A Greener View: Energy Efficient Windows

April 9, 2009

As a home or business owner, this year may be one of the toughest years you’ve ever faced.  You’d like to do something more to Greenify, but how can you spend money that you may need to pay bills and keep the business afloat?
 
You might want to look outside your four walls and consider new windows.
Thanks to the stimulus bill, homeowners can now claim a tax credit of up to $1,500 for new, energy-efficient windows, doors, and skylights.  For businesses, it can be an asset to the business that will be quickly cost effective.  

This website, http://www.efficientwindows.org/ is sponsored by the government to provide information for homeowners who are trying to decide whether they can afford to make this commitment to energy savings this year, in this difficult economy. 
Who wouldn’t like to have fresh new windows to look out of or maybe a skylight overhead that brightens the day and allows you to fully enjoy a pounding rainstorm when it rumbles through? 

Whether we’re talking about adding double paned windows, tinted and treated glass, or skylights that eliminate the need for electrical lighting through a major portion of the day, these windows are increasingly valuable in the workplace and at home. 

The tax credit related to the current stimulus is to cover 30% of the cost of energy efficient windows, doors and skylights purchased and installed in 2009 to 2010.  The maximum amount covered, as previously mentioned, is $1500.  But even without the tax credit, these windows can save their owners hundreds of dollars every year in energy costs, whether it’s on heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer. 

The website’s factsheet contains information and estimates about the cost savings in multiple areas of the country for your convenience.   Another factsheet details how to qualify for the tax credit.

Spending the money and upgrading to new energy efficient windows may also help Greenify the economy, since the stimulus is designed to work better if we all spend a little extra.  Wouldn’t it be great if we spent the money to buy something that could help cut down our carbon footprint and benefit everyone in more ways than one? 


Earth Day 2009: The Green Generation

April 7, 2009

We’re getting closer to Earth Day, 2009.  Now just a few weeks away, are you wondering what more you can do to help your friends and neighbors Greenify and enjoy the day and its significance?

First off, you can start using reusable shopping bags every time.  Get used to having them, using them, and returning them to your car.  Buy sturdy ones.  They’ll last longer and be more earth-friendly.  If you have a business, print your name on them and give them away to the first 100 customers on Earth Day.

Set a good example.  March your recyclables out to the curb in the bright colored bin heaped high.  Experts estimate that Americans recycle somewhere between 32 and 57 percent of refuse.  But recyclables can and should be a higher percentage than the truly un-reusable “garbage” that is going to the landfill these days.  And any cost savings in landfill use is something that comes back to us financially and in terms of our carbon footprint that we’re all being so careful about these days.

Buy more organic and, where possible, homegrown vegetables.  Maybe this is the year that your neighborhood engages in a communal garden?  If there’s a vacant lot, find out who the owner is and ask about putting in a vegetable garden for everyone’s benefit.  The owner will probably ask for a few spare ears of corn and may appreciate the care being given to their land.  Otherwise, parcel out assignments like “tomatoes in one backyard, squash in another, beans in a third neighbor’s back corner.”  You’ll increase neighborliness, cut down pesticide consumption, and maybe even have fun.

Earth Day can and should be a great celebration of something that we all care about.  If you do nothing else, just remind people what a great planet we have to live on and that it does need our care and concern in stewardship of its resources, that’s an Earth Day worthy achievement.


How Green is Your Portfolio?

April 6, 2009

We’re not usually “all about the investments” here at Green Business Alliance.  We want to help you Greenify the planet and invest in your life here on it.  But we have a little investment advice for you today.  Some people think we may be about to hit the “Golden Age” of green business.

Why? Look to the leadership in Washington.  The Obama Administration’s increased support of environmental issues backed up by regulatory changes that are already taking shape along with strong green elements in the proposed stimulus make it appear as though the way is clear, lush, and yes, GREEN. 

But that’s also the assessment of results from the latest survey of American investors at Allianz Global Investors, which shows Americans see a "Golden Age" on the way for enviro-investing.

