Eat Your Vegetables - After You Grow Them!

May 1, 2009

Can we talk about vegetables today?  Many of us are putting in gardens this year.  We may or may not have grown our own vegetables and fruits in the past, but this year, by golly, is the year that Mrs. Obama said the President will be out with his basket and spade, and so we are determined to green up our back and side yards, add some herbs on a window ledge, or maybe even just do some jars of sprouts for salads. 
 
But what happens when you go out to check those little sprouts and see dark little crawly things hanging all over the tender leaves that you worked so hard to bring out of the ground?  You're going to eat these things, so you don't want to use something chemical-y, right?  But how green are those pesticides they sell for home garden use?
 
Most insecticides, both synthetic and natural, interfere with insects' nerve transmissions. DDT, lindane and Ortho cause insect neurons to fire randomly, causing spasms and death.  Sounds tasty, doesn't it?  Well, not really.

They're less harmful to mammals, but in the environment they break down into toxic chemicals that can last for decades, move into ground water, and poison all sorts of animals.

But having never grown chives that did not suffer the ravages of bugs that sucked the lifeblood out of them, leaving them yellow and dead, I personally am neither sympathetic to insects nor desirous of consuming nerve poisons, even in minute amounts.

Many of the newer green pesticides have a unique mode of action that targets insects to block a key neurotransmitter receptor site.

"The neurotransmitter in insects is called octopamine; it is basically the insects' version of adrenaline," explains Gary Stamer of Chemtec Pest Control, based in Saddle Brook, N.J. "The botanicals block the octopamine, resulting in a shutdown of the insect's nervous system. Since only insects have this receptor, there is no harm to mammals, birds or fish."

But how can consumers be certain how green their "natural" pesticide is? Check with the Integrated Pest Management Institute of North America, which awards its Green Shield Certification (GSC) to services that use non-chemical approaches to pest control, and use approved pesticides only when necessary.

You can grow a garden, Greenify just a little and enjoy your own vegetables safely this summer, without poisoning yourself or the environment around you. 


Bring Your Lunch to Greenify and Save Money

April 30, 2009

Want to Greenify, save money and improve your health at the same time?  I have three words for you: bring your lunch.
 
Bringing your lunch to work can save you the time and mental disconnect/reconnect of having to go out for it.  It saves on money because a lunch you prepare at home from healthy, well-chosen ingredients can cost substantially less and at the same time, it can improve your health as you learn to make better nutritional choices.
 
To get started, you'll want to choose some reusable, "green" supplies to let you safety and conveniently bring and store food from home.  This may seem counter-intuitive on cost savings because you'll want to invest in the best tools to get started, but choose wisely and you'll be ahead of the game.
 
There are numerous websites offering eco-friendly lunchboxes, bags, and utensils.  This one at Pristine Planet features some interesting choices.
 
Also Go Green Lunch Boxes has some designs that are powerfully perky.
 
Some of these containers are going to have plastic, which isn't preferred by me, but may be liked by you.  As long as you reuse it, it's still an improvement over throw-away styrofoam containers, in my humble, lunch-eater's opinion.
 
But for my money, nothing beats a tiffin tin.   
 
I think I bought mine in a container store about ten years ago.  I've been using it to store little bits of this-n-that in the kitchen where it works quite wonderfully.  But, the only downside of this type of container is that of course, you can't stuff if in the microwave to heat your lunch.  But for durability, reusability and general stylishness, it can't be beat.  Toss in some cool reusable utensils made of sustainable bamboo easily picked up at Target, Crate N Barrel or just about any other department store and you're home free.
 
Bringing your lunch to work can't be beat either.  I'm going to jump off on what goes inside, but try to keep it close to home and organic.  If leftover meatloaf is what you have, well, you are the lucky one!  I hope you're eating it on whole grain bread with some really good mustard.   I'm betting that this year, bringing lunch to work is the Greenifying, economizing, nutritionalizing retro-trend of the year. 


