Ready for Earth Day 2009

April 14, 2009

Earth Day 2009 is now about one week away and what is your business doing about it? Have you made any plans to Greenify?

Are you staying open that day or shutting down to take your employees and family to events in a nearby park or civic square?  Have you put up posters for those events and maybe written a tagline on your company’s cash register receipts, advertising what’s going on and where on Earth Day?

National Geographic wants your ideas.  They’re working with Sun Chips to provide a cash prize to whoever comes up with the best Green idea, starting on Earth Day, April 22, 2009 and going until June 8, 2009.  All you do is click here for rules on how to enter your best green idea.  You could win $20,000 to implement your idea.

But what if your idea is small? Is it something you could do now, without any financing or fanfare?  You could spend Earth Day 2009 implementing it yourself.  How about if you use the day to plant a garden?  You’ll have fun in the sun and reap the benefits in months to come.  You’ll help Greenify by reducing the amount of chemicals used in producing vegetables and fuel used in shipping them.  You might even enjoy working out in your garden all summer. 

Other things to do include bicycling to work.  Carpooling, if the distance is too long.  Turning the lights off and opening the blinds just for one day.  Turn your computer off when you go to lunch.  Better yet, plan to bring your lunch and enjoy an earth-friendly potluck picnic with your employees or coworkers in the park.

Earth Day 2009 will be full of exciting endeavors that will only happen on that day. But by planning to do something small, you ensure that you can relive and enjoy an “everyday Earth Day” over and over again.


Greenify Your Business

April 13, 2009

If you’re looking for a new business or to Greenify an existing business, have you considered bicycle deliveries?  A business in Portland, Oregon was trying to figure out ways to make their delivery service more earth-friendly, and they got the idea to start doing deliveries on bicycles.

It’s very old school. And in a few major cities, bicycle curriers are a frequently used delivery system.  But this is something different. 

They use special cargo bicycles. The business is “B-Line Sustainable Urban Delivery.  They’re a start-up formed by the husband and wife team of Kathryn and Franklin Racine-Jones. 

“We hope B-Line can help add green core jobs and create a different type of city.  We’re trying to create a new model of distributing goods in urban areas.”

The duo moved to Portland from the San Francisco Bay area about 9 months ago. They were looking for a place that was open and interested in greener ways of doing business.  Portland is known for bikes and enjoying earth-friendly approaches to doing business.  So far, so good, right?

Their idea is simple.  They’re using specially modified cargo bikes to deliver goods within Portland, also known as “The Rose City.”   They are doing more good deeds than you might think.  They’re using fewer natural resources (although the bikers’ legs might argue that!) sparing downtown streets from the wear and tear of large delivery trucks, and providing a very earth-friendly link in a company’s distribution chain. 

All in all, a great Greenification effort that is truly going the last mile.


A Personal Commitment to Greenify: A Life Less Plastic

April 10, 2009

Have you thought about committed you are to a Greener life?  I was reading about various groups and individuals who are trying to make a difference when I spotted one person who is really tackling the idea for herself.  Jeanne Haegele is a 29 year old marketing coordinator in Chicago.  She writes a blog called “Life Less Plastic.”  The blog name tells all, so I emailed her a few questions and this fascinating woman offered these answers:

GBA: Where did you get the idea for your plastic-less blog?

JH: The project was set in motion when a friend of mine in the medical field explained that plastic may have negative health effects.  I started to research about plastic online.  I read that certain plastics may have serious potential for harmful effects and also found that plastic use is having very serious effects on the environment, mostly because plastic really isn't being recycled. After learning this, I became convinced that I wanted to give up plastic.

As I learned more about plastic and how to avoid it, the project became more about the environment.  Americans use 30 million tons of plastic each year, according to the EPA's statistics from 2007.  Very little of that is recycled, mostly because recycling plastic really isn't an economically viable thing to do. 

Giving up plastic became increasingly important for me.  I wanted to protect myself from the chemicals in plastic, yes, but I also wanted to do something to protect the environmental damage created by plastic, a substance that never bio-degrades.

GBA: How successful do you feel have you been and what were the trickiest parts of your efforts to get plastic out of your life and be more environmentally conscious?

JH: After working out lots of strategies to avoid the plastic, I feel like I've been really successful at getting it out of my life.  I barely use any, and I'm really proud of that.  The trickiest part of this whole experiment was just figuring out how to avoid plastic in the first place.  I had to completely revise how I shop.  Instead of buying lots of pre-packaged goods, I now stick to fruits and vegetables and go to stores that sell food from bulk bins.

GBA: Do you feel like you are missing out on anything living without plastic?

JH: The one thing I really miss is cheese.  It's very difficult to find cheese that isn't wrapped in plastic so I don't eat too much of it anymore.

To catch up with Jeanne and get ideas on how to further Greenify your life by eliminating plastic, you can visit her blog.

(LINK: http://lifelessplastic.blogspot.com/ )


A Greener View: Energy Efficient Windows

April 9, 2009

As a home or business owner, this year may be one of the toughest years you’ve ever faced.  You’d like to do something more to Greenify, but how can you spend money that you may need to pay bills and keep the business afloat?
 
