Greenifying in the New Administration

December 15, 2008

It is expected that President-elect Barack Obama will organize administration’s efforts toward the environment and energy in a different fashion than previous Presidents.

The President-elect is expected to announce his energy and environment team late Monday (December 15, 2008) in an afternoon at a news conference in Chicago.  This will be just the latest in the steady roll-out of his Cabinet, which is now nearly complete.

Obama is expected to name Carol Browner, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, as the head of a new policy council to coordinate climate, environment and energy issues; a so-called “climate czar.”

Browner was formerly the administrator of the EPA from January 31, 2001–June 27, 2003, under former President Bill Clinton.  She was the longest-serving administrator in the history of the agency, staying through both terms of the Clinton presidency.  She successfully fought off Congressional Republicans who wanted to gut the “Clean Water Act.”  She was successful, however, in working in a bipartisan manner to amend clean water statutes and the Food Quality Protection Act.

As EPA Administrator, Browner started the Agency's successful Brownfields program, which, during her tenure, helped facilitate cleanups of contaminated facilities, especially in urban areas, and which leveraged more than $1 billion in public and private funds for cleanups.  Browner is currently the chair of the Audubon Society; her term expires in 2008.

It’s widely believed that the return of a democratic president will signal future moves forward to a more green future in the years ahead for both homes and businesses.  Carol Browner may be part of those efforts.  Which may mean a Greenified 2009.


Greenify a Holiday Reading List

December 10, 2008

It’s that time of year when a well-chosen corporate gift can say a lot to a client or friend.  It can set the tone for a relationship, or set an example for a lifetime.   Here’s a list of  some of the best, most well-regarded books that focus on Greenification. 

Walden
Henry David Thoreau

The original ode to the environment.  This is more than a literary staple of English classes across the United States.  It is Thoreau's most famous work and chronicles his two-year retreat to the woods, celebrates the simple life.

Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit
Al Gore

Gore’s book, written well before An Inconvenient Truth set the public consciousness spinning on global warming, the former Vice President was beginning to stake out his position on the environment.  In Earth in the Balance, he argues, "We must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization."

The Omnivore's Dilemma
Michael Pollan

This is the gift for the cook on your list.  Pollan follows the journey of four meals from farm to table: the corn-addicted path of McDonald's take-out, a home-cooked dinner of Whole Foods organics, a sustainably grown supper "off the grid" and a modern hunter-gatherer's meal.  A veritable feast of the senses for environmentally sensitive.

Silent Spring
Rachel Carson

Viewed widely as the book that gave birth to the modern environmental movement, Carson exposes the hazards of pesticides and other pollution, sounding both a warning and a call to action.

Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water
Marc Reisner

This book offers a look at the history of water management, as well as mismanagement in the Western United States.  Reisner's compelling chronicle work brought well-deserved attention to the pressing need for wise water use policy.

Collapse
Jared Diamond

This nonfiction piece offers modern-day lessons from locations as far and diverse as Rwanda and Japan while Diamond's haunting narrative explores doomed civilizations to make the case that ecological catastrophe can be averted if we make the right choices.

The Lorax
Dr. Seuss

For the child in all of us, Dr. Seuss spins an unforgettable story of a world once lush with truffula trees.  Told in his beloved rhyming style, the Lorax is written to charm youthful minds and hearts while at the same time introducing complex environmental ideas.

Send a tin of cookies and give them something to munch on; send a book and give them something to Greenify on for years to come.

 


Greenifying as Winter Does Its Worst

December 9, 2008

Keeping walkways safe for customers is a challenge that many businesses face during the winter months, with or without snow.  But can de-icing be Greenified?   Ice on sidewalks, driveways and parking lots creates physical hazardous conditions for people, and legal hazards for business owners.  So what's the best way to de-ice without doing in the environment?
 
Snow and ice removal is best done non-chemically with shovel and plow but, admittedly, the results on sidewalks at least, isn't always adequate to ensure safety. Chemical de-icer and/or a grit like sand is often part of a comprehensive strategy to make getting around to do business a safe prospect.
 
Chemical de-icers work by melting snow and ice and forming a liquid brine. This brine seeps downward to contact paved and over impervious surfaces, spreads outward breaking the bond between ice and cold surfaces, and makes it possible to physically loosen and remove whole sheets of compacted snow and ice. Used in advance of icing conditions this brine can also prevent ice from forming on surfaces.

