Earth Day 2010

April 28, 2010

Earth Day is past.  It's now over and done for another year.  We all drank in the sunshine, good feelings and honors to the planet.  And while our normal message for any day of the year is “Less is More,” on Earth Day this year, it seemed more was more.

More cities and towns celebrating Earth Day all over the world.  More people turning out for the celebrations marking 40 years of greenification and cleaning up the planet and trying to turn our consumption patterns around. 

Other things I noticed more of this year: more corporate representation as Earth Day mentions skyrocketed on the Internet.  It seemed like every advertisement I saw for a national product on the web this past month has mentioned “earth-friendly” and “sustainability.”  I saw food products being advertised in recyclable containers; household goods bragging about fewer chemicals and less harm to the environment; and lots of ideas for lowering energy consumption. 

The reason for this is clearly because corporate entities are starting to realize that given a choice of “earth-friendly” and “generic brand X which might be cheaper,” many customers are willing to pay more to show their concern for the planet.

Maybe it's just the arrival of springtime temperatures and attitudes, but it seemed like a whole crop of new colors of reusable shopping bags bloomed onto the scene just in time for Earth Day.  I only know because every time I saw one that I really liked, I'd ask the person using it where they got it.

“A store at the Mall.”

“Target.”

“A museum gift shop online.”  These are all good answers, but the “online” brings a special smile to my face.  Online shopping also a little greener than ever before. 

There were also more schools than ever participating in this year's Earth Day, which means we're bringing up a strong generation of people who are going to be more concerned than ever about the world that we all share. 

The big celebration honoring our planet is over for another year.  But if you think about it, every day is Earth Day here on the third rock from the sun.  We need to remember that in order to make the most of the world around us. 


Change A Font, Save A (Carbon) Footprint!

April 21, 2010

So what is the number one expense related to a business' use of its printer?  I'll give you a hint: it's not the paper. 

Most offices have at least one printer and if yours is like mine, it gets a lot of use.  Once you buy the thing and get it up to speed, your accountant depreciates it and your employees abuse it.  But what is the number one expense related to it?

I'll give you a hint: it's not the paper.  At $5 a ream or less, depending on your willingness to buy in bulk, paper (a wonderful thing to recycle, by the way!) is inexpensive.  No, it's not the paper.  It's the ink.

Many printer ink cartridges, while recyclable in handy mailer envelopes that come with the purchase of  a new cartridge, are sorta pricey.  They cost upwards of $35 each and when you consider that your staff, in spite of being told not to use printers for personal matters, are probably printing everything from church picnic fliers to their senior research paper, you need to think carefully.  Is it possible you can cut costs and Greenify?

Maybe.  Maybe it's as simple as changing your font. 

A Dutch company, Printer.com, tested and discovered that different fonts require different amounts of ink and over the course of time, the amount of ink used, cartridges consumed, cash used and carbon footprint burned through to keep an office printer going could vary quite substantially.

The best fonts to use to ensure maximum print output for your cartridges are:

1) Century Gothic
2) Times New Roman
3) Calibri
4) Veradan
5) Arial
6) MSS Sans Serif
7) Trebuchet MS
8) Tahoma
9) Franklin Gothic Medium

The findings showed that a someone using a home printer would use one less one cartridge per year, with the pocketed savings of about $20.  But you'll also save on your carbon footprint. 

Using fewer cartridges means you're printing less and printing more carefully.  You're taking a step towards being more conscious of the earth and its resources.  And who knows?  Maybe your business correspondence will look better, too.  Some of those recommended fonts are not only greener, they're very stylish!


Earth Day Alive and Ahead!

April 20, 2010

You may be counting down the days to Earth Day, but I assure you, here at the Green Business Alliance, we are counting down the minutes.  We're also checking off our list:

Local area parade, picnic or other activity to attend?  CHECK!  
(Here's a googling tip: type in Earth Day, 2010 and your zipcode.  See what comes up!) Are you attending the festival or marching in it?  Don't let this parade pass you by.  Get on board and stay at the front of the line for greenifying, recycling, renewing our Earth!

