A Year of Greener Business Straight Ahead!

January 7, 2010

We’re right back at the start again, aren’t we?  The start of a new year is always exciting.  We’ve got the chance to rethink our approach, start with fresh eyes, a new balance sheet and an open road ahead to Greenification.  It’s all waiting for us.  So where to start?

Here’s a basic checklist of things you’ll want to consider in plotting your green business year ahead:

Sustainable energy sources.  Does your business consume a lot of energy?  Some use more than others, and some energy sources are certainly more renewable than others.  Look for those that produce the optimum results with the minimum carbon footprint left behind.  Sometimes that isn’t immediately apparent, so check carefully. 

Building design.  Energy-efficient design for new construction and/or remodeling will utilize efficient equipment while optimizing the use of natural energy sources. The ultimate goal is to provide increased comfort with reductions in energy costs and greenhouse gas pollution.

Using paper.  You may not think of your business' paper use as an area to save energy, but it is. Paper manufacturers in the U.S. consume a significant amount of energy each year in the production of paper - not to mention the energy spent harvesting and shipping trees, and shipping paper products to your business.  Will this be the year your business goes paperless?

Manufacturing processes and packaging.  Using environmentally preferable products and services is an encouraged practice for business in the retail industry. You can find information on greening suppliers, product packaging, selling and buying green products and transporting your products.

Recycling and waste management.  This is the most obvious of these topics.  How much are you recycling each week?  Does your recyclables exceed your waste product?  I hope so.  But we’ll talk more about that in coming weeks.

Business trends.  Millions of small businesses across the United States are also trying to learn these same principles. Some are your competitors; others are not.  But if we are all trying to achieve benefits for all, shouldn’t we work together a little more?  Surely the results won’t be the same for every company, but the benefits will be enjoyed by all. 

What may be even more important, every little bit helps.  The effects are cumulative.   We’ll be talking about all these topics this year and information is of course, always available here at the Green Business Alliance website.  We hope you have a great, successful 2010 and surpass both your business goals and goals to Greenify in the next 12 months!


A Greenification Challenge for 2010

January 5, 2010

Simple is better.  Greenification is grand.  And it’s growing.  Isn’t that what we learned in 2010?   If you looked around at the newspapers (they may be struggling, but we need them!) over the last week, you probably saw all kinds of stories about how Americans “did more with less” and “learned to buy experiences instead of gadgets” in 2009.  It’s a lesson we’ve needed to learn for a long time.

As the greatest nation of consumers the world has ever seen, we needed to take a step back.  The numbers show we’re doing that now.  We’re saving more than we spend.  We’re making it a goal to use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.  We’re learning not to throw aside something just because there’s a newer, flashier product in the market.

And we’re finding satisfaction in doing that.  Look at this challenge from one of the nation’s top financial writers...click here to view.

By doing this, we could Greenify both our bottom line and the planet. 

During the last year, I’ve wondered if we, as a people, would be forced to choose between the environment and the economy.  But what we’ve seen in the last 12 months has shown that most of us believe the choice doesn’t have to be made and that in fact, just adhering to a few more economically advisable policies would have the natural outcome of greenifying our lives.    We’ve done well and now we’re ready to move forward even stronger.

I challenge you to a “green fast” for the year of 2010.  Let’s make this year the best, Greenest year we’ve seen so far.  Let’s make 2010 a year in which we truly do use things to their fullest potential: use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without all the way to a greener style of business and life.


New Year’s Greenification: One Step at a Time

December 22, 2009

It’s that time again.  2009 will soon be behind us.  2010 is right at our door.  It’s time to make a few new resolutions.  I’d like to offer you a few.

Resolve to not buy anything new for a week.  Just one week.  You might be able to do that sometime this winter.  Or maybe you’ll keep that resolution in the spring.  But do it sometime.  And once you’ve made it a week without purchasing something new (other than food), you might make it a couple of weeks.

Resolve to recycle every week.   And look for ways to increase the amount that you are recycling.  Do it every week.  If you can get to the point where the amount your employees put into the recycling bin exceeds the amount in the trash bin, you are doing great!  But definitely, recycling can and should be something that you do, do with relish and hope to exell at doing.

Resolve to freecycle.  Did you know there are now listservs and websites for freecycling in most major urban areas and many small locations, too?  You want to be part of these!  In fact, if you can get a freecycling message board going on your company website, think how many more visitors to your website you might draw.  That’s an optimal idea for a small business!  Think of the community you’ll build among your customers!

