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.


Tweet, Tweet! Greenifying on Twitter

July 16, 2009

The more we use twitter.com here at the Green Business Alliance, the more useful we see it being in efforts to Greenify.  You can catch us on there and at Facebook, several times per week.  We think it’s a great way to communicate with our members and friends.  But I want to point out some other aspects of these great tools. 

You can learn about other green businesses on twitter.  No, not those “businesses” who are interested in adding thousands upon thousands of other twitter “followers” on their accounts in an endless race for more connections that somehow allow them to make money.  Half of the time, it’s a little un clear what they are doing that somehow makes this money.

No, we’re talking about serious things you can learn about on twitter by glancing through some of the follower lists.  The community there is fascinating, ever-changing and evolving, and they are coming up with amazing ideas for green businesses that you might like.   Just some of these names alone give our imagination flight:

  • Treebanker, which is twittered by Dan Teft focuses on helping businesses with carbon footprint problems.
  • MsGreenDarling, which is twittered by Green Girl Woman as she focuses on making small, personal green choices.
  • BestGreenBlogs, that’s Tim in Tennessee and seems to be self-explanatory.
  • GreenDesignsTV, which has a very cute logo page and lots of green activities going on.
  • Bamboo_Clothing, sounds a little scratchy but so sustainable!
  • MyGreenEarth, updated by Maria Tobing with lots of bio-earth tidbits and interesting music.
  • TheSolarCompany, focused on encouraging people to go solar.  One of their recent tweets is about bodily liquids rescuing hydrogen cars.  Hmmmm.
  • USClimateLaw, who is a very cool environmental attorney in Seattle.  His tweets link to his very informative blog.
  • BuilderScrap, which links to a website about saving costs and saving the environment.

We could go on and on, but the point is that YOU should go on.  Get on twitter and join our community. We like to send out twitters when we post our blogs or for occasional other announcements.  And we really think you’ll like checking out our community of followers. You might make some friends.  You might even learn something among all the articles and information being tweeted.

And it’s so easy.  You can link to our Twitter and Facebook pages from our homepage.


Wind Farm Project to Halt

July 14, 2009

The world’s largest wind farm this week became the wind farm that wasn’t.  Billionaire Oilman, T. Boone Pickens, who has generally championed the cause of energy independence for the United States and specifically promised to build the largest wind farm in the world this past week said he was putting his plans on hold because of the global recession with its tight credit markets and lower natural gas prices. 

You would think he’d want to build now with so many out of work and ready to pitch in.  With gas prices dropping once again, it might be the best time to buy materials which would have to be shipped in to the Texas Panhandle, where he planned to position the energy producing turbines.

But that credit crunch apparently is hitting even the wealthy.  Pickens could not find financing to pay for the transmission lines that would hook up his wind farm to the Texas grid to carry away the electricity produced in Pampa, Texas.

Meantime, offshore developers face a similar problem. They need to find customers to buy their power and must do so before they can get financing to build. The government just gave out leases for offshore production.  But those would-be “farmers” must also navigate the federal permit process, which hasn’t been tested so far.  Construction on even the most promising projects in Rhode Island, along with those in Delaware and New Jersey, won't begin for at least four years.

It all sounds pretty dismal, doesn’t it?  And on the surface, it’s a bit disappointing, but think of it in terms of where we were on this subject one year ago.  I think you’ll agree we’ve “come a long way baby” and we’re starting to get a handle on things.  

T. Boone Pickens and his blustery, bluffing pals put wind farms back on the horizon.  They moved up the public discussion about the projects.  The Obama administration favors such production and we now know that we have to start moving towards greater energy efficiency, domestic production and cleaner, most environmentally friendly production.  We’re heading that direction with a strong tailwind behind us. 

"We've got more wind than anybody else in the world, just like they have more oil," Pickens said at the time. "I think that's the future of this country."

We know we’ve got to get on it.  We still hope for the best, but the economic wind needs to pick up.


Greenly Grab Consumers Attention

July 9, 2009

Have you given thought to how to best approach potential customers with your greenification?  Someone out there has.  A new study by the Shelton Group checked consumer opinions of marketing claims to find that survey respondents identified most with the “100 percent natural” claim. 

The researchers tested various claims including “organic,” “all natural ingredients,” “certified organic ingredients,” “bio-based ingredients,” and “contains natural ingredients,” to find that “100 percent natural” was the claim that attracts consumers and makes them feel most comfortable.

The Shelton study was conducted this year, in April and May, with surveyors questioning 1006 respondents.  Also reported in the same survey are the facts about what consumers are looking for:

  • Home cleaning products — 75 percent
  • Food and beverages — 65 percent
  • Personal care products (shampoo, lotion, etc.) - 55 percent

These are mostly personal products that consumers come in contact with on a regular, or even sometimes, daily basis.  But past studies have also shown that modern consumers are drawn to prefer “100 percent natural” products in almost every line of wholesale and retail trade, and that they are willing to pay more for such products.

And why not?  A greener house may initially cost a bit more, but if it falls in line with better home construction practices and provides greater energy efficiency, it may save money over the course of the home’s ownership.  The same goes for other products, from business and office machines, to home appliances and even foods, which are often believed to be more nutritious and healthier to consume. 

The Shelton group says 60% of consumers are seeking out green product and an even larger percentage say they are not cutting green spending, even in this difficult economy.  Green marketing is here to stay, so why not put the best foot forward?  Go 100 percent natural and see if consumers “greenify” your returns.