Greenify Your Business

April 13, 2009

If you’re looking for a new business or to Greenify an existing business, have you considered bicycle deliveries?  A business in Portland, Oregon was trying to figure out ways to make their delivery service more earth-friendly, and they got the idea to start doing deliveries on bicycles.

It’s very old school. And in a few major cities, bicycle curriers are a frequently used delivery system.  But this is something different. 

They use special cargo bicycles. The business is “B-Line Sustainable Urban Delivery.  They’re a start-up formed by the husband and wife team of Kathryn and Franklin Racine-Jones. 

“We hope B-Line can help add green core jobs and create a different type of city.  We’re trying to create a new model of distributing goods in urban areas.”

The duo moved to Portland from the San Francisco Bay area about 9 months ago. They were looking for a place that was open and interested in greener ways of doing business.  Portland is known for bikes and enjoying earth-friendly approaches to doing business.  So far, so good, right?

Their idea is simple.  They’re using specially modified cargo bikes to deliver goods within Portland, also known as “The Rose City.”   They are doing more good deeds than you might think.  They’re using fewer natural resources (although the bikers’ legs might argue that!) sparing downtown streets from the wear and tear of large delivery trucks, and providing a very earth-friendly link in a company’s distribution chain. 

All in all, a great Greenification effort that is truly going the last mile.


Green at the Grocer’s

April 3, 2009

Did you ever wonder about the food you eat?  Sure, it looks healthy, but could you green it up a notch and make it healthier for you and the earth?   Sustainable food is a movement across the country that seeks to Greenify the food industry, but could also improve your nutrition.

Fuel used to ship your food is the culprit in this scenario.  If you plan ahead now to grow your own tomatoes, a few herbs and some squash in a backyard garden, you’ll be saving yourself a few dollars, control the use of pesticides and fertilizer, and at the same time, cut down on customers for expensive shipped produce and food items.

Don’t have a green thumb?  We understand that. (Boy, do some of us understand that one!)  But how about if you buy your produce at a Farmer’s Market? 

These days, you have to check, because lots of “farmers” at markets these days are actually buying shipped products wholesale and showing up to sell them at markets.  They won’t usually be dishonest about where the vegetables were grown and under what conditions, but sometimes you do have to ask to get the truth.

And what will you get for your trouble?  Locally grown food, usually organic, healthy and safe for all members of your family to eat.  It’s better for you. It’s also better for your children.  Nutritionists say parents can help cut childhood obesity rates by shopping at the outer edges of the store: that’s the produce and fresh meat section. That means stepping away from canned, over-processed foods that have hidden sugars, fats, and other unhealthy additives.

So invest in a lunchbox.  Eating sustainable food may cost a little more and it may require more time and effort on your part.  But the dividends it pays in terms of health, cutting your carbon footprint, and committing to Greenification may grow as time goes on.


Buzz Building for Green Businesses

March 26, 2009

Are you noticing more talk about green business?  More advertisements by large, international companies about "sustainable energy sources," new listings at business conferences for added "green business opportunity panels," and even President Barack Obama on the “Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, talking about electric cars going over 150 miles as Leno smiled and added that he already owns a car that runs on hydrogen, which is "an entirely different technology."
 
These increases in "buzz" about Greenification are a healthy sign for our world.  Our planet is in a state of emergency: we are consuming and polluting at a rate 25% faster than the planet can sustain.  That fact has to change or we and our children are doomed.  We may no longer be able to “buy cheaper from Asian producers” because of the cost in terms of carbon. 
 
In the coming months, we're going to be encouraged to support business within our borders.  And as part of that, I suggest we also look for green businesses that are local and sustainable, too. 

Buying local equals buying greener.  Have you ever thought about the effort needed to get a product made in a small town in rural Georgia to market in Portland, Oregon, for instance?  The product has to be packaged for sale, re-packed for shipping, then put on a truck or train (or both) and then unloaded from that container into a warehouse, re-loaded for shipping to a store before being placed on a shelf.  Isn't there a greener way? 
 
Look around for local producers of products that you buy from remote producers.  Prices are changing because of the recession and things that were once out of consideration may now be priced more attractively.  That would also make a case for them being a lot more planet-friendly.  
 