Resolve to be a locavore, if only for a few weeks this summer.  Grow a garden in your backyard, on your balcony, in a few herb pots in the window, but wherever you can.  Grow a few plants and add to the oxygenating lifecycle of our planet.  And of course, harvest and eat your vegetables and herbs.

But even if it turns out that you have a “black thumb” and can’t grow anything, you can still try your hand at eating local, seasonally produced foods.  And you’re likely to get better quality, fresher tasting vegetables at the same time. 

Resolve to check the air pressure on your company fleet and personal car’s tires regularly.  You should check at least once per month to get better gas mileage, better handling and better wear on those tires.  Find out what pressure your tires should be at and start a regular habit of checking their inflation.  You’ll arrive safer that way, too.

You don’t have to do these things every day, but if you do them on a regular, scheduled basis, you will lead a more Greenified, economical and higher quality life.  And you might lead your employees and customers to do the same in 2010.

We wish you all a very Green New Year and look forward to blogging with you in 2010! 


A Quieter, Greener Christmas

December 17, 2009

I want to have a quieter, but still Greenified Christmas this year.  And I’m going to tell you what I’m going to do.  It’s economical, environmentally sound and perhaps one of the more thoughtful gifts I’ve given in years.

I’m going to go to a big warehouse store and buy a couple of packs of energy saving light bulbs.  And I’m going to take them to my parents’ house and replace every old-fashioned fluorescent light bulb in their house with an energy-saving, money-saving CFL bulb.

My parents are older, so they see better with a lot of lighting.  CFL are often brighter than the older bulbs they replace.  But my folks also don’t buy a lot of new things.  I’ve told them that the new energy-efficient bulbs are cost effective, but it’s hard to convince them that it’s actually less wasteful to throw away (or even recycle) a perfectly good light bulb and replace it with a new one.  Or to throw away a couple dozen perfectly good light bulbs.

Did you know that the average U.S. household has 45 light bulbs?   Since you save about $30 or more in electricity costs over each bulb's lifetime, that means replacing that number of 75-watt incandescent bulbs with CFLs would save $180 per year.

And if every American home replaced just one light bulb with an Energy Star qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars.

My parents have about that many, so it won’t be a cost-effective gift for me.  But when I think about all the money they will save, I believe it’s gift that will keep giving throughout the entire year.  And I know it’s one I’ll feel great about giving, too.

It’s a great way to Greenify and give a truly thoughtful gift this season.  I invite you to share the simple gift of light, from an energy efficient bulb, with someone you care about this season.  Happy Holidays!


Have a Greenified Holiday Season!

December 14, 2009

Did you get out the old family Christmas lights yet?   Good!  Did you put them in the recycle bin?  Excellent!  Time to Greenify with new LED lights.  Did you know by using the newest LED strands of lights, you can actually save 90% off your electrical usage bill?  If you are lighting up the house, the yard, the trees and the fence out front, well, shame on you!  But nine times the shame (and certainly nine times the expense) if you do it with non-LED lights.  

I am actually sort of excited because for the first time in years, I’m going to go out and buy a strand of these things.  I haven’t had occasion to have a tree for the past couple of years, so I didn’t bother.  So this is the year that I am going to pick up the LED ones.  I’m still haggling in my brain: one bright strand of multi-colored lights?  Or “just plain white ones, thank you!”  I have to admit, vanilla is my favor flavor of ice cream but when it comes to Christmas, I like the world a-glow in multiple shades of Christmas red and green, a little Hanukkah blue with some orange and yellow lights tossed in for the added fun of it.  Forget to buy the tinsel and you’ll be well ahead of the game.  What else? 

How about if you make your own Christmas wrap this year?  Most packaged holiday wrap is thrown away anyway.  (I hope no one is burning that toxic-paint-covered stuff anymore!) Consider wrapping in old newspapers (get the kids to add their own holiday themes) or maps.  The comics section works great, but you’d better ask the neighbors for theirs, too.  How about old maps?  A scarf or dish towel?  Give grandparents a thrill by wrapping it in the kids’ artwork.

Here’s a shocker: if every family wrapped just three gifts this way, we’d save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

One last green holiday gift: give your old phone to a charity. You’re getting a new one for Christmas, right?  Remove all the numbers and drop off the old one at any Staples office supply store. The Sierra Club recycles them, keeping their lead, cadmium and other metals out of our landfills. 

There are lots of ways to make your holidays bright and Greenified.  We’ll see you again next week with more. 


