The High Carbon Cost of Kids

August 31, 2009

Want to cut your carbon footprint? Don't have any kids. No, of course we're not serious. If nobody had any children, life would come to a stop and who knows when the next Albert Einstein, Ralph Waldo Emerson or Anne Frank will be born? But I thought we'd take a look at a few of the effects of having a child around the world. A new study from Oregon State University outlines the high carbon cost of having children.
 
The average American woman who has a baby generates a carbon footprint seven times that of a similar age and sized Chinese woman who has a child. Why? Well, the obvious idea is that the average American woman gives birth in a hospital, surrounded by half a dozen doctors, nurses, aides and other support staff, while the average Chinese woman has her child in humbler circumstances, perhaps with a midwife or a family member by her side.

But the reality is that the estimate is based on how many children the American woman is likely to have: at least two. And each of those children are also likely to have offspring. And so on. And so on.

Even if our American parent does his/her best to Greenify by driving a smaller car, carpooling, recycles, and replaces all her appliances with energy efficient models, when she has two children, the researchers found, her carbon legacy eventually rises to nearly 40 times what she had saved by those actions.

"In discussions about climate change, we tend to focus on the carbon emissions of an individual over his or her lifetime," said Paul Murtaugh, a professor of statistics at O.S.U., in a statement accompanying the study’s release. "Those are important issues and it’s essential that they should be considered. But an added challenge facing us is continuing population growth and increasing global consumption of resources."

When you consider how many stuffed bears and tigers each child needs and the usage of disposable diapers and infant formula as opposed to breast feeding (which is unquestionably the better option for both environment, mother and child but far more frequently done in foreign countries than in the United States) the numbers climb even more.

There are some things we can change. We can put in energy efficient lightbulbs. We can drink tap water and carpool and buy papertowels made from recycled paper. We can learn to plan our meals and budget our trips in the car and go back to renting movies that we'll only watch a couple of times anyway. And we should, right?

But we're going to keep having children, aren't we? Because otherwise, who are we Greenifying for?


Back to School - Greenly

August 27, 2009

It's "back to school" time for millions of school children again.  You know what that means: shopping for new clothes, shoes, supplies, and maybe even getting the bikes out of the garage and tuned up for another year's worth of early morning rides to the schoolyard. 

Let's think about this from a business' point of view.  Since we know that American consumers will pay more for environmentally friendly products, how can we maximize this?  Well, I hope this effort would have started months ago, but let's go over the last minute things that can be done.

If you're in the school and office supplies business, it's time to pull out the brightly colored pens and pencils.  It's time to position the bright-colored backpacks (and in some cases, wheeled carts) in the front window. 

It might also be helpful to offer sales on recycled office products as school supplies.  Since most kids these days have to turn in their homework done on computers, how about offering a "schoolyear's worth of recycled paper" at a discount?  If you sell the paper in bulk, the buyers will also be making fewer trips in to the store, wasting less fuel and at the same time, you'll have gotten all their business.  A definite "win-win" situation for both parties. 

Also, it's a good time to position the reusable lunchboxes towards the front of the store.  Remember how much fun it was to use a "Happy Days" lunchbox or one emblazoned with "Wonder Woman" on the sides?  It can be that much fun again, but this time instead of using one, you might be packing it for the school day ahead.  Choose wisely, and your kids will munch happily on their midday meals all the way through the year. 

Speaking of reusable, have you seen those new metal water bottles?  They come in stainless steel or colors and sizes that could keep a kid hydrated through years of recess and dodgeball games.  Put those along a school supplies aisle and see if they run out the door as well.

Back to school days are fun and exciting for kids.  If you can share their excitement and build on it within the business, you may see Greenification take pulling in some Greenification of a different sort.


Cash for Clunkers Success = Greenification

August 24, 2009

The U.S. government's "Cash for Clunkers" program officially ends at 8pm on Monday, but not before handing out $3 billion to consumers who trade in their old gas guzzlers for new cars that sip at fuel. The program has been dubbed a success by the Obama administration, and indeed, customers were dashing in all weekend to try to take advantage of the genuine once-in-a-lifetime deal before it disappeared.

The preliminary numbers are impressive. At a time when American consumers weren't confident parting with cash, the program brought in 457,000 transactions as of last Thursday, at an average cost of $4000 per trade-in. It generated enough business to make car salesmen smile once again, and force carmakers to call back laid-off workers and crank up production to meet demand.

It wasn't perfect. The jubilant response means Americans are still in love with their vehicles. Nobody turned in a clunker and then left on bicycle. Officials weren't prepared for the massive paperwork requirements. And the government has yet to reimburse many cash-strapped dealerships for the trades made.

