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.


Cutting Noise Pollution thru Greenification

June 9, 2009

Have you heard what’s out there lately?  I mean literally.  Have you listened to the level of noise right outside your home or business?

Noise pollution is one of the most painful forms of pollution on a personal level.  It’s insidious, building slowly and as a result, there’s more of it out there than ever before.

The biggest creators of noise are often some of the most high-carbon-pollution creating industries, too.  In particular, such pollution comes from transportation systems, motor vehicle noise, and aircraft and rail noise.  Poor urban planning also blasts heavy sound abuse in our ears, since side-by-side industrial and residential buildings can introduce noise pollution into our home lives.

Other heavy-offenders are sources like car alarms, office equipment, factory machinery, construction work, groundskeeping equipment, barking dogs, appliances, power tools, overhead lighting hum, audio entertainment systems, loudspeakers and well, just plain noisy people.

In the past, it’s been hard to separate the noise from the people, so we suffered and wished for silence.  But these days, modern construction practices can restore the quiet indoors at least.

But how do we build barriers against the outdoor sound to cut as much as possible?  In our parents’ day, the answer was truly green: trees cut sound and they Greenify the plant.

These days, that’s still a viable solution, if you have the room and the support of your neighbors.  Trees beautify the planet, create oxygen, and provide natural homes for birds and other wildlife.   You can also purchase manmade materials for a sound wall, most often build of a renewable wood resource, or sometimes recycled plastic (certified “green!”) to absorb the sounds that pollute our planet. 

Either way, take time to consider noise pollution.  And find a green solution for yourself and those around you.


White House Update: Keeping Promises Greenly

June 3, 2009

Did you see the news this weekend?  The President of the United States took his wife on a date including dinner and a play in New York City.  On Saturday, after watching their daughter Malia play soccer earlier in the day, Barack and Michelle Obama flew to New York taking their Secret Service officers, the media and a few staffers with them.

"I am taking my wife to New York City because I promised her during the campaign that I would take her to a Broadway show after it was all finished," the president said in a statement read to members of the media by an aide.

There was quite a lot of hubbub about the cost and money wasted by flying the First Couple and their security and media entourage to New York.  But that’s a story for a different blog. 

What I found interesting was the choice of restaurant: Blue Hill, a West Village restaurant that is described by New York magazine as a "seminal Greenmarket haven," featuring food grown by chef-owner Dan Barber at a farm he owns upstate.

Restaurants were one of the first types of businesses to pursue greener operations.  One of the leaders was Alice Waters, who began the “slow food” effort to provide high quality organic seasonal cuisine at her restaurant Chez Panisse in the San Francisco Bay area years ago. Ms. Waters believes that the international shipment of mass-produced food is both harmful to the environment and produces an inferior product for the consumer, therefore, she decided to Greenify her tables by offering her customers locally produced, seasonal organic cuisine.  And she’s won dozens of awards in doing so.

Since then, other restaurants have gotten on the bandwagon.  They’ve seen that diners are attracted to healthy, fresh-tasting, organic cuisine.  They are willing to pay more for interesting and well-done seasonal cuisine.  And that success can follow through waving the greenification flag high overhead.

The restaurant listed above is part of New York City’s effort to Greenify its produce.  The Council on the Environment of New York City has this website to help its consumers learn about local farmers and what they are offering:
http://www.cenyc.org/greenmarket

The site spotlights what began as “12 farmers in a vacant lot in 1976,” but has become one of the largest farmers market networks in the country.   The restaurant the Obamas dined at is listed on the website as shopping for some of its fresh produce there. 

It’s nice to see the President making good on campaign promises to all his supporters and doing it in a way that can, at some level, be thought of as green.


Green Is Green, Except When It’s Pink!

June 1, 2009

Going green and the work involved to Greenify homes and offices is going to help a lot of people this year.  You knew that, right? 

The stimulus package put in place by President Barack Obama includes $5 billion in funds for low-income U.S. households for energy-efficiency upgrades.  That includes everything from new double-paned windows and doors to “the pink stuff” insulation going into attics.

While these dollars will help these lower-income Americans, the money will also help businesses.  Those dollars will purchase insulation. They’ll buy caulking and weather-stripping.  And provide furnace and air-conditioning tune-ups.  

In doing so, those dollars will also pay for salaries of manufacturing plant workers at window and door factories.  They will pay the guy to install the doors and windows and insulation.  And any other project that the government deems helpful in both providing improved energy efficiency and of course, stimulating dollars back into the American economy.

The government has accepted applications for federal weatherization funds through this month, with thousands of companies, community groups, governments and others vying for stimulus dollars.  And tens of thousands of applications have been filed for the dollars in almost every state in the nation.  The government’s dollars are only now beginning to filter out of Washington.  The full impact should be felt by September: just in time for home and businesses to fully utilize improved energy efficiency.  