We have to find a balance between the social and natural systems in a world where people on one land-mass consume resources at 5 or ten times the rate of people in other regions.   We need to Greenify as one world in order to save our one world.  


Greenify… the Economy or the Environment?

March 4, 2009

There’s a battle shaping up in Florida right now. Call it “Greenification versus Employment.”  And it’s struggle that’s going to be shaping up in other locations around the country.

To light a fire under the Sunshine State’s frozen economy, some legislators are seeking to "streamline" a slew of environmental and growth regulations.  They are proposing everything from erasing or weakening protections for wetlands and wildlife to cutting requirements that developers improve roads to handle the traffic glut involved in building new projects.

One proposed law that is already drawn up could have major implications for urban counties like Miami-Dade and Broward as it virtually eliminates state oversight of new mega-developments. Other proposed measures could bar Miami-Dade County from enforcing its own environmental rules which are tougher than the state’s standards.

Advocates argue a regulatory overhaul, which is backed by builder and industry groups, could spur growth and jobs by making "duplicative" permitting processes for homes, offices and other buildings cheaper and faster.

These days, with the current economic “contraction,” we are all worried about the economy. We are all worried about jobs.  But the choice isn’t employment or environment; it’s as President Barack Obama says “doing the right thing for right now, or making the tough choice for long term benefit.”

As for the proposals in Florida, Charles Pattison, executive director of 1,000 Friends of Florida, an advocacy group that promotes "smart growth" policy, said he supported encouraging construction in cities, but said the bill's definition of "urban" could wind up promoting more sprawl.

"This is like trying to build our way out of the problem," Pattison said. "What we did in the past didn't work, so let's do it again, only more of it."

We know we’ve made the short term choice in the past and we’re not in a good spot now.  So maybe it’s time to try to do both: Greenify the planet and green up our economy, too. 


Greenifying At Your Desk

February 24, 2009

This blog doesn't endorse TV programs or products, but did you see the Academy Awards Sunday night?  Right in the middle of it all was a commercial (or two) for Apple
Computer's new laptop.  It's got a 17 inch screen, gorgeous resolution, is ultra-lightweight and all those other usual super "Apple" technological improvements that we've done to love and expect.
 
But this commercial bragged about something else.  It bragged about the battery.  It seems this battery can be charged to last as much as eight full hours on one plug-in.  And it can be recharged about 1000 times.  The advertisement pointed out that's three times the battery life that one normally gets for the ever-popular laptops that seem to be powering our businesses and lives these days.
 
Now, we're not suggesting that you run right out and buy an Apple 17-inch laptop.  That would be very expensive (Nobody said they were cheap; they start at over $2000 each) and also defeat that wonderful Greenifying aspect of the computer, namely fewer laptops and batteries in our landfills.  No, keep using the one you have until the very end of its life.

It's just nice to see that companies are starting to get it. They get that there's an alternative, Greenifying laptop computer choice out on the market right now.  And chances are, by the time that you are ready to replace or upgrade what you are working with now, all the other computer companies will be offering similar long-lasting chargeables with extra-long battery life, too.  And the prices will probably come down, as well.
 
It's good to see companies offering ways to Greenify businesses.  It's great to see that they understand that being “environmentally sound” is a marketable, advertise-able benefit that will bring in sales.  And it'll be even better when everybody gets in the Greenification game on that aspect of doing business.


New Ways to Greenify for Old Items: Upcycling

February 12, 2009

Upcycling is the newest way to Greenify our lives and businesses.  And here at the Green Business Alliance, we’re hoping it will catch on.  What is upcycling? 

You may have been to art galleries in the past where artists were taking found items (which can also be described as junkyard trash) and turning them into new and useful things.  It’s kind of like that, with less focus on looks and more on purpose.  Wikipedia defines “upcycling as turning waste items into new, usable items.”  And it generally involves a certain level of creative ingenuity.

