Tweet, Tweet! Greenifying on Twitter

July 16, 2009

The more we use twitter.com here at the Green Business Alliance, the more useful we see it being in efforts to Greenify.  You can catch us on there and at Facebook, several times per week.  We think it’s a great way to communicate with our members and friends.  But I want to point out some other aspects of these great tools. 

You can learn about other green businesses on twitter.  No, not those “businesses” who are interested in adding thousands upon thousands of other twitter “followers” on their accounts in an endless race for more connections that somehow allow them to make money.  Half of the time, it’s a little un clear what they are doing that somehow makes this money.

No, we’re talking about serious things you can learn about on twitter by glancing through some of the follower lists.  The community there is fascinating, ever-changing and evolving, and they are coming up with amazing ideas for green businesses that you might like.   Just some of these names alone give our imagination flight:

  • Treebanker, which is twittered by Dan Teft focuses on helping businesses with carbon footprint problems.
  • MsGreenDarling, which is twittered by Green Girl Woman as she focuses on making small, personal green choices.
  • BestGreenBlogs, that’s Tim in Tennessee and seems to be self-explanatory.
  • GreenDesignsTV, which has a very cute logo page and lots of green activities going on.
  • Bamboo_Clothing, sounds a little scratchy but so sustainable!
  • MyGreenEarth, updated by Maria Tobing with lots of bio-earth tidbits and interesting music.
  • TheSolarCompany, focused on encouraging people to go solar.  One of their recent tweets is about bodily liquids rescuing hydrogen cars.  Hmmmm.
  • USClimateLaw, who is a very cool environmental attorney in Seattle.  His tweets link to his very informative blog.
  • BuilderScrap, which links to a website about saving costs and saving the environment.

We could go on and on, but the point is that YOU should go on.  Get on twitter and join our community. We like to send out twitters when we post our blogs or for occasional other announcements.  And we really think you’ll like checking out our community of followers. You might make some friends.  You might even learn something among all the articles and information being tweeted.

And it’s so easy.  You can link to our Twitter and Facebook pages from our homepage.


Wind Farm Project to Halt

July 14, 2009

The world’s largest wind farm this week became the wind farm that wasn’t.  Billionaire Oilman, T. Boone Pickens, who has generally championed the cause of energy independence for the United States and specifically promised to build the largest wind farm in the world this past week said he was putting his plans on hold because of the global recession with its tight credit markets and lower natural gas prices. 

You would think he’d want to build now with so many out of work and ready to pitch in.  With gas prices dropping once again, it might be the best time to buy materials which would have to be shipped in to the Texas Panhandle, where he planned to position the energy producing turbines.

But that credit crunch apparently is hitting even the wealthy.  Pickens could not find financing to pay for the transmission lines that would hook up his wind farm to the Texas grid to carry away the electricity produced in Pampa, Texas.

Meantime, offshore developers face a similar problem. They need to find customers to buy their power and must do so before they can get financing to build. The government just gave out leases for offshore production.  But those would-be “farmers” must also navigate the federal permit process, which hasn’t been tested so far.  Construction on even the most promising projects in Rhode Island, along with those in Delaware and New Jersey, won't begin for at least four years.

It all sounds pretty dismal, doesn’t it?  And on the surface, it’s a bit disappointing, but think of it in terms of where we were on this subject one year ago.  I think you’ll agree we’ve “come a long way baby” and we’re starting to get a handle on things.  

T. Boone Pickens and his blustery, bluffing pals put wind farms back on the horizon.  They moved up the public discussion about the projects.  The Obama administration favors such production and we now know that we have to start moving towards greater energy efficiency, domestic production and cleaner, most environmentally friendly production.  We’re heading that direction with a strong tailwind behind us. 

"We've got more wind than anybody else in the world, just like they have more oil," Pickens said at the time. "I think that's the future of this country."

We know we’ve got to get on it.  We still hope for the best, but the economic wind needs to pick up.


Greenly Grab Consumers Attention

July 9, 2009

Have you given thought to how to best approach potential customers with your greenification?  Someone out there has.  A new study by the Shelton Group checked consumer opinions of marketing claims to find that survey respondents identified most with the “100 percent natural” claim. 

