Buzz Building for Green Businesses

March 26, 2009

Are you noticing more talk about green business?  More advertisements by large, international companies about "sustainable energy sources," new listings at business conferences for added "green business opportunity panels," and even President Barack Obama on the “Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, talking about electric cars going over 150 miles as Leno smiled and added that he already owns a car that runs on hydrogen, which is "an entirely different technology."
 
These increases in "buzz" about Greenification are a healthy sign for our world.  Our planet is in a state of emergency: we are consuming and polluting at a rate 25% faster than the planet can sustain.  That fact has to change or we and our children are doomed.  We may no longer be able to “buy cheaper from Asian producers” because of the cost in terms of carbon. 
 
In the coming months, we're going to be encouraged to support business within our borders.  And as part of that, I suggest we also look for green businesses that are local and sustainable, too. 

Buying local equals buying greener.  Have you ever thought about the effort needed to get a product made in a small town in rural Georgia to market in Portland, Oregon, for instance?  The product has to be packaged for sale, re-packed for shipping, then put on a truck or train (or both) and then unloaded from that container into a warehouse, re-loaded for shipping to a store before being placed on a shelf.  Isn't there a greener way? 
 
Look around for local producers of products that you buy from remote producers.  Prices are changing because of the recession and things that were once out of consideration may now be priced more attractively.  That would also make a case for them being a lot more planet-friendly.  
 
We have to find a balance between the social and natural systems in a world where people on one land-mass consume resources at 5 or ten times the rate of people in other regions.   We need to Greenify as one world in order to save our one world.  


Follow the Leader: Grow Your Own!

March 23, 2009

The Greening of the White House continues in Washington where Michelle Obama has now planted a garden on the White House'  South Lawn.  The First Lady is after more "fresh, unprocessed, locally grown" vegetables for her family, and if she has to raise them herself, she says she will.
 
This is one indication of the commitment to environmental issues apparent in the Obama administration. Mrs. Obama is a backer of what is called the "Slow Food Movement," begun by Alice Waters decades ago. 
 
It includes foods that have lower carbon footprints because they are locally grown, locally produced, and locally consumed.  They are grown organically, without chemical pesticides and fertilizers that can leach into the water table and in spite of doing good where intended, resurface elsewhere with harmful effects.  
 
We're all capable of doing this ourselves, and in a recessionary economy, maybe it's time to see about that green thumb you've been hiding in your pocket?  How about putting in a few tomato plants on along the side wall of your house?  Maybe see about some peas and beans to climb the rear fence?  A couple of rows of corn along there might not be a bad idea, too.
 
So your soil doesn't do well, you say?  Maybe it's time to get some natural fertilizer?  Start your own decomposition chamber in a back corner. You may want to build a container, because sometimes that can have an unneighborly side effect: smell.   You can also visit an area stable and procure some equine refuse matter (that's my nice way of saying horse manure).  Break up a pound or so into a gallon bucket of water, let it sit for a day.  Then pour that steeped "tea" over the plants and in the areas you intend to sew seeds.  You'll reap the rewards.

And as you're out there, toiling away, don't think you're the only one who is going to be working in their garden this summer.  The First Lady says the President will be commandeered into green garden duty, too.  As Mrs. Obama says, "whether he likes it or not.”


First Quarter Check-up: How Green Is Your Business So Far?

March 22, 2009

It’s now mid March and we’re closing in on completion of the first quarter of 2009, so how are you doing on your goal of going green at your business this year?   Shall we run down the checklist?

Are you using more recycled products, even for just a few days every month, in your printing and waste paper uses?   Every little bit helps and since they are a touch more expensive (and we’re all watching our pennies) sometimes it’s all we can do to work on it a few days at a time.

Are you asking customers whether they’re interested in electronic billing to cut down paper usage and then of course recycling your own waste paper?  This is very important and can help benefit two ways: 1) fewer trees are cut down and 2) fewer landfills are needed.  Same goes for aluminum cans.  Recycling, right?

You’ve gotten rid of the old fluorescent light bulbs and replaced them with energy efficient CFLs, which saves on energy and money, since these bulbs are made to provide light for more years than the old ones.

All lights, including the after hours signs, are now on timers. 

You’re encouraging carpools among your office staff, whether by offering reserved better parking spaces or by chipping in for carpool resources. 

You’ve gotten rid of those paper plates in the company lunch room, and put in a supply of unbreakable glass plates (yes, they DO make ‘em!) to save more on paper.  Employees are struggling, but learning to put the dishes in the energy efficient dishwasher.

And computers, where possible, are laptops.  This keeps electricity usage down nice and low. 

If you’re doing some or all of these things, you’re off to a great start to Greenify your business, save some cash and help to save the environment. 


Earth Day Is On The Way!