(If you’d like to read more about the Shelton Group’s  survey, Eco Pulse 2009, the results are posted online here: http://www.sheltongroupinc.com/research/eco_pulse.php)


Greenifying from Coast to Coast

July 6, 2009

I have been shopping for home goods lately, and am greatly impressed by the moves that have been made in the “green housewares” market.  I am in the process of setting up a new home, far from where I used to live.  At times, I wonder what would shrink my carbon footprint most: to move my housewares (currently in storage on one coast) to the other coast where I have moved myself; or to simply donate them to the local mission and start anew at my latest residence.

So here I am: going from store to store, looking at things that I have previously purchased and now see new and much more sustainably manufactured.

Cutting boards are made of bamboo; so are bookcases.  I love the look of bamboo, but even more do I love the sustainability. Bamboo is a wood that grows straight up and increases in size at an astronomical rate. It has a clean look about it that I am reassured by research on the internet is absolutely accurate: it is cleanly grown and produced, sustainable, and an ecologically sound choice.

I’ve also seen lamps that are now being sold with the new CFL light bulbs already in them.  Compact fluorescent light bulbs produce so much light using so little energy that it’s a delight to see them in stores.

I’m also going to need a new printer on this side of the country.  I want to purchase a small one, since I truly hope to move my old (still very serviceable) printer/scanner/fax/copier to this side of the country and continue using it.  I hope to be able to use that machine for a full 10 years before I even consider replacing it.  It’s halfway there now and I appreciate it more every day I am without it, so I will consider buying a smaller printer, utilizing a print shop for other services, and giving the smaller printer to a relative when the larger, older one arrives.

I’m fascinated by all the aspects of a green household that I’m finding in stores.  It seems my choices are greater than ever.  I hope you’re spotting (and plotting!) the ways to Greenify your own household. If you’ve got a tip, please email it to us (info@greenbusinessalliance.com) so that we can all share the knowledge and grow greener together.


The Tale of a Greener Fish

June 26, 2009

Remember a few years back when we were all told we had to stop eating Orange Roughy or we might just run out. Permanently. You remember that, right? We all pitched in and started eating farmed salmon and catfish and a few other things to take the pressure off of fishermen and fishmongers to meet our demand.

Now a website is going to offer advice on which fish has a lower "carbon footprint," or perhaps more accurately, less swishy tail.

If someone asked you which fish of two fish, for instance a yellowfin tuna or a barramundi has a smaller carbon footprint could you tell them? Probably not. And neither could most professional chefs or restaurateurs. It's a hard question to answer, but now a Washington, DC based seafood distributor will unveil a rating system to helps chef compare the environmental impacts of various types of edible fish.

The "Carbon Fishprint" rating system is based on how much energy use and any other carbon-footprint factors were involved in producing the fish and getting it on the table.

Think about the possibilities: you are getting ready to go out for a nice, healthy fish dinner, and when you get there, your chef has chosen two or three fresh "catch of the day" fish selections specially selected for their sustainability and prepared to the highest standards possible. Wouldn't you feel better about eating that?

This is of course, just one more example of green marketing and what the color green can draw in. The studies have shown that environmental friendliness is a selling point that consumers are attracted to and that they are willing to pay a higher, premium price for goods that are organic, use less energy, are sustainably produced and otherwise more environmentally friendly.

By the way, the barramundi has the lower "Carbon Fishprint," rated at just 15, while the yellowfish has a "Carbon Fishprint," more than double at 40. You may want to order the yellowfin at your favor sushi bar a little more sparingly. You can visit ProFish's "Carbon Fishprint" on their website.


Going Green? Prove It!

June 23, 2009

Is your business green and proud of it? Are you marketing and advertising your greenification efforts in a meaningful way to consumers? We hope you can prove it.

The Federal Trade Commission is the government agency that is supposed to be supervising the use of the claim "environmentally friendly" and other "green" statements under laws passed in1992. Environmentalists, quoted in USATODAY, say there has been too little enforcement.

"There has been little to no enforcement of the 1992 guides," says green consultant Kevin Tuerff, whose company started a website aimed at exposing ads with questionable environmental claims. "They need to pick up the pace."

In fact, since May 2000, the FTC has only prosecuted three companies for violating guidelines that govern companies advertising eco-friendly products or biodegradable packaging. All three of those complaints were announced earlier this month, after Congress scheduled a hearing to look into the matter.

As we have noted in the past here at Green Business Alliance, there has been a huge upswing in the amount of green-marketing going on in the last several years. The interest in environmentally sound products and energy saving offerings has skyrocketed during the increase in gas prices of the last several years and again since the election and inauguration of President Barack Obama. But are all of these companies making legitimate claims?

A recent survey by environmental marketer TerraChoice of 12 large U.S. stores found more than 1,700 products boasting green credentials. We all see eco-friendly claims made by sellers of everything from bottled water ("our bottle design uses less plastic") to sport-utility vehicles ("it's a hybrid!") to laundry soap ("concentrated, so you use less") and those claims aren't always checked out.

Green Business Alliance wants to help interested companies integrate environmental stewardship into their daily business practices, and market themselves to consumers who are concerned about the environment.

James Kohm, who is with the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection admits the agency hasn't been as aggressive about enforcement as it might have been, in recent years, which he blames on lack of resources. But he points to the agency's crackdown on energy-related claims as a triumph. The FTC was able to remove products that promised to improve a car's gas mileage but failed to do so from the American marketplace.

More new cases like those announced earlier in the month are to be expected, according to Kohm. We hope so. We all want more businesses to join the greenification effort, but we want it done legitimately with benefits that pay off for both the companies involved as well as their customers and consumers.


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