The researchers tested various claims including “organic,” “all natural ingredients,” “certified organic ingredients,” “bio-based ingredients,” and “contains natural ingredients,” to find that “100 percent natural” was the claim that attracts consumers and makes them feel most comfortable.

The Shelton study was conducted this year, in April and May, with surveyors questioning 1006 respondents.  Also reported in the same survey are the facts about what consumers are looking for:

  • Home cleaning products — 75 percent
  • Food and beverages — 65 percent
  • Personal care products (shampoo, lotion, etc.) - 55 percent

These are mostly personal products that consumers come in contact with on a regular, or even sometimes, daily basis.  But past studies have also shown that modern consumers are drawn to prefer “100 percent natural” products in almost every line of wholesale and retail trade, and that they are willing to pay more for such products.

And why not?  A greener house may initially cost a bit more, but if it falls in line with better home construction practices and provides greater energy efficiency, it may save money over the course of the home’s ownership.  The same goes for other products, from business and office machines, to home appliances and even foods, which are often believed to be more nutritious and healthier to consume. 

The Shelton group says 60% of consumers are seeking out green product and an even larger percentage say they are not cutting green spending, even in this difficult economy.  Green marketing is here to stay, so why not put the best foot forward?  Go 100 percent natural and see if consumers “greenify” your returns.

(If you’d like to read more about the Shelton Group’s  survey, Eco Pulse 2009, the results are posted online here: http://www.sheltongroupinc.com/research/eco_pulse.php)


Greenifying from Coast to Coast

July 6, 2009

I have been shopping for home goods lately, and am greatly impressed by the moves that have been made in the “green housewares” market.  I am in the process of setting up a new home, far from where I used to live.  At times, I wonder what would shrink my carbon footprint most: to move my housewares (currently in storage on one coast) to the other coast where I have moved myself; or to simply donate them to the local mission and start anew at my latest residence.

So here I am: going from store to store, looking at things that I have previously purchased and now see new and much more sustainably manufactured.

Cutting boards are made of bamboo; so are bookcases.  I love the look of bamboo, but even more do I love the sustainability. Bamboo is a wood that grows straight up and increases in size at an astronomical rate. It has a clean look about it that I am reassured by research on the internet is absolutely accurate: it is cleanly grown and produced, sustainable, and an ecologically sound choice.

I’ve also seen lamps that are now being sold with the new CFL light bulbs already in them.  Compact fluorescent light bulbs produce so much light using so little energy that it’s a delight to see them in stores.

I’m also going to need a new printer on this side of the country.  I want to purchase a small one, since I truly hope to move my old (still very serviceable) printer/scanner/fax/copier to this side of the country and continue using it.  I hope to be able to use that machine for a full 10 years before I even consider replacing it.  It’s halfway there now and I appreciate it more every day I am without it, so I will consider buying a smaller printer, utilizing a print shop for other services, and giving the smaller printer to a relative when the larger, older one arrives.

I’m fascinated by all the aspects of a green household that I’m finding in stores.  It seems my choices are greater than ever.  I hope you’re spotting (and plotting!) the ways to Greenify your own household. If you’ve got a tip, please email it to us (info@greenbusinessalliance.com) so that we can all share the knowledge and grow greener together.


Fireworks Greenify the Sky

July 2, 2009

Have you given any thought to how to Greenify your July 4th Celebration?  There are several things to consider.  First off, the best July 4th celebration (because who wouldn't want to celebrate living in the USA with more people than ever before focused on reducing carbon emissions and greening their business and home lives!) is going to be a group celebration.  Fireworks are dangerous explosive devices, best left to the professionals and firefighters who protect our homes and businesses already.  They're also expensive and if you're keeping an eye on your wallet, the public displays are even better.
 