Here are some of the investors’ survey findings: 

• 91 percent believe that resolving environmental problems will be a major issue for years
• 69 percent consider it important to look at investing in companies that capitalize on addressing those problems.
• 78 percent say environmental technology has the potential to be the "next great American industry,"

The survey found that 97% of those questioned think exploring alternative fuel sources remains important despite gas prices going down. 
The poll showed investors are already looking for firms that seek to address environmental issues.  They are looking for ways to pour in dollars to businesses in a more environmentally friendly business climate.

We think it will be a great year to Greenify your business, your life, and maybe even your portfolio. 


Green Business Water Watch!

April 2, 2009

By now, most of us have switched out the old fashioned fluorescent bulbs in favor of those new, high efficiency light bulbs.  They’re in our offices.  They’re in our homes.  Those bulbs will return the money invested in a mere matter of months and they’re part of our plan to Greenify our businesses in a very cost effective way during this recession, right? 

How about if you take a similar step… in the bathroom?   A similar policy, applied to bathroom faucets will see a return in dollars even faster. 

"The flow rate on most bathroom faucets is 2.2 gallons per minute” says Tommy Linstroth, director of sustainability for Melavar, a sustainable real-estate develop,pment company based in Savannah, GA.  “That’s the same amount of water you use to take a shower. It's a ridiculous and unnecessary overuse."

Melavar is now replacing all of its bathroom faucet aerators -- which control water flow – with versions that flow at a rate of 0.5 gallon per minute, although you can get aerators in a variety of flow rates.  The average aerator will cost $2 to $3 and it gets screwed right on to the faucet, making them as easy to change as a light bulb.

Or, think of it the way Linstroth did. 

"For $3 per faucet, we curtailed our water use by 50 to 75 percent. If every employee washes their hands three times a day, that's a substantial amount of water savings over a year," he says. "This is a no-brainer."

How much money can your company save and how much greener can your company become with just a twist of your wrist?   Think about that the next time your water bill arrives! 


Toweling Off in the Green

March 30, 2009

If you’re a small business owner, trying to do your best to greenify, what’s the right choice for bathroom towels?

Hand towels made of paper always seem like they could be messy, expensive, and require lots of our precious trees in their manufacture.  But many people prefer paper towels because they like to be able to use the towel to open the door and let themselves out without touching the handle. 

At the same time, electricity uses natural resources in its production as well, and it seems to dry people’s skin out, which many people don’t like.  These days, hand dryers do have sensors, so they shut down when they are no longer needed.  But which is the right choice to Greenify?

It may depend on your choice of paper towels and how you handle the refuse. If recycled towels are available, that’s always best.  And if the used towels can be recycled, then that makes things even better.  The carbon footprint of your restroom decreases even more.

But in some areas, it may be difficult to get recycled towels or have the means to recycle the used paper out and away from landfills.  In that case, the right choice may be electric hand dryers.

It’s best to check your own situation and keep in mind how much use your restroom gets during the day.

Sigh.  Some of us remember when all hand towels were recycled.  They were cloth and came on a roller that had to be serviced by a person traveling a route.  Those days are mostly gone, but sometimes it’s fun to remember. 

Just remember to Greenify as best you can and we’ll all think back on these days with a smile. 


Earth Hour - Saturday, March 28th 2009 - Get Left in the Dark!

March 27, 2009

Earth Hour 2009 is exactly one day away. Mark your calendars, set an alarm for - Saturday, March 28th from 8:30 - 9:30 pm local time. World Wildlife Fund is asking individuals, businesses, governments and organizations around the world to turn off their lights for one hour – Earth Hour – to make a global statement of concern about climate change and to demonstrate commitment to finding solutions.

Click here to read more about Earth Hour and find local spots in your area that will be going dark. 

Get ready, get set, get in the dark.

 


Counting Down to Earth Day: What Can You Do?

March 27, 2009

What can you do in these final weeks before Earth Day, 2009?  There is no time like the present to start working to pollute less personally and participate in the discussion in your own community. 
 
First, here’s a personal pollution checklist. Are you:
 
Carpooling?
Recycling every item possible?
Buying locally grown and manufactured?
Checking second-hand stores before buying that new gadget?
Recycling printer cartridges, motor oil and auto batteries, along with newspapers the right way, every time?
 
Good job!
 
