Green Polar Bears??

September 8, 2008

Can it be? Is it true? Are polar bears making an attempt to Greenify? Apparently the answer is yes. Well, yes for a few select polar bears that reside at the Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens in central Japan. Check out the picture. Before you jump to conclusions, these bears did not change their diets, or start a recycling program. Rather, their furry white coats have actually gone green. I doubt that they are trying to make an eco-statement to the world. Or perhaps they are.

However, zoo officials claim that the polar bears tactic to go green was just a chance event. It was the result of a lot of July swimming in an algae-filled pond. It is difficult to remove the algae from the bears' thick fur. It seems that this new fashion statement on their part is here to stay until the November time-frame. At that point, hopefully the temperatures will sub-side and so will the algae growth.


Is your college ready to Greenify?

September 3, 2008

September is here. Labor Day has come and gone. Colleges and Universities around the country are welcoming students back to campus for the start of the academic year. It's time to hit the books, start studying and try to get good grades. While you are spending time in the library and on the computer, do you wonder whether your college is making the grade in an effort to Greenify?

Well now you can find out thanks in part ot the Princeton Review which recently added a green rating to its annual ranking of the best colleges. This score measures how "environmentally friendly, responsible, and committed the institutions are."

Here is a list of the univerisities that scored 99 out of a possible 100:

  • Arizona State University, Tempe
  • Bates College
  • Binghamton University
  • College of the Atlantic
  • Emory University
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Harvard University
  • University of New Hampshire
  • University of Oregon
  • University of Washington
  • Yale University

The complete list is in the 2009 editions of the Princeton Review college books.


Green School Building

August 22, 2008

The first day of school is always exciting. This year, for some of our local kids there was an added bonus - a Green School Year. A new lower school building that is LEED certified. Brand new construction, brand new LEED Certifcation! Exciting.

What does this really mean for the kids? As the head of the lower school noted in an email (note...not a paper flier in the backpack), "In line with the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards the new music floor will be sealed with a water based finish. Indeed there have been no Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) used during the construction. In addition, the natural light from the solar tubes and the excellent air quality provided by the 100% fresh air drawn in by our main roof top A/C units will provide an exceptionally healthy environment."

The floors on the main entry have river rock and recycled colored glass mixed in the polished concrete. In addition, the toilets have a 'special' flush according to my youngest child. The great news is that this seems to be a trend across the country...more schools are planning on building LEED certified when planning their expansions and current building projects. As the kids say, the new school year has begun. As a parent I think, the new Green school year has begun!


Go Green with Local Harvest

June 13, 2008

Going back to an earlier post March post, have you heard about the local challenge? It is a challenge to each of us to eat at least one meal a week in which all ingredients come from no more than 100 miles away. If you are so inclined, you could challenge yourself to become a true localvore (or locavore) who eats almost exclusively within a 100 mile radius.

One fifth of all petroleum used in the US is used by the food industry. And of that amount, four fifths are used to move food from one place to another. Since the average ingredient travels 1500 miles before it reaches your plate, 6 to 12 % of every dollar spent on food is for transportation costs. If you shop at a farmer’s market, the farmer will keep about 90 cents of every dollar you spend with him. If you shop for your ingredients at a grocery store, 91 cents of every dollar will go to the middlemen and the farmer will receive 9 cents.

A great website to find food local to you is Local Harvest.

Community Supported Agriculture or CSA is one way to work towards being a localvore. The CSA farmer will provide you with a specified amount of produce every week over their growing season. The one I belong to delivers about a ½ bushel of assorted vegetables, fruits, berries, honey and herbs a week for approximately $18 a week. The CSA share is paid in advance, allowing the farmer a regular income.

If you have an office summer picnic, consider asking everyone to bring items made from local produce. It could be a fun way to introduce everyone to the local challenge while making an effort to greenify your meal.


The Latest Green Gadgets

May 27, 2008

Is it just me or does everyone like to check out all the new gadgets that the Green movement has been producing? I love my solar watch, not to mention solar radio/alarm clock. A friend of mine is waiting for her economic stimulus check to arrive in July, so that she can purchase a cordless electric lawnmower complete with a small solar panel to charge it.

