Our Amazing Planet

June 17, 2009

Do you mind if I take this one blog to just be amazed at the planet that we live on?  The fact that after being on this sphere for how many thousands (or millions, depending on who you believe) of years that we are still discovering new creatures, new geology, and new events here on our Earth is simply stunning to me.

This past week, there were a couple of interesting stories put on the internet.  These were more than just the “giant squid washes ashore on Thailand Beach.”  They were new discoveries about things going on in the world.

The first one that I saw was about clouds.  Apparently, a woman was in an upper floor in an office building in Iowa when she saw some unusual clouds passing by overhead. 

"It looked like Armageddon," said Jane Wiggins, a paralegal and amateur photographer in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "The shadows of the clouds, the lights and the darks, and the greenish-yellow backdrop. They seemed to change." 

She snapped a few pictures and cloud experts, both professional and amateur, have been arguing about what classification, if any, these clouds fall under.  Clouds are normally classified as cirrus, which are high altitude wispy clouds. They are the highest clouds.

Cumulus are the mid-height ones, which are puffy and vertical and look at bit like popcorn; status, which the lowest clouds, Stratus often appear as an overcast deck. 

But Ms. Wiggins spotted what may be a new type of cloud.  And scientists are still scratching their heads about her photograph.

Also this week, an article spotlighting a glacier in Argentina is continuing to grow.  You read me right.  In spite of global warming and climatic changes around the world and in spite of ice shelves falling everywhere, the Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina is one of only a few ice fields worldwide maintaining a nearly perfect equilibrium since measurements began more than a century ago.

"The glacier has a lot of life," said Luli Gavina, who leads mini-treks across the glacier's snow fields.

The Perito Moreno glacier is currently 19 miles long and getting longer by the year. 

These are just two small items.  There are literally millions of amazing things about our planet.  I bring them to your attention because sometimes, it’s just nice to take a break from all the doom and gloom to catch a moment of wonder and awe.  It’s a great planet.  And we’ve got to take great care of it. 


Greenifying Your Palate

June 10, 2009

I want to tell you what I did this weekend: I want to the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting and Food Expo in Anaheim, California.  And it was an experience in greenification from the inside out!
 
The Institute of Food Technologists meets every year, bringing together thousands of food technologists, researchers, nutritionists, food industry representatives, and journalists to discuss what the current food trends and scientific discoveries about food, nutrition, additives and flavorings for the coming weeks and months will be.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that this year’s convention shows the food industry is getting greener by the year. 

The food technology industry has apparently realized the value of the green market.  Their offerings were focused on sustainable foods, organics, pro-biotics, pre-biotics, and functional foods.  They are adding nutrients and healthy aspects to foods that most of us never considered healthy before.

There were companies talking about greenifying their food producing and processing.  There were additives made from whole grains and other natural components.  There were entire sections devoted to sustainability in foods.

Much of the focus was on natural non-caloric sweeteners.  Instead of making highly processed, sophisticated chemicals to sweeten our food, it would appear that we are due for an onslaught of natural, but non-nutritive (zero calorie) sweeteners. 

Food colorings are going “all natural,” as well.  Colorings are being produced from natural dyes found in other foods like cabbage and berries, instead of chemicals and additives.  These colors are beautiful and safe for both consumers and the environment.

We’re entering a period where we have more technology, science, processes, and chemicals available than ever before, but in looking around the food technologists’ convention, I could see that the industries are responding to public demand for natural, sustainable, greenly produced foods.

The food industry is going green, in answer to what the public wants.  By the way, among the most popular “take-away” items from the IFT’s Food Expo were fabric shoulder bags.  In the past, the bags were mostly plastic and thrown away after the convention.  The bags I brought home will be recycled as grocery bags.


Painting your roof tops White?!

May 27, 2009

Yes, you read the title of this blog correct. White roof tops was a topic of conversation in London yesterday at a climate change symposium. In an effort to Greenify our nation, one of the outcomes of this symposium is that the Obama administration wants homeowners to paint their roofs an energy-reflecting white color.

US Energy Secretary Steven Chu represented the United States at this London event. He also indicated that light-colored (or "cool-coloured") pavement and cars could also mean energy savings for our country.

Click here to read more about how the US wants to paint the World White, and the positive environmental effects these actions may have, in Tuesday's blog post on Yahoo Green.