Now, regarding getting involved in that community discussion.  First, check with your city council to find out if they have an "Earth Day Proclamation" and what your municipality's observance will include.  If they are all set, ask if you can help out.  Volunteers are almost always welcome.

If nothing is in place, there is still time for you to change that.  Draft a simple resolution to honor "Earth Day" where you are.  It doesn't have to be fancy and you don't have to spell things correctly.  You’ll need a few "Whereas" statements to lay out the resolution’s premise.  The “whereas” statements can be thought of having two parts, general points and locally focused points.  You’ll follow that with the "Be it resolved" statements, suggesting what needs to done.
 
For instance:
 
"Whereas we are using resources faster than our planet can produce them, and whereas we are polluting faster than we can clean it up, be it resolved that we work together to cut our carbon emissions, try to slow and stop pollution and Greenify the Earth.  And be it further resolved that we will honor April 22 as Earth Day 2009, to be observed as such in our homes and businesses and every day thereafter." 
 
Put that together on recycled paper, and you'll be a sure hit in any city council on this planet. 


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.  


Follow the Leader: Grow Your Own!

March 23, 2009

The Greening of the White House continues in Washington where Michelle Obama has now planted a garden on the White House'  South Lawn.  The First Lady is after more "fresh, unprocessed, locally grown" vegetables for her family, and if she has to raise them herself, she says she will.
 
This is one indication of the commitment to environmental issues apparent in the Obama administration. Mrs. Obama is a backer of what is called the "Slow Food Movement," begun by Alice Waters decades ago. 
 
It includes foods that have lower carbon footprints because they are locally grown, locally produced, and locally consumed.  They are grown organically, without chemical pesticides and fertilizers that can leach into the water table and in spite of doing good where intended, resurface elsewhere with harmful effects.  
 
We're all capable of doing this ourselves, and in a recessionary economy, maybe it's time to see about that green thumb you've been hiding in your pocket?  How about putting in a few tomato plants on along the side wall of your house?  Maybe see about some peas and beans to climb the rear fence?  A couple of rows of corn along there might not be a bad idea, too.
 
So your soil doesn't do well, you say?  Maybe it's time to get some natural fertilizer?  Start your own decomposition chamber in a back corner. You may want to build a container, because sometimes that can have an unneighborly side effect: smell.   You can also visit an area stable and procure some equine refuse matter (that's my nice way of saying horse manure).  Break up a pound or so into a gallon bucket of water, let it sit for a day.  Then pour that steeped "tea" over the plants and in the areas you intend to sew seeds.  You'll reap the rewards.

And as you're out there, toiling away, don't think you're the only one who is going to be working in their garden this summer.  The First Lady says the President will be commandeered into green garden duty, too.  As Mrs. Obama says, "whether he likes it or not.”


First Quarter Check-up: How Green Is Your Business So Far?

March 22, 2009

It’s now mid March and we’re closing in on completion of the first quarter of 2009, so how are you doing on your goal of going green at your business this year?   Shall we run down the checklist?

Are you using more recycled products, even for just a few days every month, in your printing and waste paper uses?   Every little bit helps and since they are a touch more expensive (and we’re all watching our pennies) sometimes it’s all we can do to work on it a few days at a time.

Are you asking customers whether they’re interested in electronic billing to cut down paper usage and then of course recycling your own waste paper?  This is very important and can help benefit two ways: 1) fewer trees are cut down and 2) fewer landfills are needed.  Same goes for aluminum cans.  Recycling, right?

You’ve gotten rid of the old fluorescent light bulbs and replaced them with energy efficient CFLs, which saves on energy and money, since these bulbs are made to provide light for more years than the old ones.

All lights, including the after hours signs, are now on timers. 

You’re encouraging carpools among your office staff, whether by offering reserved better parking spaces or by chipping in for carpool resources. 

You’ve gotten rid of those paper plates in the company lunch room, and put in a supply of unbreakable glass plates (yes, they DO make ‘em!) to save more on paper.  Employees are struggling, but learning to put the dishes in the energy efficient dishwasher.

And computers, where possible, are laptops.  This keeps electricity usage down nice and low. 

If you’re doing some or all of these things, you’re off to a great start to Greenify your business, save some cash and help to save the environment. 


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