But it's a start. It's a move towards putting mileage in a more prominent position when negotiating car deals. It's a little forward motion, too, for our economy.

So what's next? And what if you wanted to get rid of a clunker that might need retirement but didn't meet the (rather narrow) definition of what the Obama administration was willing to take in trade? How can you get rid of a gas-guzzler while still getting a benefit?

Might we recommend that you turn it in to a charitable group and reap the benefit? All over the country, various nonprofit groups will accept cars as gifts. Sometimes the gift can be quite valuable at tax time. (You'd need to discuss that with your accountant. Please don't take our word for it. Ask your professional.)

You can pick a favorite charity and call them up. Some are more interested than others. Some will accept them on delivery, or even come and tow them away if needed. So if you're interested in getting rid of a clunker but can't get in line for the round of cash ending on August 24th at 8pm, don't be discouraged. You can still Greenify your ride and your pocket. You just need to pick a different avenue.


Bottled Water Fizzles

August 18, 2009

Is your bottled water habit a bit, well, flat? You aren't alone. Budget-conscious consumers are weaning themselves off the bottle because of the recession. It's hard to think of another bit of recession fall-out so beneficial to our planet because we know what this means to our environment: Greenification.

Nestle, the country's largest seller of bottled water, has reported that profits for the first half of 2009 dropped 2.7 percent. This is the first decline in the company's numbers in six years and analysts have pinpointed the source as water.

Market researchers say it's an obvious place to cut. For thousands of years, people have drank water and they've done it without bottles involved. They've put their heads down to streams, locked lips on backyard hoses, and enjoyed pouring glasses straight from the kitchen tap. The bottling of water is an extremely recent phenomenon that has been dangerous for both people and the environment.

The danger for people is that bottled water doesn't contain fluoride, inserted for growing children's teeth. The danger for the environment came on the other end as 86% of plastic water bottles went in the trash, instead of into recycling efforts. They stuffed landfills to overflowing with lightning speed.

"I thought we'd never be able to impact sales of bottled water, and all of a sudden it's really gained momentum," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of advocacy group Food & Water Watch. "I think we're making real progress."

You remember the glory days of bottled H20, right? Sales of bottled water gushed 59 percent to $5.1 billion between 2003 to 2008, making it one of the fastest growing beverages. About 70 percent of consumers currently say they drink bottled water.

But the recession stemmed the tide. Nestle sells a variety of brands, such as Poland Spring, Deer Park, S. Pellegrino and Perrier. It was the only sector in Nestle's food and beverage group to post a decline in global sales during the first half of the year, down 2.9 percent because of weakness in the United States and Western Europe. Coca Cola is also seeing a softening, again in the bottled water sector of its business.

According to Jeff Cioletti, editor in chief of trade publication Beverage World, per capita consumption dropped from 29 gallons to 28.5. Cioletti said he doesn't believe the well will spring forth again anytime soon.

"There were sort of a lot of headwinds," he said.

That's right. Not just the economic downturn, but a campaign by environmentalists to get consumers to turn on the tap.

Government offices are now campaigning to cut off the bottled water and return to the tap. And some grocers are determined to at least stop selling imported bottled water after considering the carbon footprint that goes into producing, transporting and selling it.

According to Food & Water Watch, more than 17 million barrels of oil -- enough to fuel 1 million cars for a year-- are needed to produce the plastic water bottles sold in the United States annually.

So here's an idea whose time has come: since everyone's cutting back at home, this is the perfect time to kick your business' bottled water habit. Buy a distiller. Water: on tap to help you Greenify.


The Big Apple: Red or Green?

August 13, 2009

Have you thought about whether it’s time to Greenify your logo?   Apparently, someone is giving it someone in New York’s City Hall is giving it some thought.   The city’s leaders are asking should the Big Apple’s Official Apple be green?  I think the answer is stunningly simple.

New York City has been referred to as “The Big Apple” since the 1920’s when a sportswriter at the New York Morning Telegraph first popularized the nickname. It was in reference to the city’s horse tracks, referred to as ‘The Big Apple’ at the time. Since then, hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of t-shirts, refrigerator magnets, baseball caps and other logo items have been sold, depicting a red “Big Apple.”

But with studies showing that consumers are willing to pay more for things sold with an environmental pitch, the time is ripe for one of the most recognizable logos in the world to go green.   The city had a recent campaign promoting its environmental efforts that used a green apple logo, but hasn’t made the full change itself.  Maybe it’s time to do that now.

It truly does seem obvious, doesn’t it?  In the last year, we’ve seen the emphasis on all things green growing like a, well, like a weed.   We’ve seen the numbers of reusable grocery bags growing.  Reusable water bottles in metal and glass are coming to the market as consumers try to stop the glut of plastics in our environment.  And the government is buying back clunkers to get them off our streets in an effort to diminish our carbon footprint.