Salt or chloride based products are staples of the de-icer industry. Rock salt (sodium chloride) is among the best known and widely used products. Salt may be a fairly benign chemical in most environments under limited use. However there is considerable evidence of water problems associated with excess runoff of salt based materials.  Other products on the shelf will have labels saying, "Contains Primary Potassium Chloride & Secondary Urea Sodium Chloride". These are primarily fertilizers repackaged as de-icers. 

Product packaging may claim to be "non salt based" or "environmentally friendly".  It’s best to evaluate that claim by checking the label.  In fact, what we're looking for is an acetate product. CMA is the most widely tested and used de-icer in the acetates category. It is a natural acid that is soluble in water and it has chemical properties similar to vinegar.  Only labels with calcium magnesium acetate, CMA or another acetate based product is really the organic choice.

Always follow label directions when using a de-icing product. However, any de-icer that is mixed with equal parts of sand can help reduce the use of the de-icer and provide grit for added traction. You may want to consider choosing deep tray-type doormats with stiff bristles to allow people entering the building to brush off their shoes and boots before entering the building.

There is another possibility: heating the sidewalk.  This involves adding concrete pads at busy entryways.  Embedded within these insulated pads are flexible pipes for carrying hot water. The water gives up its heat to the concrete and prevents snow and ice from accumulating. But the energy costs and installation outlays of heated sidewalk systems need to also be taken into account. 

Greenifying and de-icing may not seem at first to be the best fit together, but with proper care, you can protect the environment as well as customers, even when winter does its worst. 


Greenify Your Garland

December 7, 2008

Is the holiday tree up at your home or office?  It’s what most of us consider to be the epitome of the holiday season: a Christmas tree filled with bright lights, colorful ornaments and encircled around by garland. 

We’ve talked about the tree.  It could be artificial and save on cutting down trees and annual expense or a real tree (considered by many to be a renewable resource) that is either living or recycled into mulch by many county recycling authorities. 

And we’ve talked about the lights.  The new LCD lights are available which cost considerably more, but last a lot longer and will save money over the life of the bulbs because they use only a tiny percentage of the electricity used by the incandescent bulbs.

But what about garland?  As a child, I loved to put pieces of tinsel on the family tree, one by one by one. The tree shone with a silvery sheen.  As an adult, I realize that such tinsel makes the tree more difficult to recycle because the shiny aluminum bits don’t break down.  They are not recyclable, reusable, or renewable.  They just use up resources, look pretty, and are off to the dump.

Let’s consider other forms of garland.  Even an aluminum garland is reusable.  But let’s consider other options.

These days, there are numerous options for an environmentally sensitive consumer.  There are amazing ornate garlands made of hand-blown glass by artisans.  There are beautiful, unique beaded pieces as well. 

But for a truly green-thumbed Greenification enthusiast, there are decorations made the old-fashioned way: by hand.  Imagine the beauty of a tree decorated in a garland of its own fruits.  Collect pinecones and string them together using fishing line.  Add a touch of glitter spray and you’re done.  Leave it natural and use the pinecones to start home fires burning after the holidays.  Or how about a return to childhood roots by making a garland of popcorn and cranberries?  The squirrels outside your backdoor will appreciate you greatly after tree season is past.

It’s a great time of year to Greenify, even in the smallest ways.  And Greenification is as close as your front room, waiting to brighten your holidays from one season to the next. 


Greener Holiday Party Ideas

December 5, 2008

If you’re going to make the rounds of holiday parties or give one yourself, plan now to Greenify.

Going to holiday parties, you want to make sure to carpool, right?  This makes it easier to save gas, save wear and tear on the car, and potentially save lives.  The latter because this is the time of year when we all enjoy seeing our friends and business associates and sharing holiday foods and drinks together.  Carpooling makes it much easier to designate a driver so that everyone makes it home alive.  It’s better for the environment and all of us in it because we all feel better when there are fewer drunk drivers on the road.

If you are the one throwing the holiday party, consider going “old school.”  Even if you are trying to cut costs and downsizing the party from country club to office commissary, forget about the past years of plastic cups and throw-away paper table coverings. 

Buy a fabric tablecloth.  Festive holiday clothes of all sizes can be had at discount stores for prices close to the same as those of the throw-away paper ones, but with far less of a carbon footprint. 

The same goes for plates, cups, and silverware.  You can rent or borrow the same, depending on the size of your party.  You may be able to cut costs if you know a church that rents their hall or their linens, flatware, or other houseware items.  These groups often have the items in bulk and may also be looking for ways to make extra money. 