Global Conference on Climate Change: Can We Do Better?

December 9, 2009

Leaders from 200 nations around the world, environmental activists, scientists and leaders of industry are meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark for the better part of the next two weeks discussing how to lower global warming emissions and work together to stop pollution and global warming. 

The leaders who meet there will try to reach an agreement on issues of global warming that will replace the Kyoto Protocol, which was established by the United Nations in 1997 as a way to combat global warming.  It expires in 2012.

The conference is billed as the “last, best chance to clinch an agreement” before the Kyoto Protocols expire.  But what exactly does that mean?

Environmental groups think it’s fundamental to any chance that we have for keeping our planet clean and operating with the same climactic rules that it has for hundreds of thousands of years. 

"We need to have a legally binding agreement to reduce carbon emission in developed countries as quickly as possible," says Charlie Kronick, climate advisor at Greenpeace.

In order to do that, Greenpeace and other groups argue that developing countries need to contribute to the cost for poorer, under-developed nations who are still struggling to get their economies operating.

Others suggest that even the most poverty-stricken countries are going to have to participate, in order to make the transition work. 

"What we're looking for in Copenhagen is a global partnership between the North and the South, between the developed, industrialized nations and the rapidly developing ones with the other developing nations also a part of that cooperative partnership deal, which is the only way we're going to deal with this," according to Nick Nuttall, spokesman for the U.N. Environment Program.

We are all going to have to work together and work fast.  Our world is changing, temperatures and climate conditions evolving and species disappearing at an alarming rate.  You’ll want to stay tuned here and at other green news sites around the Internet for the latest on how the talks in Copenhagen are going through December 19.

We can Greenify, but it will take every nation doing its best to stop global emissions and warming.


Greenified Gifts in Style!

December 6, 2009

Now that it is December, I thought we would do some more Greenified gift shopping.  I want to show you how truly easy it is to do that this year.  In fact, it’s easier than ever.

I received a catalogue from a major department store in the mail recently. In it, the retailer featured a number of exciting gift items that I wondered if I might find produced more greenly elsewhere.  I want to show you what I found. 

This year, it seems the e-tailers have figured out that what we want is high quality, well-made and environmentally sustainable goods for gift-giving.   This store seems to specialize in just such green clothing and goods.

They feature a lovely gift guide, and I particularly liked this shawl, made of sustainable bamboo.

Earlier this year, I invested in bamboo sheets:

And look at this blanket, made of bamboo blended with polyester for durability.

I also wanted to look for greener dinnerware.  Paper plates benefit no one.  They don’t hold up well with food, nor are they ecologically sound.  So how about some bamboo dinnerware for the holiday party?  I found it here at bambu.

If all you can afford is the bamboo socks, here they are.

These types of gift items all help Greenify, are very exciting and may already be on the wish list of someone you know.

(Hum the last verse of “Jolly Old Saint Nick” as you read this next part:)

“As for me, my little self is ecologically wise.  I prefer the things I’ve bought previously; they’re paid for and in just my size!” 


Greenify Your Gift List

December 2, 2009

It is the week after Thanksgiving.  If you’re like a good number of Americans, you hit the malls (or some other shopping location) this weekend to grab up some Black Friday bargains in order to get started on your holiday gift shopping. 

I thought today we’d move from Black Friday to Greenified Monday in holiday gifting.  I want to point out our lovely gift shop here at the Green Business Alliance.  Have you taken a look at it?

I was looking at the three items there a little earlier.  I believe we’ve got something for every green-minded shopper, even with the economic downturn. 

For starters, there’s the Green Business Alliance wristband with its simple, elegant Greenify Message.

If I were buying those for the family, stocking stuffers could be had for $1.99 ea. for quantities running from 5 to 50.   Prices drop drastically in larger orders.

An excellent idea is to include one with your holiday card (printed on recycled paper, please!) as a great way to notify business acquaintances that you are a Green Business Alliance member. 

If you are ready to spend a little more on holiday good wishes, move up to the Green Business Alliance totebag, for $9.99.

The bag itself is made with a recycled material base. It’s durably constructed and usable for anything from grocery shopping to carrying books to return to the library.  And isn’t green one of your favorite colors these days?

This final item is the one that I like the best.  (That was a hint!)  The short-sleeved t-shirt is made from 100% organic cotton and yarns. These t-shirts are pre-shrunk with a soft comfortable feel to them.  At an economy-minded $21.99, you should probably treat yourself first. 