On a personal note, I’ve noticed myself becoming more focused on Greenifying my life.  In the past year, I’ve bought green sneakers, green eyeglasses, a green purse, a green t-shirt (twice!) and green dinner plates.  Looking around my house, you’d think something is up.  But I think it’s a new level of consciousness creeping out into my spending habits.  And by the way, I bought a good number of those things at second-hand stores.   It was fun!

The backers of this particular effort to get The Big Apple to go green are growers of a particular type of apple, known as the Newtown Pippin, which is a mottled green and often lopsided.  In other words, it’s said to be great eating, excellent in homemade pies and usually organically grown. 

We are going green in this culture.  And maybe it’s time the city of New York, which leads in so many ways, picked up the ball and pitches.  Or offers us all a Big, Beautiful Green Apple.


Growing Your Business Online

August 11, 2009

Now that your business is Greenified, let’s talk about growing its reputation online.  That’s part of your plan, right?   You hoped to market the business online, saving a few trees, the chemicals involved in printing up materials, and the energy involved in getting those items to your customers all along.

So let’s talk about how to do that.  First, get a website.  If you can’t afford to have it done professionally, you can start a blog for free.  Put up the blog and post links to it with comments on other similar blogs around the internet.  Hook it up with an RSS feed.  Do you know what that is?  RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, which allows people to see what you are talking about on a text or email feed.  You can also start a Twitter account and use that to communicate with your customers.  Think about it: being able to instantly notify your customers or followers that you are having a sale or special on a particular item, letting them know what you’re offering.

Those are the technical basics, but let’s also look at what’s being said about your business and you. Do a vanity search of your business name and see what comes up. Are you easy to find? What is the first impression?

Is your business reviewed in online forums or blogs?  Set up some electronic alerts.  You can pay a service to do this, or do it simply by setting up a Google account and asking it to send you alerts every time something is said about you or y our business online.

“Know who the influencers are,” said Pete Blackshaw, executive vice president of Nielsen Online Digital Strategic Service and an expert on consumer-generated media. “There are going to be some megaphones that matter more than others.”

Online reviews are a gold mine of business intelligence. There are metrics to analyze to get a better sense of your customer demographics.  You’ll find those on any website you buy or included in the blog set up that you use. 

With a little bit of your time and some sweat equity, you can easily put yourself out there.  And don’t forget to remind your customers online that you are a green business.  It’s the hottest selling ticket there is to customer’s hearts and wallets.


Cash for Clunkers

August 6, 2009

We’d like to bring your attention to a new government program that may only be in place for a very short time.  If you want to take advantage of the “Cash for Clunkers” program, you’ll need to hop on it quickly. 

The Car Allowance Rebate System, or “Cash for Clunkers” is one of the few federal stimulus programs that everyone seems to be onboard with.  It’s a federal program that will credit you up to $4,500 to trade in your old car for a more fuel-efficient model. 

There are some restrictions, but this wildly popular program has few downsides.  President Barack Obama says the program “has succeeded well beyond our expectations and all expectations.” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood claims “this is the stimulus program that has worked better than any other stimulus program that was conceived.”

And like a lot of green programs, it works from a multitude of angles. 

When the recession began, the U.S. auto industry was already in trouble.   Gas prices, which had skyrocketed the year before, were making American-made cars unpopular.  Car sales, already flagging, dropped to almost immeasurable.   By pumping money into getting Americans to spend on cars, we get the economy moving and shrink our carbon footprint by getting gas-guzzling cars off the road and out of commission. 

The program was clipping along with sales so good that it appeared it would run out of money just as it was starting.  Its $1 billion budget was projected to run out, prompting the House of Representatives to vote last week to authorize another $2 billion. But in the Senate, Republican senators say they will block more funding, calling it a waste.  That would be unfortunate.  Because ”Cash for Clunkers” stood for stimulating the economy and putting more Americans in the drivers’ seat with a lower cost to our environment.


Tips on Greenifying for Individual Employees, Part 2

August 3, 2009

More tips now on how to Greenify as an individual at the office.
 
1. E-Marketing to the Rescue

Have you checked out what a powerful marketing e-marketing could be?  The internet is a powerful driver of sales and leads - right down to the zip code level. Best of all, a lot of online marketing tools are cheap or free.  For instance, uh, we’ve found that blogs can get a message across pretty well, and they are very inexpensive to create and maintain.