You could even purchase them at a discount store and give them away (for pickup later, after they’ve been washed) as a door prize. Choose well and they’ll be appreciated.  Such things have been done before by our parents’ generation.  And this time, there’s the added benefit of Greenification. 

If you have to wash a few dishes, is that really so bad?  A holiday party downsized per cost but upsized with glassware, silverware, and linens isn’t going to feel as sparsely provided. 

And your company’s carbon footprint shrinks a little more all the way into the New Year. 


Holiday Colors: Red and Greenify!

December 4, 2008

Have you thought about what kinds of goodies your business will give to its customers this holiday season?  You can Greenify your corporate gifts this season without missing out on taste or quality, while enjoying the knowledge that you’re helping the environment.

So let’s look at a few possibilities. How about some coffee? A nice bag of organically grown brew is a welcome gift in most offices and there are dozens of brands out there.  There is an entire website devoted to the organic coffee association and what their growers do to bring you a greener cup of joe:
   
While you’re at it, maybe look around for a well-made mug.   Your client will save a lot of money if they start drinking their own office coffee from their own cup.

Like chocolates?  These are grown pesticide-free so you don’t have to feel any guilt about enjoying them.  And Sierra Club staffers say these three are the best:
Amano Chocolate
Dagoba Chocolate
Ithaca Fine Chocolates

If you’d rather have cookies, these have all won awards for taste and for being eco-friendly:

Dancing Deer
Bellas Cookies

Liz Lovely

Going low-carbohydrate and healthy?  Try some pesticide-free nuts:

Living Tree Community
Sun Organic
Wilderness Family Naturals 

And if you’ve got a one of a kind customer that is worth “a million” to you, then maybe this next one is for you.  This website offers one of a kind heirloom Teddy Bears made from repurposed used fur coats.

You can show you care about your customers and the earth by giving greener gifts this season.  You can Greenify while greeting the season with style.


Two Quick Ways to Greenify Holiday Giving

December 3, 2008

If you’re like many Americans, you’re feeling the economic pinch this holiday.  Greenifying your gift-giving may help you feel a little richer in personal green. 

Have you thought about recycling gifts?  Yeah, sure, you’ve heard about re-gifting: rewrapping a gift you received but don’t care for in order to give it to someone it may be better suited for.  Re-gifting was made popular (and got laughs) on Seinfeld, the old NBC sitcom.

But maybe this year, you’ll consider buying items at second-hand stores.  Americans have been considered “under-consumers” for years, in that they didn’t use an item completely.  They threw things away or took them to second-hand stores well before their usefulness was finished.  Maybe it’s time you considered shopping in those stores.

Some things you can’t purchase at such a store.  You’ll not please the kids wanting a WII with an old VCR.  But if you’re looking for a back-up vcr for your business’ in-house security system, you will pay a lot less by purchasing a cast-off second-hand player in working order.  

Often these items are cast off early.  In some cases, stores have been known to clear inventory to charitable organizations.  If you can wait until after Christmas, many stores and households clear excess items that aren’t fully used.  (Some people never learn to Greenify.  It’s not in their nature.)  

At the very least, consider something made of recycled goods, like this Radio Flyer made of recycled plastic or a lovely star paperweight made of recycled blue glass. (They have them shaped like dolphins, too but that didn’t seem nearly as festive!)

You can teach your children a lesson about greenification by taking them shopping at a second-hand store, like Goodwill or the Salvation Army.  They’ll learn to appreciate the cost of goods, the fun of giving, and the value of a dollar while they shop.  It’s also a great time to talk about the value of conserving natural resources.

Even if the kids aren’t getting or giving second-hand gifts, give yourself or your spouse or someone else the gift of a recycled, second-hand item and feel the joy of helping Greenify the planet and the second gift of a lower budget.


Greenifying as Basic as an Acorn

December 1, 2008

There is growing interest in an unusual story reported out of Washington, DC, this week.  It’s not about the President-elect’s latest appointment or what members of Congress are packing up to leave office permanently as new members move in.  It’s about what’s missing from the nation’s Capitol and from several surrounding states.  What is missing is acorns.

"I'm used to seeing so many acorns around and out in the field, it's something I just didn't believe," botanist Rod Simmons said. "But this is not just not a good year for oaks. It's a zero year. There's zero production. I've never seen anything like this before."

The absence of acorns could have something to do with the weather, Simmons says in this weekend’s Washington post.  Hickory nuts aren’t around either.  And Simmons is not the only one who noticed.  