Earth Day 2009

April 20, 2009

Earth Day is coming up this Wednesday, so I thought today we’d talk a little about the history of this great day on our planet.  It’s a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for our Mother Earth. 

In September 1969 at a conference in Seattle, Washington, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin announced a “nationwide grassroots demonstration on the environment” that would be celebrated the following Spring. This announcement came at a time of great concern about overpopulation and when there was a strong movement towards "Zero Population Growth."

Senator Nelson proposed the nationwide environmental protest in order to thrust the environment onto the national agenda.

"It was a gamble," he recalls, "but it worked."

April 22, 1970, Earth Day marked the beginning of the modern environmental movement as approximately 20 million Americans participated, with a goal of a healthy, sustainable environment.

The man who coordinated all those people, Denis Hayes led the organization of massive coast-to-coast rallies. There were thousand of colleges and universities organizing protests against the abuse and deterioration of the environment.  Groups that had fought against pollution of factories, steel mills, and power plants, organizing against oil spills, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways and wildlife extinction all suddenly came together under one umbrella.

By Earth Day on April 22, 1990, the number answering the rally cry had reached 200 million, with a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide.  It also helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

The Earth Day in 2000 focused on global warming and a push for clean energy.  It combined the big-picture feistiness of the first Earth Day with the international grassroots activism of Earth Day 1990. It also had the Internet helping to link activists around the world as 5,000 environmental groups reached out to hundreds of millions of people in a record 184 countries. Earth Day 2000 sent the message loud and clear that citizens the world 'round wanted quick and decisive action on clean energy. Earth Day 2007 was one of the largest Earth Days to date, with an estimated billion people participating in the activities in thousands of places like Kiev, Ukraine; Caracas, Venezuela; Tuvalu; Manila, Philippines; Togo; Madrid, Spain; London; and New York.

Earth Day 2009 is expected to push forward with more driving force, bringing over half a billion people together with one goal and focus: to stop deterioration and pollution of the planet; to undo damage where possible and to provide a better world for all of us to live in.  We hope you will join in this wondrous cause with us. 


Earth Day: One Month and Counting!

March 18, 2009

Earth Day is one month away and, yes, we’re starting count the days here at the Green Business Alliance.  (It’s an “Earth Day” of sorts every day here, but we do take extra joy in the rest of the planet celebrating with us!)  Did you see the cool spinning globe and countdown timer on the front of our homepage?  Lots of activities and different events are being planned all around the world.

I think my favorite ones are the ones at schools.  The current generation is just getting started at cleaning up the world, but those kids are the ones who are going to have to push forward on the job.  And there are thousands of educators lining up to help them learn about those activities. 

Already, many schools have signed up to participate in National Environmental Education week from April 12 to 18.  During that time, they’ll focus their students attention on Earth Day through creating day after day of learning and activities in K-12 classrooms, nature centers, zoos, museums, and aquariums.  Think about it: thousands of eager young minds, all thinking about and learning about the problems of pollution in our world. Think of the good they can do if each of them just picks up one piece of trash on the way home after school!

It’d be nice of the rest of us grown-ups (and semi-grown-up people) would consider doing that, too.  Every little bit helps.  So turn off that light after you leave the room.  Recycle that soda can.  Stop drinking bottled water and get a filter system on your kitchen tap. 

Going green is going to take all of us making a concerted effort, long after Earth Day is over.  We’ve got a month to get ready for Earth Day and think about what we can do to Greenify and help one little patch of Earth at a time.


Plastic Bag Competition in Colorado Mountain Towns

February 25, 2009

Have you seen the latest news from Colorado? It's not having to do with the last snowfall. It has to do with going green! The headlines... Aspen vs. Telluride plastic bag competition expands - dozens of mountain towns compete to eliminate grocery bags. It seems that a small competition between two famous ski towns has, pardon the pun, "snow-balled, this year! They are all trying to replace plastic bags with reusable bags. What started off with Aspen and Telluride, now includes 26 mountain towns.

Here is Katie Reddings' article taken from the Aspen Times on February 23, 2009.

ASPEN — Last year’s contest between Aspen and Telluride to see which town could replace more plastic bags with reusable ones has grown to include 26 mountain towns.

Nathan Ratledge, of Aspen’s Community Office of Resource Efficiency (CORE), co-organizer of last year’s contest, said most of the towns sought out inclusion after hearing about last year’s contest.

