The Card Question: to Greet or to Greenify?

November 24, 2008

Every year at this time, American businesses communicate their hopes for a joyous holiday and best wishes for the year ahead to their customers and friends.  But should they?  Does it need to be done?

American businesses and individuals send billions of holiday cards.  But perhaps this is the year to reconsider.  Most of those cards will end up going out in the trash, but not before they have consumed millions of dollars in valuable resources.

So instead of a glossy corporate Christmas card stamped with signatures that are undeniably false, consider what else could be done? Perhaps taking a video clip of each of the employees at your office and sending a slide show on the internet that allows viewers to get to know who is on the other end of the phone?  You could post it on youtube.com, and enjoy hope that it becomes the viral marketing tool that boosts the bottom line.  Or for the most important customers, an organic fruit basket or selection of jams is always welcome.  Organic chocolates are also likely to be popular choices.

The point is that cards which carry the holiday wishes aren’t really good for anything and they use up valued resources.  Other “holiday gifts” could be more useful, fun to look at, edible, and less consumptive of natural resources, all while conveying appreciation for business relationships and friendship and other relationships along with respect for the environment.

If you must send a card this holiday season, then try cards on recycled paper.  And next year, consider recycling this year’s cards as a statement to your customers of good cheer for the Greenification of our planet.


Video Games and Their High Energy Consumption

November 20, 2008

Before you head out to start your holiday shopping you may want to think twice about bringing home that coveted video game system for your children. Do you have any idea how much energy is consumed by these video game consoles each year? These consoles require about the same amount of energy as it requires to power a major US city. Any guess on which major US city that may be?

Suffice it to say, I think you will be shocked. Take a look at a recent blog post on green.yahoo.com. Click here to read Lori Bongiorno's article on how non-green the video consoles are and if you guessed the right city. She even provides a graph of the annual energy usage of three major brands of consoles - Wii, Xbox and Playstation 3. If your goal is to Greenify your holiday gifts, a video game console is probably not going to be at the top of the list.


Incandescent Bans: Why Wait to Greenify?

November 19, 2008

The end is near.  But that means that that Europe may begin to go green a little sooner.   

EU energy ministers have recently agreed to ban incandescent filament light bulbs across all 27 member states beginning in 2010.   That’s in addition to Australia, Cuba and the Philippines where bans have previously been announced to begin in the same year. 

Here in the U.S.A, we are coming a little late to the party because our ban doesn’t start until 2014.

The Energy Independence and Security Act, passed by the U.S in June 2007, requires 25 percent greater efficiency for light bulbs starting in 2012.  This will effectively ban incandescents. The EU's decision comes days before it lifts duties on energy-efficient bulbs imported from China.

According to the conservationists if the EU switches off incandescent bulbs, it will cut energy consumption for lighting by 60% and CO2 emissions by 30 million tons (out of the 4 billion tons emitted by the EU every year.   That’s not a lot, but it is still progress.

And no one says you have to wait to start conserving energy now.   Replacing old-style “filament” light bulbs with energy saving compact fluorescent bulbs can save you energy and money starting the moment that you install them.      

And who knows? By 2014, maybe the lighting industry will have come up with something even better.


Greenifying the World’s Largest Retail Supply Chain

November 18, 2008

If you’re watching what the “Big Boys” do and trying to pattern your success after theirs, here’s something to take note of: Wal-Mart, the biggest retailer in the world is attempting to Greenify with a makeover of its global supply chain.

Wal-Mart has a vision of going green, and is now demanding its suppliers, including many based in China, to live up to environmentally friendly manufacturing practices and product-safety guidelines to make that vision come true.

The Arkansas-based retailer got together with more than 1,000 suppliers in Beijing, China, telling them that change was coming.   And not just for the Chinese suppliers. The company is holding suppliers to higher manufacturing and operations standards to “build a more environmentally and socially responsible global supply chain,” announced company executives.

Here is what CEO Lee Scott had to say, “A company that cheats on overtime and on the age of its labor, that dumps its scraps and chemicals in our rivers, that does not pay its taxes or honor its contracts--will ultimately cheat on the quality of its products. And cheating on the quality of products is the same as cheating on customers," Scott said.  "We will not tolerate that at Wal-Mart," Scott stated.

The specifics of the new policies, requirements and deadlines for what Wal-Mart called its "Global Responsible Sourcing Initiative" were equally as bold, and most were targeted at suppliers based in China.  The requirements will force the factories to meet environmental standards in China by 2009 (elsewhere by 2011), make a 20% improvement in energy efficiency, and source 95% of their production from factories that receive high ratings on environmental and social practices.