But fireworks are also messy.  Many of their components explode with bits and pieces of burning incendiary devices that smolder all the way to the ground.  The air pollution that they produce is visible.  We ought to be wiser and stop putting up these environmentally unfriendly displays of messy, dangerous, polluting explosives, but we just can't seem to help ourselves.  They are part of our annual national display in the United States and many other areas around the world.  So since we can't beat 'em, let's join them.  Let's go to the public displays put on by the city or municipalities.
 
It would also be best to take your own food.  You can prepare and bring your own picnic dinner to enjoy on a blanket or in the car at the display and avoid all those nasty paper wrappers, styrofoam anything, plastic water bottles, and other environmentally negative aspects of buying prepared meals from fast food restaurants set up for single occasions.  And you'll eat healthier and tastier if you buy fresh, organic vegetables or even grow your own. 
 
And what would you like to sit on?  My father had a personalized stadium seat cushion made just for him in his favorite college team's colors with his monogram on it.  I would know; I made it for him for Christmas one year.  You certainly don't have to go that far, but I still remember wrapping up in favorite blankets brought from home to watch fireworks in the next town over, when I was very young.  The blankets made me feel safer when the really loud fireworks went off and they made it easier for my parents to bundle me into the car for the trip back to the house.  I think that's why I enjoy watching fireworks so much more in a blanket and pillow from home these days.
 
When the fireworks are over, consider the cleanup.  Look around you.  Part of being an American is pitching in to help others.  Help yourself and your community by cleaning up the things you brought and encouraging others to do the same.  You'll make this year's July 4th celebration more personal, a little more old-fashioned, and a lot more green. 
 
By the way, there is hope that someday, the fireworks we love so much will themselves be much greener.

Fireworks, flares and other so-called "pyrotechnics" traditionally have included potassium perchlorate as the oxidizer, a material that provides the oxygen that fireworks need to burn. Perchlorate, however, is an environmental pollutant with potential adverse effects on people and wildlife. Pyrotechnics contain other ingredients, such color-producing heavy metals, with a similar potential.

Studies have shown that perchlorate from community fireworks displays conducted over lakes, for instance, can lead to perchlorate contamination of the water. But now researchers are developing new pyrotechnic formulas that replace perchlorate with nitrogen-rich materials or nitrocellulose that burn cleaner and produce less smoke, according to an article in ACS's weekly newsmagazine, Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN).  So far, these green fireworks are in limited use because of their cost, but we hope that will change in time for July 4, 2010 to be a truly Greenified celebration. 


A Greener (Capitol) Hill

June 29, 2009

The U.S. House of Representatives has now proven they are interested in clean energy and reducing carbon emissions released by Americans and American business.  They have passed the Waxman-Markey bill, designed to curb carbon emissions by setting  a cap-and-trade program to cut global warming pollution.   What does that mean? 

With a "cap," each large-scale carbon emitter, or company, will have a limit on the amount of greenhouse gas that it can put out. This particular proposal would require companies to have a "permit" for every ton of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. As time goes on, the limits on these permits, their size and ability to obtain them would become stricter until ultimately, our country reduces its carbon emissions, the limits become stricter, allowing less and less pollution, until the ultimate reduction goal is met.

The trade: It will be relatively cheaper or easier for some companies to reduce their emissions below their required limit than others. These more efficient companies, who emit less than their allowance, can sell their extra permits to companies that are not able to make reductions as easily. 
 
The bill aims to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change: 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, with other measures promising additional reductions. At its core is a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program that gives away about 85 percent of the carbon permits to utilities, heavy industry, refiners, among others, and includes provisions to shield consumers from rising energy prices.  Environmentalists are very excited about the bill's passing. 

"This vote was a major hurdle, and we've cleared it," said Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists.  "President Obama can walk into the G8 summit of world leaders in Italy next week with his head held high. Now we have momentum to move and improve legislation in the Senate and put it on President Obama's desk so he can go to December's international summit in Copenhagen with the full backing of the Congress and the American people."

Before the vote, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told her colleagues "we cannot hold back the future." She offered four words that she said represent the meaning of the legislation.

"Jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs," she said.
 
Companies will be required to purchase the emissions permits from the federal government, which in turn results in a sizeable revenue stream to the federal government. Much of the back room politicking that has occurred over the last few weeks regarding the Waxman-Markey bill has involved how this revenue stream will be allocated to government programs.  
 