Saazs has developed light emitting glass. Instead of a light bulb, the entire fixture radiates a warm light. The glass has been used in walls, tables and floors. You will have to go to Paris to see the showroom and then spend between E 4,300 and E 5,300 to actually get one of the lights. But, the lights will last for about 50,000 hours – or 20 years! And the Planilum technology used is very cool- 4 layers of a special glass, a rare gas and serigraphed phosphors.

The Solio has been around for a year or more, and is another gadget on my wish list. A little hand held solar charger, it can power up your cell phone, iPod, GPS, digital camera and more. One hour of free solar charging will give you twenty minutes of talk time. How great is that for those camping trips where you can’t afford to be out of touch with the office for long. And if your locale features more wind than sun, there is the HYmini, a handheld wind turbine.

Does your commute to work involve biking? Puma is now selling the “Stealth Visibility Bike”- a glow in the dark bicycle- improving your visibility on your way home after dark.

It is easier than ever to Greenify with some of these gadgets!


Giving Green Business Gifts

May 22, 2008

Do you ever purchase gifts for clients, associates or employees? Here’s another area where it is becoming easier than ever to Greenify. Green gifts will have a low environmental impact and support local economies in a fair manner.

If flowers are your go-to-gift, start looking for organic flowers and ideally, for locally grown organic flowers. By buying locally, you are assisting the local economy as well as avoiding all that CO2 from flying flowers in. Check out Local Harvest for flower growers near you. Organic Bouquets or California Organic Flowers are good defaults if local flowers are not available. Most cut flowers are grown in South America and Africa and are heavily doused with pesticides, including pesticides which are illegal to use in the US. The chemicals negatively impact the flower workers, the ground water, soil and the surrounding villages.

If you prefer to send a food gift, maybe Equal Exchange would appeal. You can send a gift of fairly traded coffee, tea or chocolate. The farmers who grow these products do so in sustainable manner and receive a fair wage for their work. Or what about finding a local baker who uses organic ingredients and buy a couple dozen cookies or cupcakes?

Ten Thousand Villages offers a wide assortment of gift ideas. Ten Thousand Villages purchases their items from artisans in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, using Fair Trade agreements.

If your company regularly hands out promotional gifts, much of that can be Greenified. In an earlier post I mentioned green office supplies- you can use the same concepts if you give away printed paper products, pens or other supplies.

Giving green may take a little more forethought than just calling up the florist and ordering flowers. But it is worth it to take that extra time, lessen the environmental impact and help to have a positive influence on someone’s life.


Green Music

May 19, 2008

I thought I’d switch gears a little bit and focus on green music. The Dave Matthews Band has a well deserved reputation as an environmentally and socially friendly company. Well, they’re a band, but they are a company as well. The Dave Matthews Band (aka DMB) has had their foot in the social/environmental arena since the mid-90’s, performing at FarmAid benefit concerts. In 2002 they made a splash when their tour was certified “Climate Cool” by the Climate Neutral Network. In the following five years, they have gone even greener. In 2007 DMB teamed up with Reverb, a non-profit environmental group which works primarily with musicians. DMB had an extremely green tour last summer utilizing everything from B20 bio-diesel to reducing waste to eco-friendly merchandise.

In 2008, DMB and Reverb are again joining forces to create one of the most environmentally friendly concert tours out there. The techniques employed last year which saved over 3.3 million pounds of CO2 will again be employed, along with some neat new tricks. DMB will be instituting an online ride-sharing/carpooling program for fans to utilize to get to and from the shows. An eco-footprint reduction contest will be held to educate fans about their own eco-footprint (not to mention teaching people how to reduce it). Stonyfield Yogurt and Climate Counts will be sponsoring the Eco-Village, which is an environmental outreach program featuring education, prizes such as solar-backpacks, national and local non-profits, etc.

Reverb has greened 50 tours and is currently working with Jason Mraz, John Meyer, Jack Johnson and the Honda Civic Tour as well as DMB. If you are so inclined and would like to volunteer at a DMB show near you, Reverb offers that opportunity. You will get some free swag, see the show and help save the environment!