“Everyone has kind of [joined] of their own volition,” he said.

The contest will run for six months, from March 1 to Sept. 1. In each town, grocery stores will tally the number of reusable bags used. At the end of the contest, the community that uses the most reusable bags per capita will receive a $5,000 grant from Alpine Bank to install a solar panel system at a local public school.

This year’s contest was organized by David Allen at Telluride’s New Community Coalition, with help from CORE and the Colorado Association of Ski Towns.

To publicize the contest, the Colorado Association of Ski Towns will spend $5,000 producing a television spot to be made available to all participating towns.

Also starting March 1, Aspen High School’s Earth Club will begin stocking several local hotels with reusable bags they have designed themselves, Ratledge said. The bags will be provided to guests for use on their shopping trips. Guests will have the option of leaving the bag for other guests, or they can purchase it.

Last summer, Aspen and Telluride held a plastic bag contest between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The two towns eliminated the use of an estimated 140,359 single-use shopping bags between May and September — or 284 bags per store per day. Telluride beat Aspen soundly, using more than twice as many reusable bags per capita during the contest.

This year’s contest includes the Colorado towns of Telluride, Aspen, Mountain Village, Snowmass Village, Basalt, Breckenridge, Silverthorne, Dillon, Frisco, Steamboat Springs, Grand Lake, Granby, Winter Park, Fraser, Estes Park, Crested Butte, Vail, Avon, Eagle, Gypsum, and Mount Crested Butte. Idaho participants include Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey. Also participating are Jackson Hole, Wyo. and Park City, Utah.


Greenify Your Construction Project: Future World

February 18, 2009

If you’ve never been to Hong Kong, let me paint a scene for you.  The city itself is like any major metropolis but set on a harbor.  The water there is an amazing shade of brilliant blue green, like the bright blue green of a peacock feather.  And buildings under construction are sheathed in scaffolding that is pale green. 

The reason?  Hong Kong builders use natural bamboo to build their scaffolding as high as they want.

It’s a fascinating phenomenon: earth-friendly bamboo being used to build lattices that construction workers stand on, as high as most metal construction crew frameworks built in this country.  Bamboo is really more than just breakfast, lunch, and dinner for pandas.

It’s also one of the most renewable of resources.  It’s being used in flooring, wall coverings and in kitchen-ware and cutting boards.  Bamboo is the largest of the woody grasses on our planet and the fastest growing.  A stick of bamboo is capable of growing 24 inches in a day, depending on soil, nutrients, and a steady supply of water. 

We may be seeing more of this wonderful plant as we grow together as a planet.  It’s a resource for the future and we hope you’ll consider it when the next opportunity to Greenify and grow your business comes up. 


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.


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!


Make It Your Business to Greenify!

December 23, 2008

If we all resolve to work just a little harder in the coming year, we can see substantial movement towards a greener future.  Carrying that attitude from home to your place of business will compound the benefits.

But let’s look at the numbers on those annual resolutions:

  • 100 million: Number of people who make New Year's resolutions.
  • 80 million: Number of people who don't stick with their resolutions.

One in five people who make resolutions don’t keep them? Perhaps that’s because they have unrealistic ideas about what they are really going to be able to do.   So let’s look for small starts to a Greenified way to do business.

Start by checking your lights around the office.  Identify frequently used light fixtures that use incandescent bulbs; order fluorescent replacements bulbs.  You may think you need to do this over the course of time, but the longer you wait, the longer you pay higher utility bills.

Check the temperature on your water-heater.  Many businesses only offer cold water in their restrooms.  (In addition, they often provide lotion, because cold water and soap can have nasty effects on hands.)  At the very least, you’ll want to reduce the setting to 120°F (typically the “warm” setting; or halfway between the low and medium settings), if it is not already set to that temperature.

During the heating season, check the thermostat.  You may wish to set the thermostat lower, especially at night or when rooms are unoccupied. During the cooling season, set the temperatures higher. If you have a programmable thermostat you can automate the daily settings.

Switch off TVs, computers, lights, etc. that are not being used and unplug items on “standby” (that use electricity even when not being used) , including TVs, video and audio systems, computers, and chargers (for cell-phones and other electronic equipment).

These simple steps can save money and make your business a greener place to be in 2009.


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