Bush’s Greenification Legacy

January 12, 2009

With just days left in his final term, President George Bush is making an effort to Greenify his legacy: he’s designating three remote Pacific Ocean regions as national monuments, thereby establishing the largest marine preserve ever created.

The new Mariana Trench, Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll Marine National Monuments encompass 195,280 square miles of high seas barred from fishing, mining and other uses. 

The Mariana Trench is famous as the world’s deepest canyon at 36,000 feet and the surrounding area will be the largest of the three protected regions at 95,222 square miles.  It’s a natural wonder that most of us will never see, but home to billions upon billions of living organisms.  A chain of 21 underwater volcanoes and vents ring this deepest of all ocean floors.

Endangered birds, sharks, and other marine wildlife live within all of these regions.  The seven-island Pacific Remote Islands monument covers 86,607 square miles while he Rose Atoll is much smaller at 13,451 square miles.  The smaller monument includes the world’s smallest coral atoll which is just 15 acres.  “These locations are truly among the last pristine areas in the marine environment on Earth,” says James Connaughton, head of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality.

The protected area eclipses the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument at 139,797 square miles, designated by President Bush in 2006, and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Reserve at 133,000 square miles.

“Taken together, this president has protected far more of the threatened and vital places in the sea than any other,” says Joshua Reichert of the Pew Environmental Group, which advocates for conservation of ocean areas.  But not everyone favors the plan.

We feel the monument is not based on science and is a feel-good attempt by the administration to leave some sort of legacy on the environment,” says Wayne Heikkila of the Western Fishboat Owners Association, in Redding, CA.

While no one is suggesting that this means the Republican President will go down in history as a “Leader for the Environment,” it seems clear that if more world leaders would attempt to “feel-good” the same way, we’d have more Greenification at an international level, more inspiration to act for the environment by business and individuals, and generally, a world that more of us would feel good about.


At Home with Greenification

January 8, 2009

This blog is being written at the computer of a favorite niece at her home in a small rural town.  My niece and her husband are a struggling young couple with two small children and a desire for her to be able to stay home and raise well-balanced, productive and contributing adults.  I just asked them if they had any plans to Greenify this year?

“Well, we just bought CFL light bulbs and switched those out on all our lamps and fixtures,” said Niece.  Her husband added that he's still focusing his attention on his electric car that he's been alternately building and burning out the engine.  (He's quite handy, and truly the consummate recycler with finding ways to change and reuse different items.)

They aren't a wealthy pair.  He was laid off late last year and fortunately, has since found other employment for some of his graphic arts and animation talent and skills.  But he's still poking around for the “perfect job.”

But they want to keep the beautiful area (adjacent to several national parks) unspoiled and reduce their carbon footprint.  I overheard them discussing the roof they recently had replaced, saying that the old one apparently sealed in the heat much better than its replacement.  The old roof was effectively gathering heat and warming the rest of the house. In order to be energy efficient, it seems they may need to consider adding more insulation.

They are also fortunate that they don't need to drink bottled water.  The area where they live is in a remote and arid part of a western state.  Water bubbles up from natural aquifers, tasting sweet and pure. By drinking it and giving it to their children, they are getting a few natural minerals and the little bit of fluoride (beneficial to their children's teeth) provided by the tiny community in which they live.

It's a good life they have, here in this remote area where neighbors often don't lock doors at night and crime is almost unheard of.   But they are doing what little bits they can to Greenify: light bulbs that consume less energy, an electric car (sometimes!), energy efficiency in heating and air-conditioning, and fresh, good tasting, healthy water from their taps.  It's the little things that make life and Greenification worth doing, don't you agree?


A little Greenification to Get Started

January 7, 2009

2009 may be a tough year to Greenify.  If it's tough for you, as it may be for many businesses during this recessionary economy, consider taking smaller steps towards reducing your carbon footprint.  Using recycled paper is one such area.    

Recycled paper is the end product of paper recycling. The production of recycled paper has significant environmental advantages over virgin (nonrecycled) paper production, including less impact on forest resources, less air pollution, less water pollution, less water consumption, less energy consumption, and less solid waste.  

Recycled paper is produced in most varieties that virgin paper is produced, with quality generally equal to virgin paper. 

But here's the problem: prices for recycled printing and writing papers are generally slightly higher than for virgin printing and writing papers, because of a much smaller economy of scale for recycled paper production. Recycled papers still comprise less than 10 percent of the printing and writing manufacturing and market.