2. Get a Green PC

There are some PC’s out there that consume 10% of the power  of a normal desktop.  These new PC’s are also inexpensive.  Add that to the energy savings and you’ll see the benefit from every angle.  And turn off even the “energy efficient” PC’s at the end of the day.  Every day.

3. Stay Informed

There are excellent resources to learn more ways to improve your green efforts that are specific to your industry. We’d like to help you learn more, so stay tuned in to the Green Business Alliance and we’ll help.   But don’t be afraid to look around the Internet.  “You can never have too much help in Greenifying.” 

4. Replace Less Efficient with New Energy Efficient

I guess this has become a main theme of mine.  I’ve always been an “economy minded” person, but now I see that energy economy has to win out.  Everything from new bulbs to appliances that are energy efficient can help.

5. Shop at other Green Businesses

They’re easier to spot than ever before because green marketing is the hottest trend out there. We’re all in this together, so it makes sense to seek out the locally produced food, products produced using recycled materials and any other Greenified product out there. 

We all want to Greenify.  If your business is working on shrinking its carbon footprint, you may be overlooking your employees.  Offer them these tips and see if they also want to Greenify not only in the office but also at home.  Chances are they’ll say yes.


Tips on Greenifying for Individual Employees, Part 1

July 28, 2009

We usually talk about how to Greenify a business and how to help green businesses succeed here at the Green Business Alliance blog.  But today, I thought we’d take a slightly different approach.

These are tips for how to Greenify work on the job at almost any job.  Shall we get started?

1. Telecommute and Work at Home (or in a fun place!)

Think about it: would you rather be in a cubicle wearing a tie?  Or in your kitchen with a laptop, wearing your pajamas with a cup of your favorite morning beverage?  Home business owners and other telecommuters save approximately 4,439 million gallons of gas per year.  If businesses allowed employees to work at home just one day a week, carbon footprints would go down and so would the impact on your back pocket. 

2. Stop Using Paper

You don’t like buying it and dragging it home, and you don’t like having to take it to the curb.  Stop using paper.  Keeping electronic records not only makes things easier for you, but it is GREAT for our forests. Get an eFax account and stop collecting that extra trash, even if it is for the recycler.

3. Play del.icio.us Tag

Remember Post-It notes?   I used to print out things I wanted to save, but not anymore. Now I use bookmark it in my Favorites file at home or tag it with del.icio.us, which allows me to carry my bookmarks from computer to computer without ever needing to dig for a Post-It note.

4. Stop Attending Meetings

Why bother leaving the building (home or office) when there are so many easy ways to conference online?   Skype offers free calls AND free conferencing.  If you need visuals, try a service like GoToMeeting , which provides online meeting and collaboration software.

5. Reduce Snail Mail

More and more companies now offer an electronic billing and other notifications. Request that all communications be sent via email rather than snail mail to reduce the paper sent to your business. And take advantage of email filtering to automatically send incoming messages to their proper folders to head off overstuffing your email box.

Individuals can Greenify, too, both at the office and at home.  And the best thing, you don’t have to be the boss or wait for a memo to get started.  We’ll have more of these tips later in the week, so be sure to check back.


Greenify Your Business Meetings

July 20, 2009

When was the last time you went to a professional conference?  Convention?  Community meeting?  Was it green?

According to a new survey of companies that manage associations and not-for-profit groups, four out of five such gatherings in 2008 were “greener” than in the previous year.  In addition, roughly one-third of organizations with plans in the works to meet say they are willing to increase their budgets to ensure a greener meeting.  That’s increase is being seen even in the current era of recessionary spending.

“In the tightening economy, where for-profit and not-for-profit companies alike are cutting back on resources and programming, it’s impressive that one-third of associations surveyed are increasing meeting budgets in the name of sustainability, according to John Francis, president of the Association Management Company (AMC) board of directors.  AMC books 29,000 meetings per year, including 2 million room nights and $1 billion in meetings and conventions annually.

AMC’s results show that the associations are committed to social responsibility and making the most of their meetings platforms and that increasingly, greening materials and meeting activities are sending an eco-friendly message to association members and convention-goers.

A green meeting incorporates environmental considerations to minimize negative impact on the environment.  In order to qualify as a “green meeting,” organizers must go beyond the basic “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” to include other innovative efforts to greenify. 

For example, some meeting planners go ‘paperless,’ and put all communications on the internet.  Their registration is online along with advertising on the Web.   Onsite registration and communication is also frequently electronic. 

When I mentioned that I had gone to a food technologist convention recently, one thing I didn’t mention (because it hadn’t happened at that time) was the ongoing outreach and advertising to clients.  Because they raffled things off at the convention using electronic registration, they got an email address for all interested participants.  The stream of email coming into my registration box has been almost endless since the convention closed.


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