Decorating Your Office In A Green Fashion

May 12, 2008

When thinking about the different ways to Greenify your office, have you considered the way you have decorated? There are many ways to incorporate sustainable and green items into your office décor.

Whether your walls are painted cream or bright yellow, VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) from traditional paint can leach into your air for years after painting. If your walls are looking a little dingy, think about sprucing up with non-toxic paint, zero VOC or low VOC paint. Companies such as The Real Milk Paint Company  or the Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company  produce old fashioned milk paints which are green enough to be thrown on your garden. There are a number of other companies that manufacture non-toxic, zero and low VOC paints including corporations such as Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams.

After you’ve painted your walls, maybe you need some new artwork. Rather than an anonymous photo or motivational poster, why not green the coffers of a local artist? A local artist helps keep money in your community, which is all part of the Go Green movement. If you want something more personal, commission a painting series or photographs from a local artist.

Rugs do not need to be left out when decorating green. Consider rugs made from recycled soda bottles, wool carpets using no synthetics and eco-friendly fabrics such as those made from hemp or bamboo.

And finally, while bringing plants into the office may be the most common way we think of to Greenify our offices, it is definitely one of the most beneficial. NASA studies have proven that live plants can help clean the office air. The top ten plants to clean chemicals from the air are bamboo palm, Chinese evergreen, pot mum, Gerbera Daisy, Janet Craig, English Ivy, Marginata, Corn Plant, Mother-in-law’s tongue, Peace Lily and warneckii. These will help rid your office of benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.


Greenify your lighting with CFLs

May 9, 2008

Compact Fluorescent Lights (aka CFL’s or CFB’s) seem to be on everyone’s top ten list of ways to conserve energy. Are they worth the hype?

Absolutely! CFL’s are a great way to Greenify your office and your home. CFL’s use 50-80% of the energy that incandescent bulbs use for the same number of lumens and last 7-15 times longer than an incandescent bulb. CFL’s are more expensive, but on the other than, they have gone down in price considerably over the last few years. Depending on how large a bulb you need, costs range from around $4.00 to just over $1.50 a bulb at the larger home improvement stores. Dimmable CFL’s have just recently hit the market as well.

There are a couple things to keep in mind when using Compact Fluorescent Lights. Like any fluorescent light, the bulb’s life is shortened if turned off and on frequently. If you have an area where you need light for only a few minutes at a time, use an incandescent bulb. CFL’s have a tiny bit of mercury in them, about as much as an average household thermometer. With that in mind, they need to be disposed of with hazardous waste, rather than with the trash. Should your CFL break, the EPA has suggested guidelines for site cleanup. CFL’s can be a little more effort than incandescent bulbs, but they are worth it.


Go Green and Reduce Your Junk Mail

May 6, 2008

If you keep all the junk mail you receive this year, you will end up with about 41 pounds of useless paper by the time New Year’s Eve 2008 rolls around. The environmental and financial costs of junk mail are enormous, 100 million trees are sacrificed, the production and disposal of junk mail uses as much energy as 3 million cars, 44 million pounds of junk mail is never opened before it is thrown away and barely a third of the junk mail is recycled. Local municipalities will collectively spend hundreds of millions of dollars to dispose of all this mail.

A few years ago, I remember reading in an environmentally friendly magazine (name purposefully withheld!) that they had determined that six subscription cards per magazine per issue was the ideal number. Apparently it was the most environmentally friendly and cost productive way they had to keep their subscription base. Well, lets see, at most I will use one subscription card. So that is 71 post cards a year I am throwing away- just me. This particular magazine has a paid subscription base of 350,000. That is almost 2,500,000 post cards thrown away- assuming that everyone who gets the magazine uses one post card!

The best way to Greenify and stop most junk mail from coming into your office or your home is to go to the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service website and ask them to remove your name from their lists. You should include every variation of your company name that junk mail comes to.

However, that will not rid you of all your junk-mail problems. If you order something from a catalog, the company will continue to send you more catalogs unless you tell the company specifically to remove your name from their lists. Also, when ordering, remember to include these important words: “Please do not sell, rent or give my name away to any other organization.”  I’m off to the DMA site to remove myself from mailing lists!


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