You might want to look outside your four walls and consider new windows.
Thanks to the stimulus bill, homeowners can now claim a tax credit of up to $1,500 for new, energy-efficient windows, doors, and skylights.  For businesses, it can be an asset to the business that will be quickly cost effective.  

This website, http://www.efficientwindows.org/ is sponsored by the government to provide information for homeowners who are trying to decide whether they can afford to make this commitment to energy savings this year, in this difficult economy. 
Who wouldn’t like to have fresh new windows to look out of or maybe a skylight overhead that brightens the day and allows you to fully enjoy a pounding rainstorm when it rumbles through? 

Whether we’re talking about adding double paned windows, tinted and treated glass, or skylights that eliminate the need for electrical lighting through a major portion of the day, these windows are increasingly valuable in the workplace and at home. 

The tax credit related to the current stimulus is to cover 30% of the cost of energy efficient windows, doors and skylights purchased and installed in 2009 to 2010.  The maximum amount covered, as previously mentioned, is $1500.  But even without the tax credit, these windows can save their owners hundreds of dollars every year in energy costs, whether it’s on heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer. 

The website’s factsheet contains information and estimates about the cost savings in multiple areas of the country for your convenience.   Another factsheet details how to qualify for the tax credit.

Spending the money and upgrading to new energy efficient windows may also help Greenify the economy, since the stimulus is designed to work better if we all spend a little extra.  Wouldn’t it be great if we spent the money to buy something that could help cut down our carbon footprint and benefit everyone in more ways than one? 


Earth Day 2009: The Green Generation

April 7, 2009

We’re getting closer to Earth Day, 2009.  Now just a few weeks away, are you wondering what more you can do to help your friends and neighbors Greenify and enjoy the day and its significance?

First off, you can start using reusable shopping bags every time.  Get used to having them, using them, and returning them to your car.  Buy sturdy ones.  They’ll last longer and be more earth-friendly.  If you have a business, print your name on them and give them away to the first 100 customers on Earth Day.

Set a good example.  March your recyclables out to the curb in the bright colored bin heaped high.  Experts estimate that Americans recycle somewhere between 32 and 57 percent of refuse.  But recyclables can and should be a higher percentage than the truly un-reusable “garbage” that is going to the landfill these days.  And any cost savings in landfill use is something that comes back to us financially and in terms of our carbon footprint that we’re all being so careful about these days.

Buy more organic and, where possible, homegrown vegetables.  Maybe this is the year that your neighborhood engages in a communal garden?  If there’s a vacant lot, find out who the owner is and ask about putting in a vegetable garden for everyone’s benefit.  The owner will probably ask for a few spare ears of corn and may appreciate the care being given to their land.  Otherwise, parcel out assignments like “tomatoes in one backyard, squash in another, beans in a third neighbor’s back corner.”  You’ll increase neighborliness, cut down pesticide consumption, and maybe even have fun.

Earth Day can and should be a great celebration of something that we all care about.  If you do nothing else, just remind people what a great planet we have to live on and that it does need our care and concern in stewardship of its resources, that’s an Earth Day worthy achievement.


How Green is Your Portfolio?

April 6, 2009

We’re not usually “all about the investments” here at Green Business Alliance.  We want to help you Greenify the planet and invest in your life here on it.  But we have a little investment advice for you today.  Some people think we may be about to hit the “Golden Age” of green business.

Why? Look to the leadership in Washington.  The Obama Administration’s increased support of environmental issues backed up by regulatory changes that are already taking shape along with strong green elements in the proposed stimulus make it appear as though the way is clear, lush, and yes, GREEN. 

But that’s also the assessment of results from the latest survey of American investors at Allianz Global Investors, which shows Americans see a "Golden Age" on the way for enviro-investing.

Here are some of the investors’ survey findings: 

• 91 percent believe that resolving environmental problems will be a major issue for years
• 69 percent consider it important to look at investing in companies that capitalize on addressing those problems.
• 78 percent say environmental technology has the potential to be the "next great American industry,"

The survey found that 97% of those questioned think exploring alternative fuel sources remains important despite gas prices going down. 
The poll showed investors are already looking for firms that seek to address environmental issues.  They are looking for ways to pour in dollars to businesses in a more environmentally friendly business climate.

We think it will be a great year to Greenify your business, your life, and maybe even your portfolio. 


Green at the Grocer’s

April 3, 2009

Did you ever wonder about the food you eat?  Sure, it looks healthy, but could you green it up a notch and make it healthier for you and the earth?   Sustainable food is a movement across the country that seeks to Greenify the food industry, but could also improve your nutrition.

Fuel used to ship your food is the culprit in this scenario.  If you plan ahead now to grow your own tomatoes, a few herbs and some squash in a backyard garden, you’ll be saving yourself a few dollars, control the use of pesticides and fertilizer, and at the same time, cut down on customers for expensive shipped produce and food items.

Don’t have a green thumb?  We understand that. (Boy, do some of us understand that one!)  But how about if you buy your produce at a Farmer’s Market? 