March 14, 2009

Earth Day is now just over a month away and signs of this year’s celebration are beginning to build.  I was in a business in Arlington, VA this past week and noticed a paper poster that looked like a child’s bright-colored painting of a bright green bush with the words “Earth Day 2009!” printed on it. 

What does Earth Day bring?  It’s a chance to remind everyone on the planet that this is where we all live and work.  And that we have to share its resources and work together to make sure that it stays a healthy place to live and raise families.

Earth Day is our chance to stop focusing on the problems that we all face, dealing with the economic worries and the poor job climate and the mortage/market crises.  It’s a day to put those aside and focus on being positive about our planet and our ability to work towards one goal for the good of all people.  (I wish I could say it was a day off from the threat of terrorism and all violence, but I don’t think terrorists work like that.)

It’s also a day to stop, smell the roses, feel the grass under our feet and find the cleanest air we can to inhale.   There will be demonstrations and gatherings all over the world this year. There will be people shouting their strong feelings and those quietly smiling as they enjoy watching cows graze along the side of a road somewhere.  There will be words from our leaders and probably a few proposals put forward on this day.

But also let’s keep in mind that if just a few more of us decide to recycle and try to reduce their carbon footprint, the most important goal of Earth Day will have been achieved: to bring us together to protect and improve life here on this great green Earth.

We can be the Green Generation: a generation that really gets the effort underway to Greenify and to make the planet a better place for those to come.


Used Business Equipment: Go Green

March 11, 2009

 If your business is like most American businesses, you’ve got lots of technology backing it up: computers, fax machines, printers, and other office equipment.  But when those systems fail, maybe it’s time to make those electronics, if you’ll pardon my literary license, ride off greenly into the sunset. 

At the recent Greener Gadgets Conference sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association, keynote speaker Saul Griffith, founder of Low Cost Eyeglasses and Squid Labs said that we “must embrace a culture of maintenance and repair since the throw away option is no longer available.”

Electronics such as computers, telephones, televisions and the like are responsible for both cluttering up our landfills and releasing toxic chemicals into the environment as they slowly breakdown.  How about when it’s time for used electronics and spent computer-related items to go, we send them off in a greener direction. 

For instance:
Cell phones: most cell phone manufacturers have recycle programs.  You can send them back to their makers who will either refurbish and resell them, or use them for spare parts.  You can also donate them to various charities or sell them for a little extra change online.  (If you do this, make sure that you remove all of your data.  We’ve all heard the nightmare stories, haven’t we?)

iPods: return old iPods to the manufacturer.  Apple will refurbish and recycle them or sell them for spare parts.

Computers and printers: return them to manufacturer when you buy the new one.  Many stores have a “trade in” as part of a sales deal to entice you in.  You can also turn them over to schools, charitable groups, libraries or churches. (Just have to make sure to get all the personal information out of the computer before you release it.)

Printer cartridges: *always* get recycled.  Even the small home-use ones are routinely sold with mailing envelopes for recycling.

TV’s: Millions of TV’s will be set out on the curb this year.  The “digital conversion” that has now been delayed to June has inspired many people to get new HDTV’s. Sometimes stores will remove the old set when they bring the new one.  Also because of the HDTV phenomenon, cash value for old tv sets is neglible.  Try freecycle.com. Or again, try the charitable groups and churches. 

You can see your business’ used equipment “go green” this year, with just a little extra effort on your part.


Make It Your Business to Green Your (Air) Space

March 9, 2009

When you arrived at your place of business this morning, did you breathe deep and hope that the air was clean… and green?  What if instead of buying an expensive (and energy consuming) air purification system, you could add plants and get some of the same healthful effects?  You remember from sixth grade science class about how humans breathe oxygen and release carbon dioxide, while plants need carbon dioxide and release oxygen?  If plants are constantly renewing our air, wouldn’t it be great if adding a few living plants could help clean the air at work?

Some scientists say that adding common houseplants can help clean the air at a business or at home.  That’s because many plants function as natural air filters, cleaning contaminants out of indoor air and improving the quality of what you are breathing.

The scientists say that their studies have found that some common plants are effective at removing toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, benzene and other natural pollutants from air, particularly helpful in enclosed areas.  These studies were first reported by NASA over two decades ago. 

Dr. Bill Wolverton, one of the NASA scientists who was involved in the original studies recommends plants like Peace Lily, Areca Palm, Lady Palm, Ficus Alii, and Golden Pathos, because they are easy to take care of and among the most effective at naturally removing pollutants.

And there’s more.  University of Georgia researchers searching for floral purifiers suggest Purple Waffle Plant, English Ivy, Purple Heart, Foxtail Fern, and the Wax Plant. 

