Your Business’ Paper Policy

November 9, 2009

Have you thought about the paper policy at your business?  Most businesses use a lot of paper.  They write down their dealings with other people, with their employees, their plans for the future, their actions in the past and even their hopes and dreams for the future.  Doing business is a paper-intensive activity.  And paper is resource-intensive stuff.

Let’s think this through.  The benefits of a smart paper policy (ie, recycling paper and using both sides before ultimately recycling it through to its next life) are as follows:

• Saves your business money.  A typical business uses 350 pounds of paper per person, per year.  If you think about that, it’s expensive stuff, but the pure expense of getting rid of all that paper, too, is not insignificant.
• Gives you an edge over competitors.  You’re saving money which you can apply elsewhere, but also, as we have certainly seen this year, a tidy marketing edge which your advertising and sales departments can certainly use.
• Boosts morale.  Yes, employees like concerned, environmentally friendly bosses, too.  They want to help.  Get them involved.
• Shows your investors that you’re smarter than the average duck.   Do it!
• Lessens your risk of environmental liabilities.  If you show initiative in this area, you’re more likely to avert environmental issues because you’re on your guard for them.
• Help build market demand for high quality, lower priced recycled products, ultimately cutting your costs.

Yes, there are reasons to develop a sound paper policy.  Not to mention the backaches you’ll save, dragging those bags of used trash and paper out to the dumpster.  Every good reason to Greenify starts at the root level, doesn’t it?


Batteries: The Recycling Process

November 6, 2009

Have you thought lately about batteries?  Those little portable cells of energy you often use?  The global battery market is about $50 billion US, of which roughly $5.5 billion is allocated to rechargeable (secondary) batteries.   US demand now exceeds $14 billion dollars annually, in both the primary (one-time use) and secondary (rechargeable) batteries.  And what happens to those toxic lead-acid batteries when you are done using them?  Here’s a rundown of what happens at the recycler:

On arrival, batteries are broken apart in a hammer mill, which is a machine that hammers the battery into pieces. The broken plastic pieces are then placed into a vat, where the lead and heavy materials fall to the bottom and the plastic floats.  Then the polypropylene pieces are scooped away and the liquids are drawn off, leaving the lead and heavy metals. Each of the materials goes into a different recycling “stream”.

Lead grids, lead oxide, and other lead parts are cleaned and heated within smelting furnaces. The molten melted lead is then poured into ingot molds. After a few minutes, the impurities float to the top of the still molten lead in the ingot molds. These impurities are scraped away and the ingots are left to cool. When the ingots are cool, they’re removed from the molds and sent to battery manufacturers, where they’re re-melted and used in the production of new batteries.

Old battery acid can be handled in two ways: 1) The acid is neutralized with an industrial compound similar to household baking soda. Neutralization turns the acid into water. The water is then treated, cleaned, tested in a waste water treatment plant to be sure it meets clean water standards. 2) The acid is processed and converted to sodium sulfate, an odorless white powder that’s used in laundry detergent, glass, and textile manufacturing.

Of course all of this only works if we recycle batteries.  We’ve got a 99% success rate in recycling batteries, but most of that comes from car and industrial batteries.  Make sure you help with the remaining 1% and help Greenification go all the way.


Greenifying by the Numbers

November 3, 2009

Have you looked in the waste bins at your business lately?  I'm hoping you have and they were empty, except for an odd assortment of mixed media containers, cast-off food items, the occasional piece of styrofoam and odd bits.  We are doing better at recycling in the United States, so let's look at a few numbers. 

1: the number of times that most of the more than 25 billion cartons manufactured in the U.S. are used. 
We could use a lot of work on this area, but we are improving.  The largest category of recycled paper goods was newspapers, which totaled 89% of paper recycling, followed by corrugated cardboard at 72%.

55 percent: the amount of water saved by producing recycled paper as compared to virgin paper.  Recycled paper also takes 60-70 percent less energy to produce than paper from virgin pulp. 
Since many areas of the United States are in permanent drought situations, (including CA, AZ, NV and parts of UT), we need to concern ourselves with recycling paper in order to conserve water. 
Some paper can't be reprocessed because of being soiled by food, etc.

120: the number of tons of steel saved if every UK office worker used one less staple a day.
I added this staple purely for its jaw-dropping effect.  It’s a stunner, don’t you agree?

8 billion: the number of gallons of gas saved if every commuter car in the U.S. carried just one more person. 
We need to carpool in places where we hadn’t thought of it before.  Malls at Christmas?  School parties and holiday gatherings?

In short, with paper products, we're doing pretty well.  Nearly half of the paper used in the USA is now being recycled into new paper products. That's more than glass, metal, plastic and "miscellaneous" combined.
 