But before any of this can go forward, the Senate has to vote to approve the measure as well.  And many industry groups oppose the measure.
 
James C. May, the president of the Air Transport Association of America, said, "We have strong concerns about the Waxman-Markey bill and its punitive one-size-fits-all approach. This cap-and-trade bill creates an onerous fuel tax on the airline industry."
 
In order to Greenify our planet, we are all going to have to work together.  Some businesses will struggle to bring themselves into alignment with these new environmentally friendly restrictions, but others will be born because of them.  The larger benefit will be to all of us and as such, we hope you'll support the Waxman-Markey bill and others like it by calling your representatives in Washington to encourage their vote for such issues.


The Tale of a Greener Fish

June 26, 2009

Remember a few years back when we were all told we had to stop eating Orange Roughy or we might just run out. Permanently. You remember that, right? We all pitched in and started eating farmed salmon and catfish and a few other things to take the pressure off of fishermen and fishmongers to meet our demand.

Now a website is going to offer advice on which fish has a lower "carbon footprint," or perhaps more accurately, less swishy tail.

If someone asked you which fish of two fish, for instance a yellowfin tuna or a barramundi has a smaller carbon footprint could you tell them? Probably not. And neither could most professional chefs or restaurateurs. It's a hard question to answer, but now a Washington, DC based seafood distributor will unveil a rating system to helps chef compare the environmental impacts of various types of edible fish.

The "Carbon Fishprint" rating system is based on how much energy use and any other carbon-footprint factors were involved in producing the fish and getting it on the table.

Think about the possibilities: you are getting ready to go out for a nice, healthy fish dinner, and when you get there, your chef has chosen two or three fresh "catch of the day" fish selections specially selected for their sustainability and prepared to the highest standards possible. Wouldn't you feel better about eating that?

This is of course, just one more example of green marketing and what the color green can draw in. The studies have shown that environmental friendliness is a selling point that consumers are attracted to and that they are willing to pay a higher, premium price for goods that are organic, use less energy, are sustainably produced and otherwise more environmentally friendly.

By the way, the barramundi has the lower "Carbon Fishprint," rated at just 15, while the yellowfish has a "Carbon Fishprint," more than double at 40. You may want to order the yellowfin at your favor sushi bar a little more sparingly. You can visit ProFish's "Carbon Fishprint" on their website.


Going Green? Prove It!

June 23, 2009

Is your business green and proud of it? Are you marketing and advertising your greenification efforts in a meaningful way to consumers? We hope you can prove it.

The Federal Trade Commission is the government agency that is supposed to be supervising the use of the claim "environmentally friendly" and other "green" statements under laws passed in1992. Environmentalists, quoted in USATODAY, say there has been too little enforcement.

"There has been little to no enforcement of the 1992 guides," says green consultant Kevin Tuerff, whose company started a website aimed at exposing ads with questionable environmental claims. "They need to pick up the pace."

In fact, since May 2000, the FTC has only prosecuted three companies for violating guidelines that govern companies advertising eco-friendly products or biodegradable packaging. All three of those complaints were announced earlier this month, after Congress scheduled a hearing to look into the matter.

As we have noted in the past here at Green Business Alliance, there has been a huge upswing in the amount of green-marketing going on in the last several years. The interest in environmentally sound products and energy saving offerings has skyrocketed during the increase in gas prices of the last several years and again since the election and inauguration of President Barack Obama. But are all of these companies making legitimate claims?

A recent survey by environmental marketer TerraChoice of 12 large U.S. stores found more than 1,700 products boasting green credentials. We all see eco-friendly claims made by sellers of everything from bottled water ("our bottle design uses less plastic") to sport-utility vehicles ("it's a hybrid!") to laundry soap ("concentrated, so you use less") and those claims aren't always checked out.

Green Business Alliance wants to help interested companies integrate environmental stewardship into their daily business practices, and market themselves to consumers who are concerned about the environment.