When it comes to indoor air purification, can there ever be too much?  The air inside our homes and businesses can be heavily polluted.  Chemicals used to clean offices and businesses can be very harsh; and traffic passing on nearby roads pushes toxic exhaust into our homes as well. 

That's not great news when you consider that we spend about 90 percent of our time indoors.  Maybe it’s time to add a few lush green accents to benefit to our lungs and our businesses. Greenify today for better business!


State of the Union: Going Forward to Greenify

March 3, 2009

If you heard the State of the Union address by President Barack Obama this past week, then you heard him talking about moving forward on alternative energy to get Americans away from fossil fuels and on to something that relies less on foreign sources.  He says he believes it’s within our reach and that investing in it now will pay off big benefits in the long-term.

And as for his budget, President Obama's budget proposal would repeal several oil industry tax incentives while imposing new taxes on Gulf of Mexico producers to close "loopholes" that have allowed companies to avoid royalty payments.  In fact, those “loopholes” would bring in $31.5 billion in additional funds and taxes to tax coffers.

These proposals are sure to be fought over by Republicans and Democrats alike on Capitol Hill and the fighting over this budget is expected to go on for months. 

But in the meantime, companies starved for work for their engineers, designers, dreamers and other American workers will be focused on the possibilities of alternative fuel sources.  They’ll be looking for ways to attract investment dollars, define themselves as alternative energy producers, and getting government interest in those projects.  (If you look on the internet, there are already predictions of which companies will be first with success in the alternative energy areas. Investors are circling.)

The economy is bleak and barren looking for the moment, but maybe this is the way to find our way back to greener pastures: by looking for a Greenified future that’s more focused on energy supplies that we all hope will leave smaller carbon footprints. 


Eat Sustainably on Earth Day 2009

March 2, 2009

Earth Day 2009, coming up on April 22nd.  Have you thought about your own personal celebration?  Let’s talk about a small, personal way to celebrate it that you can do for a day, a week, or the rest of your life: sustainable food.

You know what that is because we’ve talked about it before.  Sustainable food is food that is grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers and it’s grown locally, as much as possible.

It’s healthy for you and healthier for our environment because frankly, trucking food thousands of miles so that we can all enjoy South American grapes in March is, well, wasteful of natural resources.

It can be tough for some to suddenly switch to sustainable eating.  Mothers with finicky small children want their kids to have the benefits of fresh fruit year-round, in order to become accustomed to a “well-balanced diet.”  And others may have health problems that require them to eat specific foods.

But on Earth Day 2009, if we all pack a lunch instead of going out for fast food, we’ll be healthier.  If we carry that lunch in a reusable insulated bag, maybe the one we keep in the car to bring home groceries instead of using those (indestructible “disposable” plastic bags) to tote it in.  Maybe use some reusable storage containers (we prefer glass, but as long as you’re reusing, we don’t judge!) and bring in something from the local farmers’ market?  You can get fruits, vegetables, breads, cheeses and sometimes meats and fish there, depending on your location.  But check to see what the products’ origins are. 

Greenify your Earth Day celebration with a taste of what the Earth and those who farm it close to you produce.  Celebrate with the abundance of sustainable food.  And if you can celebrate with sustainable food once, maybe you’ll find a way to eat that way more frequently in the future beyond Earth Day 2009.


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.


Greenifying At Your Desk

February 24, 2009

This blog doesn't endorse TV programs or products, but did you see the Academy Awards Sunday night?  Right in the middle of it all was a commercial (or two) for Apple
Computer's new laptop.  It's got a 17 inch screen, gorgeous resolution, is ultra-lightweight and all those other usual super "Apple" technological improvements that we've done to love and expect.
 
But this commercial bragged about something else.  It bragged about the battery.  It seems this battery can be charged to last as much as eight full hours on one plug-in.  And it can be recharged about 1000 times.  The advertisement pointed out that's three times the battery life that one normally gets for the ever-popular laptops that seem to be powering our businesses and lives these days.
 
Now, we're not suggesting that you run right out and buy an Apple 17-inch laptop.  That would be very expensive (Nobody said they were cheap; they start at over $2000 each) and also defeat that wonderful Greenifying aspect of the computer, namely fewer laptops and batteries in our landfills.  No, keep using the one you have until the very end of its life.

It's just nice to see that companies are starting to get it. They get that there's an alternative, Greenifying laptop computer choice out on the market right now.  And chances are, by the time that you are ready to replace or upgrade what you are working with now, all the other computer companies will be offering similar long-lasting chargeables with extra-long battery life, too.  And the prices will probably come down, as well.
 
It's good to see companies offering ways to Greenify businesses.  It's great to see that they understand that being “environmentally sound” is a marketable, advertise-able benefit that will bring in sales.  And it'll be even better when everybody gets in the Greenification game on that aspect of doing business.


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