Don’t put your home grass clippings out for the landfill.  Both grass clippings and food waste can be easily composted and shouldn't ordinarily be sent to the landfill.  And with the holidays soon coming, it’s a good time to check with your municipality about picking up tree trimmings and Christmas trees and turn them into mulch for parks and landscaped street medians. This has an added benefit of saving irrigation water.
 
We’re doing better.  We have a long way to go and plenty of time to pursue our goals.  But there is no better time to start to Greenify than today.


Loca-Procurement

October 28, 2009

So by now you've heard of the "locavore movement."  You may even be using a locavore approach in your own food shopping and dining habits.  Locavores are people who try to eat foods in season and shop for their fruits and vegetables within a limited distance.  One popular approach is to dine only on foods produced within 100 miles as much as possible.  But how about putting your business on a "100 Mile Diet?"  How about if you tried green procurement?
 
Green procurement would be seeking out goods and services that are less environmentally damaging.  A good portion of a product's "greenness" can often be based on proximity.  And here's good news: goods and services that are produced locally are going to be less environmentally damaging than goods and services produced from afar, as less energy is expended getting them to the consumer.  Many times the savings in terms of shipping a product or hiring in a service can be passed along to purchasers.

Even if all you do is purchase your office supplies from a supplier in the local town, rather than driving to another town to purchase them, consider the carbon emissions eliminated by limiting the distance involved.  You'll almost certainly save money on gas and possibly on the investment of your own valuable time as a business person.  If you tally up the mileage, gas, and general wear and tear on your business vehicle, the savings could be considerable.  They certainly could be sizable for our environment.
 
Some things will not be purchasable in terms of the production aspect.  Few enough companies produce pens or paper; but in the service aspect, the local movement may open wide.  And we can supplement green procurement with reusing and recycling.  The savings in terms of carbon emissions and actual dollars may benefit both sides of the equation, if we:
•  make the office more paperless by printing only when necessary
•  use double-sided printing whenever possible
•  invoice electronically rather than sending invoices through the mail
•  use refillable pens rather than "throwaways"
•  reuse old file folders

We've got a long way to go and lots of little ways that will help us get there, if we Greenify together. 


A Greener Halloween Ahead!

October 26, 2009

With Halloween coming up this weekend, we thought we’d take a sneak peek at some of the various green, sustainable ideas around the cyberworld for the annual Day of the Dead. 

All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween as it has come to be known, has been celebrated for hundreds, if not thousands of years.  It was a pagan harvest celebration that turned spooky, and in recent years has become rather commercial.  Jumbo-sized bags of candy are given away to children wearing plastic masks that obscure their faces and visual fields, making the holiday a little troublesome for parents.   So what’s out there that might be a little greener?

This sustainable design site offers ideas, some of which it claims are last minute:
(I’m particularly fond of the “Where the Wild Things Are” head and footgear for little people.)

Click here to view this site which offers ideas for costumes made of recyclable materials: The bat costume (#5) is a great use for old, broken-down umbrellas you never threw out.

Want to make the scene among the SERIOUSLY GREEN?  Click here for an idea on that.

Sending the kids out for tricks or treats?  Give them a reusable bag for their loot, which oddly enough, the Jane Goodall Institute is offering for sale here:
Begs the question “what do chimps know about tricks or treats?” doesn’t it?

If you are hosting or attending a neighborhood party, then you will want to make your own special holiday treats, but otherwise, we all know to stick to the commercially prepared items, because no one wants to worry about tampered with items.  Or see a child upset when parents remove something in question. 

And the day after, don’t forget to remind the kids that candy wrappers go in litter receptacles.  And that jack ‘o lantern will make great compost to be used on your lawn next summer.  So tuck it in the bin behind the house after you’ve enjoyed it for a day or two.  You’ll thank yourself next spring when you have Greenified this orange and black holiday.  And a Happy, Greener Halloween to you and yours!


Green Versus Lean

October 22, 2009

Should Greenification supercede the economy? It's a vital question that a lot of people are pondering these days. Which is more important: economic survival or environmental sensitivities?

"When I came into office there was this kind of belief that you can only protect the environment or the economy, you have to choose between one or the other," California Governor, Arnold Schwarznegger said at an event staged to accept $26.5 million in federal clean air grants. He dismissed the argument bluntly: "We don't have to accept that."

The environment often has been a luxury item for California voters. Though "going green" was always a concern, it seemed to rank higher in interest when economic times were good.