"I couldn't find any acorns anywhere," said Greg Zell, a naturalist at Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington, VA. "Not a single acorn. It's really bizarre."

Zell researched and found Internet discussion groups, including one on Topix called "No acorns this year," reporting the same thing from as far away as the Midwest up through New England and Nova Scotia. "None in Kansas either! Curiouser and curiouser," posted another.

Some have theories about rain cycles. But many skeptics say oaks in other regions are producing plenty of acorns, and the acorn bust in these areas is nothing more than the extreme of a natural boom-and-bust cycle. 

And others say they’re not worried yet. "What's there to worry about?" said Alan Whittemire, a botanist at the U.S. Arboretum. "If you're a squirrel, it's a big worry. But it's no problem for the oak tree. They'll produce acorns again when they're ready to."  Of course the squirrels could starve in the meantime.

Naturalists expect this is an isolated biological event.  But it’s one that bears noting by those of us who like our world as green and beautiful as it is.

And I point it out as an interesting article you can read and also because if we let parts of our living world and food chain slip away, we are all the poorer for it. But we are in danger ourselves.  When greenifying is within reach, we have to do it to protect ourselves and out world.

Link to story: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/29/AR2008112902045.html?hpid=topnews

 


Christmas Greenification: It Starts with a Tree

November 26, 2008

Christmas is when our culture seems to forget about honoring the earth and neglects to Greenify.  We hit our annual high for consumption.  We decorate bigger and brighter every year, we send cards that kill forest after forest, and we consume prodigious quantities of food and drink.  This holiday season, Americans will put millions of miles and thousands of kilowatts into lighting holiday trees, homes and businesses.  But there are ways to Greenify your Christmas at home and at work. 

One of the biggest symbols of the holiday is the tree.  Brightly decorated with lights, tinsel, and ornaments, can this symbol be made more green?  Yes.  First off, choose a real tree.  An artificial tree is primarily a petroleum product.  A real fir or spruce is exactly that: a real tree. It brings scent and cheer to what might otherwise be a dreary corner of the room. And at the end of the holidays, it can be taken to the county recycling effort and turned into mulch. 

What about the decorations?  How about buying LED lights?  They look the same as convention incandescent bulbs, but last longer and use 80 to 90 percent less energy.  They’re also safer since they barely warm up.  Also invest in timers to continue the savings by dimming the lights, inside and out, when everyone goes to bed. You’ll find plenty of uses for those, turning off lamps, after the season is over.

As for decorations, many people use the same decorations year after year, and that’s an excellent way to conserve.  If you’d like to have new decorations, edible decorations can be freshly made and shared with customers who come by the business (or friends at home) during the holiday season.  Or you might consider a “theme tree” and make doggie treat decorations using any of the dozens of recipes for doggie treats available on the internet.

Christmas can be a great time to Greenify and keep the spirit of the holidays alive.


Greenify the Holidays with the Spirit of Giving

November 25, 2008

Let’s Greenify your holidays a few steps more.  What can you do to conserve without putting a damper on the joy of the holidays?
 
‘Tis the season to hit the malls.  When you go shopping, take your own shopping bags.  Yes, you may well be stopped going into the stores, as you carry a shopping bag, but you’ll help save on the millions of shopping bags that many stores have printed for Christmas shoppers.  And if you’re afraid of being stopped for shoplifting, take along paper or binder clips to fasten the receipts to the outside of your bag.

Once you get the gifts home, what’s next?  How about wrapping presents in posters, decorated grocery store bags, or pages from glossy fashion magazines?  Put a small present in a beautiful scarf and make the wrapping part of the gift given.  If you truly love brightly colored holiday wraps, purchase recycled wrapping papers online from websites like fishlipspaperdesigns.com and paporganics.com, which also may sell biodegradable ribbons.  Did you know that Americans use more than 38,000 miles of ribbon during the final months of the year?

"You don't have to sacrifice the celebration for sustainability," says Zem Joaquin, founder of ecofabulous.com and eco-editor of House & Garden. Her advice: be "eco-wise."

Another tip: consider going paper-free on holiday cards.  Direct friends to your family blog or create a free multiphoto card or an online slideshow on photobucket.com. You can add holiday music, snowflakes and bits of text, and then e-mail friends and family a link.  They may get a bigger kick out of your fun slideshow of the past year than they ever got out of pre-printed cards and posed single photos that almost always hit the curb the week after Christmas.

You don’t have to clamp down on holiday spirit to Greenify the season.  In fact, it may put you “in the holiday mood” earlier when you help conserve the environment.


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