

Car sharing. Community car time share. "Zip Cars" are very handy alternatives to full time vehicle ownership and maintenance. If your community doesn't have them, then maybe there's an alternative that you could organize. Not everyone needs a full time car, but sometimes, they need access to a handy vehicle. Consider the options in your community and whether that could put you into a green business of your own.

Greenifed business opportunities exist, and with a little thought, effort and hopefully, a tiny investment, they could be something that would benefit you and the community around you.


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