These days, you have to check, because lots of “farmers” at markets these days are actually buying shipped products wholesale and showing up to sell them at markets.  They won’t usually be dishonest about where the vegetables were grown and under what conditions, but sometimes you do have to ask to get the truth.

And what will you get for your trouble?  Locally grown food, usually organic, healthy and safe for all members of your family to eat.  It’s better for you. It’s also better for your children.  Nutritionists say parents can help cut childhood obesity rates by shopping at the outer edges of the store: that’s the produce and fresh meat section. That means stepping away from canned, over-processed foods that have hidden sugars, fats, and other unhealthy additives.

So invest in a lunchbox.  Eating sustainable food may cost a little more and it may require more time and effort on your part.  But the dividends it pays in terms of health, cutting your carbon footprint, and committing to Greenification may grow as time goes on.


Green Business Water Watch!

April 2, 2009

By now, most of us have switched out the old fashioned fluorescent bulbs in favor of those new, high efficiency light bulbs.  They’re in our offices.  They’re in our homes.  Those bulbs will return the money invested in a mere matter of months and they’re part of our plan to Greenify our businesses in a very cost effective way during this recession, right? 

How about if you take a similar step… in the bathroom?   A similar policy, applied to bathroom faucets will see a return in dollars even faster. 

"The flow rate on most bathroom faucets is 2.2 gallons per minute” says Tommy Linstroth, director of sustainability for Melavar, a sustainable real-estate develop,pment company based in Savannah, GA.  “That’s the same amount of water you use to take a shower. It's a ridiculous and unnecessary overuse."

Melavar is now replacing all of its bathroom faucet aerators -- which control water flow – with versions that flow at a rate of 0.5 gallon per minute, although you can get aerators in a variety of flow rates.  The average aerator will cost $2 to $3 and it gets screwed right on to the faucet, making them as easy to change as a light bulb.

Or, think of it the way Linstroth did. 

"For $3 per faucet, we curtailed our water use by 50 to 75 percent. If every employee washes their hands three times a day, that's a substantial amount of water savings over a year," he says. "This is a no-brainer."

How much money can your company save and how much greener can your company become with just a twist of your wrist?   Think about that the next time your water bill arrives! 


Toweling Off in the Green

March 30, 2009

If you’re a small business owner, trying to do your best to greenify, what’s the right choice for bathroom towels?

Hand towels made of paper always seem like they could be messy, expensive, and require lots of our precious trees in their manufacture.  But many people prefer paper towels because they like to be able to use the towel to open the door and let themselves out without touching the handle. 

At the same time, electricity uses natural resources in its production as well, and it seems to dry people’s skin out, which many people don’t like.  These days, hand dryers do have sensors, so they shut down when they are no longer needed.  But which is the right choice to Greenify?

It may depend on your choice of paper towels and how you handle the refuse. If recycled towels are available, that’s always best.  And if the used towels can be recycled, then that makes things even better.  The carbon footprint of your restroom decreases even more.

But in some areas, it may be difficult to get recycled towels or have the means to recycle the used paper out and away from landfills.  In that case, the right choice may be electric hand dryers.

It’s best to check your own situation and keep in mind how much use your restroom gets during the day.

Sigh.  Some of us remember when all hand towels were recycled.  They were cloth and came on a roller that had to be serviced by a person traveling a route.  Those days are mostly gone, but sometimes it’s fun to remember. 

Just remember to Greenify as best you can and we’ll all think back on these days with a smile. 


Counting Down to Earth Day: What Can You Do?

March 27, 2009

What can you do in these final weeks before Earth Day, 2009?  There is no time like the present to start working to pollute less personally and participate in the discussion in your own community. 
 
First, here’s a personal pollution checklist. Are you:
 
Carpooling?
Recycling every item possible?
Buying locally grown and manufactured?
Checking second-hand stores before buying that new gadget?
Recycling printer cartridges, motor oil and auto batteries, along with newspapers the right way, every time?
 
Good job!
 
Now, regarding getting involved in that community discussion.  First, check with your city council to find out if they have an "Earth Day Proclamation" and what your municipality's observance will include.  If they are all set, ask if you can help out.  Volunteers are almost always welcome.

If nothing is in place, there is still time for you to change that.  Draft a simple resolution to honor "Earth Day" where you are.  It doesn't have to be fancy and you don't have to spell things correctly.  You’ll need a few "Whereas" statements to lay out the resolution’s premise.  The “whereas” statements can be thought of having two parts, general points and locally focused points.  You’ll follow that with the "Be it resolved" statements, suggesting what needs to done.
 
For instance:
 
"Whereas we are using resources faster than our planet can produce them, and whereas we are polluting faster than we can clean it up, be it resolved that we work together to cut our carbon emissions, try to slow and stop pollution and Greenify the Earth.  And be it further resolved that we will honor April 22 as Earth Day 2009, to be observed as such in our homes and businesses and every day thereafter." 
 
Put that together on recycled paper, and you'll be a sure hit in any city council on this planet. 


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