But that view may be changing, as indicated by a July poll from the Public Policy Institute of California. Sixty-six percent of Californians, for example, supported the global warming bill signed by Schwarzenegger. That is still technically "landslide" territory, but it is down from 73% support in 2008. Institute president Mark Baldassare blames some of the slippage on the economic downturn, but he also says some is clearly the result of partisanship: Democrats are greener at 78% support ahead of Republicans at 43%.

That mirrors national polls. Last year, 73% of the more than 1,000 Americans surveyed said they favored an expansion of offshore drilling for oil and natural gas in protected U.S. waters, even though many environmental advocacy groups have deemed offshore drilling as hazardous to the environment.

But environmental activists argue that choice may not have to be made.

"It's a false dichotomy," said Carroll Muffett, deputy campaigns director at Greenpeace. "In truth, what is truly good for the environment is what is truly good for the economy, because a shift to better energy solutions would create jobs."

That's on a large scale. On a small business scale, we are idealists here at Green Business Alliance, but we also need to be realistic. For the average small business, survival in a difficult economy has to come first. There are some out there who are facing such choices and although we hope that's not you, if it is, we understand. We hope you'll continue to do the things you can and look for more ways to greenify through the recovery period that we all know is ahead.


The Business of Green Marketing

October 21, 2009

So now that your business is green and has been marketing itself that way for awhile, what's ahead? It seems like everybody these days is trying to market themselves as the environmentally conscious, greener, alternative solution with a lower carbon footprint. And that's a good thing. Aren't we glad that we're all doing these things and that society is coming to care (and care all the way deep down in its pockets) about protecting our planet, preventing environmental damage and cleaning up past damage as best we can? Yes, indeed, but what's next?

Here are a few predictions offered by Jacquelyn Ottman, president and founder of J. Ottman Consulting. These predictions were made in a recent article for Advertising Age. They may give you some insight into where things stand and where to look next in your approach to Greenifying.

1. Ottman predicts now that the "green hype" (and some of it is purely hype) has hit a high, there will be a slowdown and maybe even an end to the use of meaningless green marketing terms. This would be helpful. We are seeing that there is a lack of supervision and a need for better definitions of some terms. We need standards to be set in order for business and the consuming public to truly understand what these terms mean. She also predicted there would be a slowdown in the creation of eco-marketed house brands.

2. More electronics companies will create take-back programs, thereby reducing the use of toxic chemicals in order to market themselves as green. In some cases, this may backfire. A recent "60 Minutes" segment covered the illegal and unethical actions of one "take back" program claiming to handle the toxic chemicals but which illegally exported and dumped them in a foreign country. The company involved in that program is now being prosecuted.

3. More green products will be marketed in order to satisfy retailer demands for reduced packaging and better energy efficiency. Consumers will be thrilled to see an end to hard plastic clamshell packaging. Standard green marketing claims will take a back seat to pitches based on such things as higher performance levels, aesthetics and cost effectiveness.

4. Green products sales will soar behind the major brand acquisitions (Remember Clorox buying Burt’s Bees and Colgate snapping up Tom’s of Maine), which will help increase sales of green stand-alones like Method and Seventh Generation.

If these predictions are accurate, 2009 will continue to be the "Year of the Green Business" but in new and different ways that we hope will help your business profit.


Greenify on a Personal Level

October 4, 2009

Want to do something small, important, and unseen to Greenify?  Change the tissue in your bathroom at home to a brand made of recycled materials.  

American bathroom tissue, okay, yes, toilet paper is a key issue in environmental circles right now.  The reason?  Brand name manufacturers of paper products, in their never-ending attempts to get us to buy their specific product, took it to the next level: three-ply tissue.

And it sold.  24 million packages of Quilted Northern Ultra Plush in the last year alone.  That’s a lot of tissue.  That’s a lot of trees.

The super plush toilet paper we love so much in the United States is made by chopping down old growth trees, grinding them up, spewing them through processing plants and stamping the stuff out into little squares that are rolled up onto long tubes of cardboard then sliced into the inches-long roll of multi-ply tissue that we’re all familiar with.  

Let me point out that Europeans use recycled paper to wipe.  Are they so much tougher than we are? Can they take it, but we need to be so much more pampered at such a higher price?  More to the point, can we afford to be this wasteful?  Bathroom tissue (rolled toilet paper and facial tissues combined) constitute 5% of the U.S. forest products industry.  Paper and cardboard use 26% and newspapers another 3%.  But is this a 5% we need to blatantly waste?

It turns out that 75% of bathroom tissue in commercial restrooms is made of recycled materials.  But when it comes to home use, American consumers believe softer is better.   We use the recycled products during work hours, but go home believing that “fluffy and soft is better.”   But “better” is also a lot harder on the environment.   