If the world’s largest retailer can get its suppliers to Greenify, then maybe its time to consider how smaller companies can also go green in their own place and time as well.


Recycling Can Greenify Your Overhead

November 14, 2008

Many businesses can realize a substantial amount of money saved by going green and reducing waste.   Since many businesses are charged by the amount of waste they put out for their local waste removal company to haul away, this is one of the first and most common sense ways to save money and Greenify at the same time.

Some of the steps in doing that: purchase recycled, post-consumer products to start.  These products are now starting to become available at prices that are comparable, if not better than “new” products.  And just seeing them in your business lets your employees and your customers know that you care about the environment.  It encourages them to recycle, as well.

Post recycling containers.  Lots of them.  Everywhere.  The big, blue “recycled paper” containers are eye-catching and with luck, they’ll catch more use, too.

Look for products with minimal packaging.  Who is impressed by big, fancy thick packaging when smaller, more eco-friendly designs work just as well? 

Optimize your use of paper products.   If the memo is internal to the office, use both sides of the paper.  Send it around in envelopes with multiple lines for addresses, so that the folder can be reused again and again. 

Consider whether new office equipment is needed, or whether sturdy used machines and furniture can be purchased (at a savings!) from a clearance center.  There may be more choices right now than in recent years, because of the condition of the economy and businesses being forced to go under.

And look for ways to streamline your operation.  Cutting the steps may help you cut costs, increase productivity, impress customers, and improve your public image as you reduce waste and Greenify.


Bottled or Tap Water: Is There a (Greener) Difference?

November 10, 2008

Can we choose healthy products and Greenify the planet at the same time?  According to the latest lab reports on bottled water, the greener and more pure answer is coming out of our own taps.  That’s because those big name brands of H2O have the same variety contaminants found in tap water, according to a study by an environmental advocacy group.

The two year study was done by the Washington DC-based Environmental Working Group, which is an organization founded by scientists to advocate tighter regulation.  The results showed contaminants in bottled water purchased in nine states and the District of Columbia.  

Researchers tested ten brands. Two of the brands warranted further testing.  (Eight of the brands weren’t high enough to pursue further testing.) Additional testing revealed chlorine byproducts above California’s standard, according to the report. 

This flies in the face of all the advertising and hype.  Not to mention the modern “chi-chi” of having the purest water possible.  The researchers say much of the commercially bottled water is no more “contaminant free” than tap water.  And tap water, as we all know, is a lot greener than bottled water.

Forty-thousand plastic bottles per day are dumped into our landfills.  If Americans returned to drinking filtered tap water at home and work, and refilling containers to take along on their various daily activities, it could free up a huge amount of space in our landfills, lower landfill fees and taxes, and cut our out of pocket costs (during a difficult economic time) on water and be every bit as healthy for us as bottled water, if not more. 

And as it turns out, what’s better for our landfills and environment may be at least as good for us all as we Greenify together.


The Greenification of The New York Marathon

November 9, 2008

The New York Marathon is growing by leaps and bounds, and sprints and paces, too.   And now it’s going more green. 

You have to figure as the tens of thousands of runners participating in the ING New York City Marathon pound their way through the city one step at a time, they have an impact on the course.   Organizers are now in the process of trying to make that footprint more gently felt.

In the past, the race has taken steps to cut down trash and pollution, but here are some new improvements: the Staten Island ferry is moving to ultra low sulfur diesel fuel all the time, not just when carrying runners to the starting line. 

The organizers will also donate unused food from the starting line to City Harvest, which is a group that rescues food.  They’ll offer discarded running gear to various charitable groups, as well.

And recycling efforts will continue at pace, too.  Last year, 11 tons of cardboard and plastic were recycled along the 26.2 mile route.  The cars used in the marathon (yes, there were a few) were Toyotas, with most of the official vehicles hybrids. 

But there are greener cars than just those hybrids.  This year, pedicabs will offer free rides for spectators and biodiesel generators will be at the finish line providing power for the clocks, loudspeakers, medical tent and stage.  Those generators are running on 99% biodiesel made from American-grown soy.

Perhaps as other event organizers see the success of New York’s marathon, they’ll find ways to Greenify their own events.


Greenify for the Winter Ahead

October 30, 2008

Now that the hot days of summer are past, its time to think about taking care of a few last minute household duties before the cold weather sets in and you want to stay inside to hide.  A good “once over” can Greenify the, home, business, and wallet all at the same time, going into the colder months. 