That cost margin can hit a small business like a ton of bricks, weighing down on profits that already may be slipping in the last several months.  What can be done?  Some businesses may want to take smaller steps this year.  And that's an excellent place to begin

If every business would buy and use recycled paper for even a few days or one week per month, the savings in carbon output would help Greenify our planet.  We have to begin somewhere and while a small step may seem insignificant to some, it is not unimportant to the whole of our environment.  You can afford to Greenify, even if only for one day or week.  And our world can't afford not to start someplace.


The Greenification of the White House

January 2, 2009

What can we expect from the new Obama administration going into the White House?  What will the Obama Presidency mean for businesses trying to become more green?  If it’s any consolation to us, this should be a banner set of years for businesses hoping to Greenify as the Democratic President is expected to put forward numerous proposals that will forward environmental causes such as mitigating global warming, promotion of “green” industries and alternative energy, while cracking down on toxic chemicals in our environment. 

So far, President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Lisa Jackson as his nominee to head the EPA.  The nominee is said to be tough on enforcement of laws and regulation.  Jackson ran New Jersey's state environmental agency before becoming the chief of staff for the governor in the Garden State.  Before that, she was at the EPA for 16 years in Washington, D.C., and New York. Under Obama, she would be part of a three-person team that would oversee environmental policy.

The other two serving with her are Carol Browner, who directed the EPA under the Clinton administration and would oversee climate-change policy out of Obama's White House; and Nancy Sutley, a deputy Los Angeles mayor who would run the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Obama has chosen Steven Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to be his energy secretary, and Rep. Hilda L. Solis, a California Democrat, to become labor secretary, charged with enforcing workplace safety laws, among other duties.

Many Washington insiders are noticing that numerous of these positions are being filled by Californians, giving the state a hefty chunk of influence.  Starting in the 1970s, when it became the first state to establish its own auto emissions standards under the federal Clean Air Act, California has been considered a trendsetter.

After the state banned a class of chemicals, phthalates, from children's products last year, 12 states introduced similar bans.

The California ban on phthalates inspired Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to successfully push for a federal prohibition, which takes effect in February. It is a rarity -- the first time Congress has banned a chemical in decades -- and it faced stiff and well-financed opposition from Exxon Mobil, which makes one of the banned chemicals.

Roger Martella, a former EPA general counsel who is an attorney for many corporations affected by environmental regulation, says the strength of democrats in Congress, along with the new administration coming in could see  an era of significant new government action.

"Whether at the end of the day every policy that California has gets implemented on a national level is a matter for debate," Martella said. "At the same time, we'd be foolish to ignore those stars that are lining up."

Which may mean more inspiration, motivation and legislation to help businesses Greenify as the new administration puts its policies in place.


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.

 


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. 


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.


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.


Go Green for The Holidays!

October 20, 2008

Have you thought about how sustainable giving could Greenify your business' holiday season?  Going green for the season means more than just putting up a tree. (We'll talk about that soon enough!)   But first let's consider your annual corporate gift giving?  If you plan now, there are new and better ways to give back to the environment. 
For instance, Renewable Choice gives you the opportunity to invest and promote projects to Go Green.  "Choice Bundles" are unique gifts that invest in wind power development and other forms of carbon dioxide reduction projects that "offset" to help leave the planet a little cleaner and greener for everyone.

At $25 per individual / $55 per family gift, they offset the price of home electricity, auto and flight emissions, even the cost of charging laptops and cell phones.

Another option for the more cost conscious among us are environmentally friendly shopping bags.  You can have them printed up by any of various companies with your company's logo or holiday greetings or both. 

Both of those gifts will need to be ordered well in advance, so start now.  But if you're going to need last minute Greenification gifts, we recommend memberships to any of the environmental groups we've known for years such as…

www.audobon.org (your donation can "go to the Birds!")

www.nature.org (protecting nature. preserving life)

www.sierraclub.org  (Outings with a cause!)

www.arborday.org  (your donation plants trees!)

www.worldwildlife.org  (concern for animals)

www.edf.org (The environmental defense fund)


Joining these groups and help us all have a green holiday season for years to come.   And if you haven't already, give yourself a great gift by joining the Green Business Alliance and help Greenify your office or home for years to come.


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