But Greenification is coming: both improved energy efficient heating and insulation and greening up the economy.  And pinking up attics everywhere.


Painting your roof tops White?!

May 27, 2009

Yes, you read the title of this blog correct. White roof tops was a topic of conversation in London yesterday at a climate change symposium. In an effort to Greenify our nation, one of the outcomes of this symposium is that the Obama administration wants homeowners to paint their roofs an energy-reflecting white color.

US Energy Secretary Steven Chu represented the United States at this London event. He also indicated that light-colored (or "cool-coloured") pavement and cars could also mean energy savings for our country.

Click here to read more about how the US wants to paint the World White, and the positive environmental effects these actions may have, in Tuesday's blog post on Yahoo Green.


Get Ready for Summer

May 20, 2009

Are you Greenifying in advance of summer?  Time to get ready for the heat waves before they hit!  And it needn’t be expensive.  In fact, it should save you some cash over time.

First off, how old is that A/C unit?  Running your air conditioner this summer can be one of your business’ biggest expenses.  But there are ways to increase energy efficiency and lower your energy bills.  How old is your air-conditioning unit?  Is it energy efficient?  Federal minimum efficiency standards for room air conditioners were revised in October, 2000.  That means if it may need to be replaced. 

Also, do you have a programmable thermostat?  These are relatively inexpensive and easy to install devices that allow you to program both air conditioning and heat to comfort levels when you and customers are in the office, but turn them down for energy efficiency when business hours are over. 

Check for whether caulking needs updating.  You’d be surprised how much expensive cold air can leak out of small cracks and crevices.  You’ll be even more surprised how much energy a $4 tube of caulk can save.

Go old school.  If you have curtains or blinds, shut them when the sun is shining through your windows.   Blocking the sunshine out will keep out a measure of the heat and allow for savings.

When people say, "it's not the heat, it's the humidity," they are right. If you have a dehumidifier, turn it on when the temperature rises. Getting rid of the humidity will help make business feel more comfortable. 

Also, get a fan.  Sometimes, all you really need is some movement in the air.   An overhead fan is the most thorough way to circulate air, but you may want portable fans to allow you to focus the movement.  And where possible, open the front and back door.  Circulating the air all the way through can help alleviate humidity and feeling of closeness.

The heat is coming.  Take a few moments now to make sure you can stay as comfortable and green as possible.


Green Means Less White (Paper)

May 15, 2009

Have you looked in your recycling bin lately?  Oh sure, you’re putting as much paper, cans, plastic and glass into the recycling system as possible, saving as much landfill space as you can.  That’s great news for the making your business more green, but could you go further?  Could you Greenify more by using less paper?

The government says Americans use 85 million pounds of paper and cardboard products annually at work and at home.  That much paper, without any consideration to source and style of manufacture can be hard on our environment.  We’re permanently deforesting lands, using energy and water in a production process that generates greenhouse gases and hazardous by-product AND packing the final result into landfills.

What are our greener options?  

First, instead of a letter, how about an email?  Can you do business electronically?  Sometimes, it’s just not possible.  But other times, you can and should do it.  And sometimes, clients appreciate a little less paper and more speed, too.

Second, use recycled paper when and where possible.  Yes, it does cost more, but if you can afford it even a few days per month, that’s still saving some resources, isn’t it?

Third, study those labels.  If the paper isn’t “fully recycled,” how about using products that contain some post-consumer waste?   The higher, the percentage, the better the paper is for the environment. A chasing-arrows symbol may simply mean a paper product is recyclable, while the word "recycled" may refer to only a small percentage of recovered fibers.

Fourth, demand certification.  Some groups certify that the virgin fiber used in any given paper comes from responsibly managed forests.  The most acknowledge certification comes from the Forest Stewardship Council. Check with your printer or paper supplier to see whether it carries FSC-certified lines.

And finally, look into tree-free options. Some manufacturers are starting to make paper from agricultural crops and residues.  Tree-free material is available for personal use (think cards and invites), but before buying, investigate its origins and the farming practices used.  You can find a list of suppliers here.

You want to make your business just a little greener?  A great start is to make it a lot less white. 


Greenifying Government, One Job at a Time

May 14, 2009

I've signed up for work as a government contractor and as such, been assigned a new email account which is connected to my government contractor listing on a website somewhere.  Already I am getting emails encouraging me, via the government contractor site, to "certify and go green!"   As if I needed any encouragement?

I do find this encouraging, if a bit stunning.  We have all heard President Barack Obama, now in the second hundred days of his administration, is making good on his promises to further environmental causes and alternative energy research.  It's amazing when you see it laid on your front door step. 
 