When was the last time you checked the filters on the furnace?  Dirty filters need to be changed once per month, otherwise they interfere with air flow and cause the furnace to work harder.  Better yet, switch to a permanent filter which will save on effort as well as expense.  Less in the dumpsters is a sign that greenification is at work.

And you know how your car gets a periodic tune-up?  Your furnace needs one, too.  Keeping the furnace clean, lubricated, and operating properly can save you up to 5% per month.  The best news is that many utility companies have repairmen that do such tune-ups for free, but you do have to get in line early because they often get backed up.

Mind that thermostat, too.  For every degree you lower it, you stand to save 1-to-3 percent on your heating bill.

Next check your caulking and weather-stripping.   Simple leaks can suck the life out of energy savings, by draining away 5 to 30%.  It pays to check for leaks around corners, chimneys, where pipes and wires go into the building.  You can do this easily using an incense stick: run a lit stick along the seams and see if the smoke line wavers.  If it does, you could be saving energy and money.

And here’s an old-fashioned idea whose time may come again in this economy: wear a sweater.  Roughly speaking, a light, long sleeved sweater is worth 2 degrees added warmth.  A heavier sweater could add as much as 4 more degrees in warmth.  Which means going green may give you a healthy glow in your pocketbook, too.


Greenify Your Office: Don't be a Paper Pusher

October 27, 2008

Cutting down on paper consumption is one of the best ways to Greenify your business. Have you ever thought about how much paper you use on a daily basis?  When dieters try to lose weight, they are often asked to keep a daily journal of what they eat. Try doing that with paper and you'll be shocked at how much you consume and how easily you can Greenify.

In 1961, average global per capita paper consumption stood at 25 kilogrammes or 55 pounds. By 2005, the figure had more than doubled to 54 kilogrammes or 119 pounds. That kind of conspicuous consumption leaves a large carbon footprint, but there are ways to chop that figure down.

When buying printer paper, look for recycled paper with a high percentage of post-consumer content and the minimum of chlorine bleaching. Even recycled paper gobbles up a great deal of energy, water, and chemical resources in its processing (toxic pulp slurry is the paper recycling industry's dirty secret). When using the real stuff, print on both sides of the page when appropriate and use misprints as notepaper.

Some employees still prefer to read things out of hand, on paper.  Encourage them to read their work on the computer by purchasing easy-to-look at non-glare computer screens and reminding them that every little bit helps.

Also, choose printers and photocopiers that do double-sided printing.   If your office ships packages, reuse boxes and use shredded waste paper as packing material.

Finally, make sure that paper recycling receptables are prominently and conveniently positioned for your employees and customers to use.  Nothing reminds so well as repetition and convenience.


Eastern European Leaders Want Climate Standards Eased

October 24, 2008

At a recent summit, leaders of eight Eastern European leaders pushed for a “less is better” package of climate standards, saying the current schedule of reducing greenhouse gas emissions will overburden their economies during the current downturn.

The Eastern European countries said the EU has to balance the wish for cleaner air against their “need for sustainable economic growth" at a time of "serious economic and financial uncertainties." They want to back away from greenification of the planet that we all share, to greenification of their countries finances.  The countries involved — Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia — released a joint statement on the issue.

"We can't say we'll get an agreement by the end of the year if our conditions are not met," said Mikolaj Dowgielewicz, Poland's European affairs ministers.
The recent financial turmoil has triggered fears of a global recession that make governments fearful of trying to get major polluters such as energy generators, steel makers and cement producers to pay fees in a “cap-and-trade” emissions scheme. (“Cap and trade” is when governing bodies set levels for emissions and any business that exceeds its cap trades or pays for extra allowances.) The proposal before the EU’s governing board would impose euro50 billion/US$68.8 billion a year in polluter fees. All of the EU’s 27 governments, including the eight countries challenging the proposal and the European Parliament have to approve the plan in order for it to become law. And many countries, some with more advanced democracies, say this is not the time to renegotiate. 

Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said the plan on the table now "represents the best possible compromise" and should not be changed. But the Eastern European leaders said their economies have made great cuts in carbon emissions since emerging from communism in the late 1980s and that "should be recognized" now. EU governments have been negotiating the package to Greenify during the past year, and it is hoped that any agreement would be endorsed by the end of 2008, and enacted by 2009.

In order to Greenify our planet, we will all have to make changes.  That includes Eastern European countries and their smaller but growing economies, as well as in our own struggling businesses and homes, which may prove a challenge during an economically difficult period.


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