Lunch out at loca-vore restaurant with clients or employees or both?  CHECK!
The food will be fresher, better tasting and have a smaller carbon footprint.  You can probably find a locally sourced restaurant by logging onto your local newspaper's website and searching for “restaurant reviews” and then specifying “locavore” or “locally produced.”  Or call a few of your favorite lunchtime haunts and ask. 

Extra large recyclables receptacle on order?  Do you really need this one?  (I had hoped you already had all the recycling containers you needed, but if you haven't got them, this is a good reminder.  It's long past time to be greener at the curb.

Field trip to visit Mother Nature?  CHECK THIS OUT!  It is National Park Week, April 17 to 25.  What that means is entrance to all 392 United States National Parks is free.  Fees are waived.  Go enjoy the Earth at its most basic, wild and beautiful.  You can learn more at this website: http://www.nps.gov/npweek/.   If you clean up after yourself, that's great, but if you pick up after other hikers, you are a hero to all!

Earth Day 2010 is the 40th celebration of the planet.  We need to Greenify.  If you haven't already, it's time to get on board.   Please join in the celebration this year and every year to come.


Paper, Plastic or... Reusable?

April 16, 2010

“Paper or plastic?” asked the grocery clerk.

Remember when that used to be the question? The simple choice of paper or plastic would be made at the checkout counter of grocery stores. The answer would be a statement of whether you were interested in greenifying. Or so we thought. It turned out that using plastic meant we were saving trees, but it also meant littering our planet with bags that never seemed to really break down and clogged everything from sewers to tree branches and more. They were ugly, hanging from underneath passing cars and strangling fish in our waterways.

I reflected on that this weekend when someone commented on my reusable fabric bag that I used to take a small appliance somewhere. It's a rich sapphire color with strong handles and a firm plastic bottom. I got it at a food industry convention and filled it on the convention floor with samples and information that it took me days to sort through and enjoy. But the bag keeps on giving.

I have other bags. Some are from particular grocery stores and advertise those businesses that I frequent. Some are padded with insulation to keep perishable items from, well, perishing. Some are made of low-carbon burlap and sorta “chic” in a granny-from-a-farm way. Others are very durable and I expect they can carry my purchases for years to come. But here's the thing: I like them all.

I like the endless variety and colors that I'm carrying my things around in. I like the bright colors, as well as the brown burlap. I like the durability and the semi-fragility of the bags. I like that I know exactly what to expect of each. They stack better than paper or plastic, soI like seeing a small stack of them in the back of my car.

The locality where I live started adding a charge for “paper or plastic” a few months back, and since then, I've seen bags like mine on the street. I'm so much happier to see bright colors and store names being carted around than plastic bags blowing in the wind. I'm sure you feel the same way.

So far, we've only cut usage of those bags by a fraction. Some people are willing to pay the surcharge for using plastic bags or they forgot their reusables or they somehow were unable to get a reusable bag for that trip to the store. But we'll forgive and look the other way, “just this once.”

It's nice to Greenify. Maybe give a reusable bag to a neighbor in observance of Earth Day? The planet you save may be your own.


Earth Day: April 22

April 14, 2010

We don't normally dig into Youtube.com here at the Green Business Alliance blog, but a friend showed me this over the weekend and I wanted to share it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wupToqz1e2g

The link above is to a video (by the way, you don't have to actually watch it. You can just listen. It's mighty!) of Carl Sagan talking about the “ pale blue dot” of our world. In it, Mr. Sagan talks about how important, amazing and humblingly beautiful our earth is. It's a simple message that seems utterly appropriate to watch this video as Earth Day 2010 approaches.

As we celebrate and honor our Earth, it is wonderful to have such an eloquent message of how important it is in our lives.