James Kohm, who is with the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection admits the agency hasn't been as aggressive about enforcement as it might have been, in recent years, which he blames on lack of resources. But he points to the agency's crackdown on energy-related claims as a triumph. The FTC was able to remove products that promised to improve a car's gas mileage but failed to do so from the American marketplace.

More new cases like those announced earlier in the month are to be expected, according to Kohm. We hope so. We all want more businesses to join the greenification effort, but we want it done legitimately with benefits that pay off for both the companies involved as well as their customers and consumers.


A Greener Inner Life

June 22, 2009

Have you given thought to your life today? Of course you have, but have you given yourself the time to think about yourself, your life and your place in the Universe and greater scheme of things today? We may not agree on exactly what the answer to those questions would be, but we can agree that thoughtfully pursuing our lives and taking time out to calmly consider will improve our lives and the lives of those around us.

I'm talking about meditation. Meditation is a mental discipline by which you attempt to get beyond the "here and now" to a deeper state of awareness and relaxation. It is one of the oldest and simplest forms of stress relief and can help us "Greenify" our inner life. In addition to being about improving our environment and reducing our carbon footprint, we also want to improve our own sense of joy and happiness in this life. Meditation can help with that.

There are many forms of meditation. Some people simply start their day by waking up slowly, lying in bed and thinking about what's ahead for their day. Other people take meditation classes that often involve special words or positioning of their bodies that they believe enhance their ability to focus. Whatever it is, it's helpful and healthful in providing direction for the day ahead.

Personally, I like to meditate on how I can improve areas of my life and the way I function in society to be a more positive influence. I like to think about all the wonderful things that I'm grateful to have in my life and look forward to my day ahead. (I am one of those "lying in bed with eyes closed" type meditators.)

I bring this up because in my life, "Greenify" means a cleaner, greener planet and I've come to equate it with many other positive aspects of life, too. So maybe you should give meditation a try. You might find it "Greenifies" your mind, too.


Need New Light Bulbs? Get CFLs!

June 18, 2009

When you arrived at work this morning and flipped on the light, which kind of bulb as it?  A lovely, energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulb or “CFL?”  Or was it one of those round, older, energy-sucking incandescent light bulbs?

I hope it was one of the newer ones for your sake as well as for the rest of us. I was reading online this weekend when I saw the most amazing and horrifying statistic: only 20 percent of light bulbs being purchased are the new style that save as much as 75% less energy and last ten times longer than the old style bulbs.

Wow, I thought, who is buying those energy-thieving bulbs?  Who is cheating themselves and writing a carbon-creating check that our earth can not continue to pay?  I don’t know.  I just can’t imagine.

Energy saving compact fluorescent light bulbs will pay for themselves within one year of their purchase, according to most experts.  They do cost a little more, but the savings realized both for the buyer and in terms of lessening the carbon footprint caused by all of us is so great that we can no longer afford not to buy them.

For the last 6 to 12 months as this recession has unfolded, I have thought perhaps the bulbs weren’t being used as often as possible because of hard economic times.  I mean, if you’re having a hard time making this month’s payroll, you can’t expect to “reap the financial reward” of a light bulb paying for itself in a year if your company goes under in that time.  So I understand not replacing old, still operating bulbs for many companies. 

And its hard for me to suggest getting rid of something before its time.  Before it’s fully used up or broken.  I hate the wastefulness of doing that.  But it’s time to get rid of those old light bulbs.  Maybe for some struggling businesses, that switch should wait. 

Homeowners, though, are another story.  I was at the home of some financially strapped friends last week.  They have lost their home and are suffering through bankruptcy at the moment.  But every one of their light bulbs is a CFL bulb.  They are cutting their costs as quickly as possible. They are working on it.

So if you can possibly afford to replace those old incandescent bulbs, get on it.  Go get those bulbs.  They will pay for themselves.  Because 20% is just not enough.  We need to start flipping that number around, so that 80% of light bulbs sold are CFL and 20% are incandescent bulbs.  And then 15%.  And then 10%.  And then… we’ll find that CFL bulbs have shown the way to Greenification.


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