Here’s the bright spot on the horizon.  Kimberly-Clark has agreed to Greenify its practices.  By 2011, 40% of materials used in making their products will be recycled or from sustainable forests.  It’s not perfect, but it’s a sizable step in the right direction.

So the next time you’re in a forest enjoying the view, listening to the birds sing, and pondering the age of that beautiful pine or cottonwood or any other tree next to you, consider whether: would you rather look at that tree or use it in the bathroom?

 Trees, by Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.


Winterize at Home and Work – Part 2

September 22, 2009

We’re continuing with a list of tips on winterizing at home and office.  It’s that time of year, when the season changes, the temperatures fall, and if we focus a little effort, we can save energy, shrink our carbon footprint and lower costs in the coming months. 

6) Check Foundations

• Clear all debris and edible vegetation from the foundation.
• Seal up entry points to keep small animals from crawling under the house.
• Seal foundation cracks. Mice can slip through space as small as a dime.  (If you’d like to try it on your own, I found a “how to” link...click here)
• Inspect sill plates for dry rot or pest infestation.

7) Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

• Change smoke detector batteries when daylight savings ends.
• Install a carbon monoxide detector near your furnace and / or water heater.
• Test both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
• Buy a fire extinguisher or replace any extinguisher older than 10 years.

8) Prevent Plumbing Freezes

• Drain all garden hoses.  Put them out of reach of the elements. 
• Insulate exposed plumbing pipes.
• Locate your water main in the event you need to shut it off in an emergency.
• Drain air conditioner pipes and, if your AC has a water shut-off valve, turn it off.
• If you go on vacation, leave the heat on, set at least 55 degrees.

9) Prepare Landscaping & Outdoor Surfaces

• Trim trees if branches hang too close to the house or electrical wires.
• Seal driveways, brick patios and wood decks.
• Move sensitive potted plants indoors or to a sheltered area.

10) Prepare an Emergency Kit

• Find the phone numbers for your utility companies and tape them near your phone or inside the phone book.
• Buy indoor candles and matches / lighter for use during a power shortage.
• Keep your freezer as full as possible. If the power goes out, food will stay frozen much longer in a full freezer.  Add bottles of water, if necessary.  A full fridge and freezer also use less electricity to operate.
• Store extra bottled water and non-perishable food supplies (including pet food, if you have a pet), blankets and a first-aid kit in a dry and easy-to-access location.
• Prepare an evacuation plan in the event of an emergency.


Winterize and Greenify – Part 1

September 21, 2009

If the cooler temperatures haven’t hit where you live, they cannot be far off.  It’s time to winterize at home and work. I thought we could use a few reminders.  Here are the first five (of ten) winterizing tips:

1) Furnace Inspection

· Call a HVAC professional to inspect your furnace and clean ducts.  Let a professional do this for maximum energy efficiency.
· Stock up on furnace filters and change them monthly.
· Consider switching out your thermostat for a programmable thermostat.  This is easily done and can save impressive amounts of energy and money. 
· If your home is heated by a hot-water radiator, bleed the valves by opening them slightly and when water appears, close them.  If the heater was installed before 2004, you may want to install an insulating jacket on the heater for greater savings.
· Remove all flammable material from the area surrounding your furnace.

2) Prepare the Fireplace

· Cap or screen the top of the chimney to keep out rodents and birds.
· If the chimney hasn't been cleaned for a while, call a chimney sweep to remove soot and creosote.
· Inspect the fireplace damper for proper opening and closing.
· Buy firewood or chop wood. Store it in a dry place away from the exterior of your home.

3) Check the Exterior, Doors and Windows

· Inspect exterior for cracks and exposed entry points around pipes; seal them.
· Caulk windows and use weatherstripping around doors.
· Replace any cracked or broken windows, prime and paint exposed wood. 
· If your home has a basement, consider adding protective shields over window wells. 
· Switch out summer screens with glass replacements from storage. If you have storm windows, install them.

4) Inspect Roof, Gutters & Downspouts

· If your winters include temperatures below 32 degrees, adding extra insulation to the attic will prevent warm air from creeping to your roof and causing ice dams.
· Check flashing to ensure water cannot enter the home.
· Replace worn roof shingles or tiles.
· Clean out the gutters and use a hose to spray water down the downspouts to clear away debris.
· Install leaf guards on the gutters and extensions on the downspouts to direct water away from the house.

5) Service Weather-Specific Equipment

· Service or tune-up snow blowers.
· Sharpen ice choppers and buy bags of ice-melt / sand. 
· Replace worn rakes and snow shovels.
· Clean, dry and store summer gardening equipment.
· Drain gas from lawnmowers.

We’ll be back with more tips for winterizing soon.  Until then, enjoy the remnants of nature’s green efforts outside for as long as possible.  (to be continued)


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