Cash for Clunkers Success = Greenification

August 24, 2009

The U.S. government's "Cash for Clunkers" program officially ends at 8pm on Monday, but not before handing out $3 billion to consumers who trade in their old gas guzzlers for new cars that sip at fuel. The program has been dubbed a success by the Obama administration, and indeed, customers were dashing in all weekend to try to take advantage of the genuine once-in-a-lifetime deal before it disappeared.

The preliminary numbers are impressive. At a time when American consumers weren't confident parting with cash, the program brought in 457,000 transactions as of last Thursday, at an average cost of $4000 per trade-in. It generated enough business to make car salesmen smile once again, and force carmakers to call back laid-off workers and crank up production to meet demand.

It wasn't perfect. The jubilant response means Americans are still in love with their vehicles. Nobody turned in a clunker and then left on bicycle. Officials weren't prepared for the massive paperwork requirements. And the government has yet to reimburse many cash-strapped dealerships for the trades made.

But it's a start. It's a move towards putting mileage in a more prominent position when negotiating car deals. It's a little forward motion, too, for our economy.

So what's next? And what if you wanted to get rid of a clunker that might need retirement but didn't meet the (rather narrow) definition of what the Obama administration was willing to take in trade? How can you get rid of a gas-guzzler while still getting a benefit?

Might we recommend that you turn it in to a charitable group and reap the benefit? All over the country, various nonprofit groups will accept cars as gifts. Sometimes the gift can be quite valuable at tax time. (You'd need to discuss that with your accountant. Please don't take our word for it. Ask your professional.)

You can pick a favorite charity and call them up. Some are more interested than others. Some will accept them on delivery, or even come and tow them away if needed. So if you're interested in getting rid of a clunker but can't get in line for the round of cash ending on August 24th at 8pm, don't be discouraged. You can still Greenify your ride and your pocket. You just need to pick a different avenue.


The Big Apple: Red or Green?

August 13, 2009

Have you thought about whether it’s time to Greenify your logo?   Apparently, someone is giving it someone in New York’s City Hall is giving it some thought.   The city’s leaders are asking should the Big Apple’s Official Apple be green?  I think the answer is stunningly simple.

New York City has been referred to as “The Big Apple” since the 1920’s when a sportswriter at the New York Morning Telegraph first popularized the nickname. It was in reference to the city’s horse tracks, referred to as ‘The Big Apple’ at the time. Since then, hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of t-shirts, refrigerator magnets, baseball caps and other logo items have been sold, depicting a red “Big Apple.”

But with studies showing that consumers are willing to pay more for things sold with an environmental pitch, the time is ripe for one of the most recognizable logos in the world to go green.   The city had a recent campaign promoting its environmental efforts that used a green apple logo, but hasn’t made the full change itself.  Maybe it’s time to do that now.

It truly does seem obvious, doesn’t it?  In the last year, we’ve seen the emphasis on all things green growing like a, well, like a weed.   We’ve seen the numbers of reusable grocery bags growing.  Reusable water bottles in metal and glass are coming to the market as consumers try to stop the glut of plastics in our environment.  And the government is buying back clunkers to get them off our streets in an effort to diminish our carbon footprint.

On a personal note, I’ve noticed myself becoming more focused on Greenifying my life.  In the past year, I’ve bought green sneakers, green eyeglasses, a green purse, a green t-shirt (twice!) and green dinner plates.  Looking around my house, you’d think something is up.  But I think it’s a new level of consciousness creeping out into my spending habits.  And by the way, I bought a good number of those things at second-hand stores.   It was fun!

The backers of this particular effort to get The Big Apple to go green are growers of a particular type of apple, known as the Newtown Pippin, which is a mottled green and often lopsided.  In other words, it’s said to be great eating, excellent in homemade pies and usually organically grown. 

We are going green in this culture.  And maybe it’s time the city of New York, which leads in so many ways, picked up the ball and pitches.  Or offers us all a Big, Beautiful Green Apple.


Growing Your Business Online

August 11, 2009

Now that your business is Greenified, let’s talk about growing its reputation online.  That’s part of your plan, right?   You hoped to market the business online, saving a few trees, the chemicals involved in printing up materials, and the energy involved in getting those items to your customers all along.

So let’s talk about how to do that.  First, get a website.  If you can’t afford to have it done professionally, you can start a blog for free.  Put up the blog and post links to it with comments on other similar blogs around the internet.  Hook it up with an RSS feed.  Do you know what that is?  RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, which allows people to see what you are talking about on a text or email feed.  You can also start a Twitter account and use that to communicate with your customers.  Think about it: being able to instantly notify your customers or followers that you are having a sale or special on a particular item, letting them know what you’re offering.

Those are the technical basics, but let’s also look at what’s being said about your business and you. Do a vanity search of your business name and see what comes up. Are you easy to find? What is the first impression?

Is your business reviewed in online forums or blogs?  Set up some electronic alerts.  You can pay a service to do this, or do it simply by setting up a Google account and asking it to send you alerts every time something is said about you or y our business online.

“Know who the influencers are,” said Pete Blackshaw, executive vice president of Nielsen Online Digital Strategic Service and an expert on consumer-generated media. “There are going to be some megaphones that matter more than others.”

Online reviews are a gold mine of business intelligence. There are metrics to analyze to get a better sense of your customer demographics.  You’ll find those on any website you buy or included in the blog set up that you use. 

With a little bit of your time and some sweat equity, you can easily put yourself out there.  And don’t forget to remind your customers online that you are a green business.  It’s the hottest selling ticket there is to customer’s hearts and wallets.


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)


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