These are all great gift ideas that spread the Greenification message at the same time.  We hope you’ll consider them as well as other Greenified gifts this holiday season.  We’ll be discussing some of those in the coming weeks.


Tips to Greenify Thanksgiving

November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving! At the Green Business Alliance, we hope you have a wonderful holiday season this year, with a lot to be thankful for as you sit down to the big meal.

We want you to enjoy the holiday with all your loved ones gathered around. And we hope you are enjoying it as greenly as you can. What do we mean by that?

Well, we leave it to you to decide what the main course should be. It's an interesting decision in the grocery store these days. Our pilgrim forebearers didn't have to decide between "broadbreasted whites" (a bird bred exclusively and very successfully for its broad breasts), free range turkeys (the broadbreasted ones have a hard time standing up on their little legs with all the meat on those breasts), heritage birds and of course, tofurkys. They only had wild game. And they were grateful.

But such things are an individiual and often, familial decision.

A few Greenification decisions that you can make:

Organize your shopping list in order to make as few trips as possible to the grocery stores. I'm sure you'll agree that at this time of the year, more than any other, fewer trips equals a happier shopper.

Use the good china. Yes, holiday dinners with friends or family are exactly the reason for having those grand plates and beautiful silverware. Not even children deserve paper plates on Thanksgiving. (Imagine trying to eat a drumstick off of a paper plate? It's heresy!) Save the paper plates for when you truly need them: sending leftovers home with guests.

Need table decorations? We recommend pumpkins, squashes and maybe a few nuts. These are all things that can be eaten later. A table centerpiece built around butternut squash is an edible arrangement I'd look forward to... roasted with leftovers.

Cooking your own turkey? Organize what is being cooked so that several dishes can be in the oven during various times. Small amounts of energy saved in cooking the meal will help underwrite its cost.

And finally, when the meal is done, compost all the scraps. Put the table scraps into the container out back and by spring, you may have something very valuable.

We hope your Thanksgiving is a wonderful meaningful time for you and your family and friends to gather together and be grateful for what we have. We hope you'll be thankful for a great year of successfully conserving, shrinking your carbon footprint and making efforts to Greenify many aspects of your life.


Brownfields 2009: Greenifying in a Big Way!

November 23, 2009

A week ago, I was writing from New Orleans where I had been invited to work with ICMA-TV as their reporter, covering events at Brownfields 2009. This was a whole convention full of people engaged in greenifying from the top on down!

Brownfields, as the name implies, refers to the government programs to encourage developers to go in, take over problem areas, redevelop economically blighted and often environmentally troubled areas within a community. The convention is sponsorred by the United States Environmental Protection Agency along with ICMA which is the International City and County Managers Association. ICMA invites its members to come and meet with leaders in environmental remediation and cleanup, redevelopment and government funding. The result is often clean, sustainable community projects that get underway because all parties met under one roof.

(In fact, I came to view Brownfields 2009 as a sort of "jobs fair" for contractors, developers and city/county managers looking to put people to work and restore blighted areas to tax-paying profitability.)

One of the things that we did with IMCA's convention coverage was ask a question of convention-goers every day. The Question of the Day that I found most interesting was very simple and direct: "Can we afford to redevelop during the current economic downturn?" The answer that I heard was a resounding "YES!"

So many of the areas being offered for redevelopment are environmentally damaged. In fact, I noted several of them were past locations of dry cleaning establishment. (I made a mental note: find an organic dry cleaner or start wearing all cotton clothing. Always.) It turns out that a lot of dry cleaners use a lot of extremely harmful chemicals. This probably isn't a surprise to anyone reading this blog at this website, is it?

But they leave a lot of messes behind when they go out of business. The clean-up is expensive, but having the land lie unproductive, poisoned and often in disrepair can cost the cities and counties more. They want to have the situation remedied.

So the community leaders that I talked with all answered yes to the Question of the Day, knowing that a property that has toxic chemicals and is non-revenue producing for the tax base can be turned around, providing jobs and income for those who do the work, returned investment for developers who have a vision for the area and a complete shift in image and enjoyment for both the people living in the community as well as those who visit.

It was a pleasure attending Brownfields 2009. It is that very sort of thinking that make green businesses and social entrepreneurs exciting to be around and write about.

If you would like to know more, you can visit the IMCA-TV website to see what's going on:

http://www.icmatv.com/

And you can check out the Brownfields website where they buzz about their redevelopment projects 'round the clock:

http://www.brownfieldsconference.org/en/index.aspx


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