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.


Cyber Greenification

December 22, 2008

Have you thought lately about the computer that you’re using and how much it costs the environment?  Computers in the business sector waste $1 billion worth of electricity a year.

First, let’s consider the kind of computer that you have.  PC or laptop?  A standard personal computer uses a significant amount of more energy to operate during a daily work cycle than a laptop.  PC’s are the “6 cylinder engines” of the computer world.  What you want to be operating is more like a moped.  A laptop can pay for itself in the course of one year, in energy savings over a personal computer. 

Make it a policy to invest in energy-saving computers, monitors, and printers.  You’ll want to research, looking for energy-saver decals and then once you buy them, use the most energy-saving cycles possible. 

So now that you’ve got the computer, make a habit of turning it—and the power strip it's plugged into— off when you leave for the day. Otherwise, you're still burning energy even if you're not burning the midnight oil. (You definitely want to check with your IT department before doing this to make sure the computer doesn't need to be on to run backups or other maintenance.)

During the day, setting your computer to go to sleep automatically during short breaks can cut energy use by 70 percent. Remember, screen savers don't save energy.  Turning the computer off or putting it into hibernation both save energy.

When it’s time to get a new computer, look for a recycler with a pledge not to export hazardous e-waste and to follow other safety guidelines. Old computers that still work, and are less than five years old, can be donated to organizations that refurbish them, giving them another life in new homes.   (You may even get a tax deduction.)

Computers are part of our life, but they shouldn’t be allowed to take control of our environment.  And certainly not after they are done being of service.


Clean Hands – Clean Environment

December 19, 2008

Is it fair to say you can help Greenify our world by cleanifying your bathroom habits?  Wash your hands with good, old-fashioned soap and water to prevent disease, and let’s talk about what you’re using to lather up. This is an important decision that many of us don't think twice about, but it can help us keep a healthier environment on the most basic level.

The main ingredient in most liquid soaps lining store shelves is triclosan.  That’s a pesticide that kills bacteria.   If you put that in the restrooms at your business, you’re using a howitzer to kill a housefly.  It turns out you just need to banish germs from your hands, not kill them.  Studies have shown you only need to get rid of the germs, not kill them.  Scientists know that antibacterial soaps aren't any more effective at preventing illness or removing germs than good old-fashioned soap and water.

And those anti-bacterial pesticides may do more harm than good. 

Researchers are concerned that triclosan may be contribute to the rise of drug-resistant bacteria (like those that are currently slowing New England Patriot Quarterback Tom Brady’s recovery from knee surgery) and that’s not good for anyone.   Triclosan has been found in our bodies and in breast milk, as well as in streams. The Environmental Working Group says the pesticide has been linked to developmental defects, livery toxicity, and cancer in lab studies.  It may also affect thyroid and other hormones crucial to development in children. 

The best thing you can do for yourself, your employees, and your customers is avoid those liquid “antibacterial” soaps.  Look for the old-fashioned bar soaps, the powdered soaps from the 1970’s, and maybe even some of those sanitary sheet soaps for individual protection.  If you aren’t sure, just check the label for triclosan or triclocarban (a similar compound that's found more commonly in bar soaps) which are the active ingredients. If you see them, move onto another product that can help you go green. 


Keeping an Eye Out for Those Who Don’t Greenify

December 17, 2008

The U.S. government has started a new most wanted list---for those who not only don’t Greenify, but who are accused of assaulting the environment.

These are environmental fugitives who do everything from smuggling chemicals that eat away the Earth’s protective ozone layer, to dumping wastes into oceans and rivers and trafficking in polluting cars.

While most versions of the “Most Wanted List” include those who commit crimes, the Environmental Protection Agency is rolling out a roster of 23 environmental thugs, complete with mug shots and descriptions of the charges at the EPA’s website.

One EPA enforcement official said those represent the "brazen universe of people that are evading the law." Many face years in prison and some charges could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, if they are caught.

"They are charged with environmental crimes and they should be brought before the criminal justice system and have their day in court," said Pete Rosenberg, one of the EPA’s directors in charge of criminal enforcement division.

One name on the list is John Karayannides, who allegedly helped orchestrate the dumping of 487 tons of diesel fuel-tainted wheat into the South China Sea in 1998. Karayannides is believed to have fled to Athens, Greece.

Also at large are the father and son team of Carlos and Allesandro Giordano, who were originally picked up in 2003 as owners of a company that was illegally importing and selling Alfa Romeos that did not meet U.S. emission or safety standards. The two men are believed to be hiding out in Italy.

The launch of the most-wanted list comes as EPA's criminal enforcement has ebbed. In the last 12 months, the agency has opened only 319 criminal enforcement cases, down from 425 in 2004. 

EPA officials defend the agency's record, saying the agency has focused on bigger cases with larger environmental benefits.  And now, they are giving people concerned about Greenifying a chance to keep an eye out for those who have committed crimes against the planet.


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!


Green Office Supplies

May 15, 2008

We’ve already written about ways to Greenify your office by using recycled paper, so the only thing I will reiterate there is that the cumulative effects of 100% recycled paper is staggering. A pallet of 100% recycled paper (40 cases) will save 24 trees, 7, 000 gallons of water, and 60 pounds of greenhouse gases.

Copier/printer paper is obvious, but did you know that you can purchase letterhead, envelopes, notebooks, self-stick note pads, pocket-folders and business cards made from recycled content as well?

Your office binders do not need to be made from vinyl. Rebinder Recycled Binders are made from corrugated cardboard and just as durable as vinyl covers. You can even get replacement covers should you need one!

If your office uses AA, AAA, B, C or D batteries, consider investing in rechargeable batteries and a solar charger.

Is there a dry erase/white board in your office? Artline makes a line of ECO-Green dry erase markers which are made from recycled materials and have a lower dose of that dry erase marker smell.

The office pens do not need to be left out of the campaign to Greenify! There are ballpoint pens available made from recycled CD cases, recycled plastic and recycled wood, not to mention that biodegradable pens are available!

If you ordinarily run out to the store for your office supplies, you may discover that you easiest way to order your green supplies is online. But with a little research and ingenuity, you can easily Greenify your entire office without spending much, if any more, than you ordinarily do.


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.


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