We're heading for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, with millions of our neighbors here on our planetary home celebrating with us. There will be parades, ceremonies, speeches, dinners, picnics, commemorations, honors and pledges to do better. It would be great if you could attend and lend some support.

But as the video implies, the most important part comes the day after when someone who used to litter drops their refuse in a garbage can. Or recycles their soda can. Or purchases recycled products that they didn't before. Or comes to your business because it's “green” as opposed to one that isn't.

We've got to work together to take care of our most important resource: the Pale Blue Dot.


Greenification: More or Less?

April 8, 2010

Have you planted your garden yet? It's getting a little late, so you might want to pick up some seeds or seedlings at the hardware store, if you hoped to grow your own vegetables this summer.

No matter how hard you try, however, it's very unlikely that you'll be able to grow everything your household consumes. So now that we've discussed what you can grow, let's talk about what you can't.

Is it so bad to package things in a little plastic? Maybe it is, but maybe it isn't.

We all want to be as “locavore” and “sustainable” as possible, but when is packaging actually greener than unpackaged food?

I think that decision has to be on a case by case basis for both the producer and consumer. For instance, if a farmer produces cucumbers and sends them off to the plant to be packed and shipped, a little packaging – as little as 1.5 grams of plastic wrap can extend the shelf life by an extra 3 to 14 days. Apples, grapes and potatos shrink-wrapped can cut down on bruising by 27 percent.

Vegetable producers are making a conscious tradeoff there: tiny amount of plastic in order to have less waste in the food supply. When you consider some studies suggest that Americans waste half of the food they buy (six times more food than packaging!), and decaying food produces methane gas that is more potent than carbon dioxide, a little plastic could go a long way towards eliminating some of that waste.

In some European countries, they calculate that if we stopped wasting food, it would be as if realizing the same carbon footprint savings of taking one of every five cars off the road. That would be an impressive savings, indeed!

So when you go to the market, consider the grapes in their packaging and the potatos in their wrap. Is that more or less green? The answer isn't immediately apparent. You may be able to learn something for your own business, there, too. Certainly we all might learn something about how to store our cucumbers.


Earth Day: April 22, 2010

April 6, 2010

Earth Day is right around the corner and this year, it's a milestone: 40 years of Earth Day.

When Earth Day began in 1970, it was designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment.

It was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, (D) Wisconsin as an environmental sort of “teach-in.” He announced his proposal to a fledgling conservation group in 1969, hoping that a grass-roots effort would prove to Washington that Americans in every state did care and at the same time, light a fire under the country's greenification efforts, still in their infancy at the time.

After a bit of rooting around for a name, “Earth Day” just seemed logical, according to all involved and they got started organizing the actual event. It was clearly a movement just getting off the ground. The organizers, mostly volunteers and some still in school, were thrilled when New York City agreed to take part with then-Mayor John Lindsay saying that he would shut down Fifth Avenue for the event.

By the time the day rolled around, participation had swelled to 20 million Americans. There were massive coast-to-coast rallies and thousands of college and university-organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting pollution in factors and industrial areas, trying to clean up oil spills, toxic dumps and raw sewage, and prevent spoilage from pesticides and chemical fertilizers used and over-used in our environment, all suddenly came together for a day of celebrating the Earth and recognizing their common values.

Earth Day 2007 (one of the last years for which there is good data) was one of the biggest worldwide celebrations ever, with an estimated one-billion-plus people marking the day with celebrations, awareness, education and efforts at cleaning up our world.

The best part is that you and your business can celebrate Earth Day, inviting your customers, employees, friends and family to participate, too. It can be as simple as operating with the lights turned off and using just daylight for business or going all out with special offers and deals for customers on April 22nd, or closing completely and going out to the celebration in your city.

That's because Earth Day, like your corner of our planet, will be what you make it. We hope you enjoy Earth Day to the very fullest, possible extent this year and for many years to come.


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