The most recent email is from a group offering to assist contractors and businesses with efforts to certify as a green product or service, or as having implemented a green manufacturing process.  The government wants to hire green contractors, so this group is offering an online self-certification process allowing small businesses to create a customized certification site with advertising tools as well as a "certification seal" from the group.  The company boasts being the "nation's leading certification for green business with over 45,000 certifications in the United States."
 
The government is intending to hire more green businesses and green contractors.  (Since my "business" is writing, I'm guessing all I'll need to do is use a lower-powered laptop rather than a full size PC!)  They are making it clear to contractors that the road ahead is green with opportunity. 
 
They are also offering homeowners opportunities to improve the energy efficiency of current structures and drivers to turn in gas guzzling "clunkers" for cash.  These are great opportunities to Greenify with the government's help.  Some of these Greenification efforts will save thousands of dollars over the life of the house or car. 


Pat Yourself on the Sack!

May 7, 2009

How often do we hand out an “atta boy” around here?  That’s an old-school phrase for a pat on the back or a “job well done!” type of compliment. I want to bring your attention to something changing at the most basic of levels: the common human experience of the grocery store.  Are you noticing (like I am) that every time you step into the grocery store, you see more and more people pulling out their reusable grocery sacks? 

Although I haven’t seen figures yet, it seems I am constantly surrounded by people who are bringing their own usable sacks.  And I’m liking what I see.

Manufacturers are also offering more options.  Instead of just a more durable plastic sack, there are now options that don’t involve plastic.  They are made of fabric and here are a few that I’ve seen with increasing frequency:

•  String bags.  This bag is extremely lightweight, yet able to carry an immense amount of groceries.  Its ability to stretch is almost unparalleled.  Just when you think you’re done, you find one more item that has to go in.   And it does.
•  Lightweight nylon bags.  The cool thing about this alternative is that it fits in with the current system for bagging groceries at the check-out counter. It is a more durable but still lightweight material compared to the plastic bag. But again it lacks structure when loading.
•  Heavyweight nylon bags.  These are made to last a lifetime. Tote bags are often made of this heavy nylon. It resembles a traditional paper grocery bag with some added handles; it stands nicely on its own for easy packing. However with that durability and quality of materials comes a not-so-compact package. It folds similarly to a paper grocery bag.
•  Environmental friendly people want to be associated and seen with natural fabric bags. Available in soft and natural hues, some bags ooze class and concern. Multicolored patchwork bags, printed bags, embroidered and embossed bags are everyone's favorite.

I’m guessing that soon we will find ourselves customizing our own bags and adding a little of “this or that” to distinguish them from other people’s bags.  Individualism is encouraged, but think of the possibilities for your business as you put walking advertisement of your friendship with the earth into the hands of customers who will then carry them everywhere. 

We’re already seeing more of these and it’s wonderful to behold.  It means that Greenification is going forward.  And maybe someday, those disposable, life-sucking plastic bags will be gone. 


Spring Forward to Greenify!

May 5, 2009

We're finally feeling the Spring temperatures in most areas of the United States, which means it’s time to get out and enjoy the warm air and sun on our faces.  How can you do that and gather the gang for some Greenification?  How about a little community project? 

You’ve seen those signs along the side of the freeway: "Adopted by Acme Business Supply."  Ever wonder what that "adoption" entails?  Usually, it means contacting your state or local municipality to formally sponsor taking care of the side of the highway, clearing it of litter and debris.  It could be your business’ name instead of “Acme Business Supply” on the roadside sign.

That’s right: you sponsor the section of the highway.  In most states, you aren’t expected to get out there to clean and maintain that section yourself.  They do it for you as part of the sponsorship fee.  But maybe you’d like that opportunity?

I was walking through my neighborhood this past weekend when I saw a discarded takeout container.  It surprised me, because I was in the “gated” section where such littering usually doesn’t happen.  I picked up the container because it was so out of place that I felt a little leaving it there.  I walked it over to another neighbor’s recycling bin where I tucked it safely inside.

You can do that anytime, anyplace, you know.  If you see a cup or plate out of place, you can just pick it up and carry it to a waste receptacle.  Nobody has to tell you that it’s not a pretty sight.  You can just properly dispose of it when you spot such littering. 

Of course, if you’d like to pay to sponsor the greenification of a section of roadway, that’s great, too.   But maybe grab a picnic lunch and the office gang some weekend and go find a street you can clean on your own.  Since it’s greenification not glorification that’s the goal, it’s all good in our thinking.  And maybe it’ll make the Spring flowers smell a little sweeter, too.

 

 


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