Lots of folks these days are upcycling things and making small businesses out of it.  There are websites (http://www.etsy.com/) that focus on selling such repurposed materials, carefully and cleverly recycled into marketable products that then get further use by new owners.  Imagine seeing an old pair of jeans “upcycled” into an expensive designer handbag.  It’s been done.

Our grandparents did this to a certain extent.  They used old newspapers and magazines to light fireplaces and firepits.  These days, we know not to do that because those magazines can contain inks that become toxic when burned.  But there is still a lot to learn here.

As a child, every parent in my hometown made a springtime trip to the elementary school to round up some small milk cartons.  Those cartons were then “upcycled” to use for starting vegetable seedlings for the family garden.  Sometimes, you can spot those who grew up in a small town, huh?

But if we look for those small ways to reuse a resource, then perhaps we’ll utilize the materials more fully.  A little upcycling could also be known as “Greenification” at the most basic level: using something more completely before we put it out to be recycled again.


Earth Day Planner: Personal Observance

February 10, 2009

How do you plan to observe Earth Day, 2009?  It’s coming up in April and if you plan now, you can Greenify and observe it simultaneously at home and at work.

Here are some easy suggestions for how:

  • Close up shop for the day to give employees a chance to go to the Festivities in your town.  Save on resources and enjoy a day of honoring the Earth.
  • No festivities to observe?  Stay open and offer an Earth Day “commemorative token” to each customer who comes in that day.  Preferably, something with the business’ name and contact information on it.   We like apples and if you start now, you can get some nifty stickers with your company logo printed in food-friendly non-toxic ink.
  • Treat Earth Day as the start of the planet’s New Year and resolve to do more to Greenify.
  • Make a contribution to a favorite green organization.
  • Plant a tree or bush.  Better yet, offer seedlings to your customers to plant.  They are remarkably inexpensive when purchased through the Arbor Day Foundation.
  • Remind family members that it is Earth Day and discuss with youngsters why this is important.

Whatever you do on Earth day, know that the most important thing is free: to recognize the Earth’s importance and our individual stewardships in taking care of it.   We’ve wounded our Earth in some ways, so we’ve got plenty of Greenification opportunities to go around.


A Greenification Success Story: U.S. Postal Service

January 20, 2009

We all know that this year, we’re going to have to Greenify in two ways: for the environment and for our back-pockets.  The economic concerns that are hitting our businesses are mounting but what if we could help the environment AND cut our costs?

The United States Postal Service said it did that last year, saving $5 Million by consolidating some of its transportation. 

The USPS deployed a transportation optimization system that consolidated trips.  The program was developed with IBM to analyze operations, loads, and routes to determine the best way to make sure the mail gets through while saving gas and expensive employee hours.

The Highway Corridor Analytic Program (HCPA) was put in place in 2006.  It helps USPS find the best way to allocate mail among its transportation resources.

Of course, the Postal Service has various transportation methods for moving around mail, depending on the type of mail and when it needs to be delivered. Our letters and packages flow through a number of networks, along processing routes and into distribution centers with some trips still overlapping.

But they did it!  They looked for ways to conserve and they did, saving energy, lowering cost, shrinking their carbon footprint and in the end, cutting the bottom line.  (You may use mostly email, but doesn’t it still bug you every time they ask for an increase in the price of stamps?)

Could you use a similar system on a smaller basis for your business?  You might be able to do it the old-fashioned way, on paper (or a spreadsheet) and without involving IBM.  Organize your schedule of weekly (monthly, quarterly) deliveries and pickups.  Talk to your drivers and customers.  Then lay out the routes, times, truck capacities, and end points. 

This year may be the year that doing a little extra brain-work offers the extra businesses that keep the bottom line in the black.  Simply spotting a few overlapping delivers could save money and allow you to Greenify.

Back to the USPS: savings of $1.3 million annually in Chicago, $3.7 million on the West Coast, and $400,000 in Greensboro and Pittsburgh, adding up to more than $5 million and over 615,000 gallons of gas saved per year.  That’s Greenification that gets thru in wind, sleet, or snow!


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