Earth Day Is On The Way!

March 14, 2009

Earth Day is now just over a month away and signs of this year’s celebration are beginning to build.  I was in a business in Arlington, VA this past week and noticed a paper poster that looked like a child’s bright-colored painting of a bright green bush with the words “Earth Day 2009!” printed on it. 

What does Earth Day bring?  It’s a chance to remind everyone on the planet that this is where we all live and work.  And that we have to share its resources and work together to make sure that it stays a healthy place to live and raise families.

Earth Day is our chance to stop focusing on the problems that we all face, dealing with the economic worries and the poor job climate and the mortage/market crises.  It’s a day to put those aside and focus on being positive about our planet and our ability to work towards one goal for the good of all people.  (I wish I could say it was a day off from the threat of terrorism and all violence, but I don’t think terrorists work like that.)

It’s also a day to stop, smell the roses, feel the grass under our feet and find the cleanest air we can to inhale.   There will be demonstrations and gatherings all over the world this year. There will be people shouting their strong feelings and those quietly smiling as they enjoy watching cows graze along the side of a road somewhere.  There will be words from our leaders and probably a few proposals put forward on this day.

But also let’s keep in mind that if just a few more of us decide to recycle and try to reduce their carbon footprint, the most important goal of Earth Day will have been achieved: to bring us together to protect and improve life here on this great green Earth.

We can be the Green Generation: a generation that really gets the effort underway to Greenify and to make the planet a better place for those to come.


Used Business Equipment: Go Green

March 11, 2009

 If your business is like most American businesses, you’ve got lots of technology backing it up: computers, fax machines, printers, and other office equipment.  But when those systems fail, maybe it’s time to make those electronics, if you’ll pardon my literary license, ride off greenly into the sunset. 

At the recent Greener Gadgets Conference sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association, keynote speaker Saul Griffith, founder of Low Cost Eyeglasses and Squid Labs said that we “must embrace a culture of maintenance and repair since the throw away option is no longer available.”

Electronics such as computers, telephones, televisions and the like are responsible for both cluttering up our landfills and releasing toxic chemicals into the environment as they slowly breakdown.  How about when it’s time for used electronics and spent computer-related items to go, we send them off in a greener direction. 

For instance:
Cell phones: most cell phone manufacturers have recycle programs.  You can send them back to their makers who will either refurbish and resell them, or use them for spare parts.  You can also donate them to various charities or sell them for a little extra change online.  (If you do this, make sure that you remove all of your data.  We’ve all heard the nightmare stories, haven’t we?)

iPods: return old iPods to the manufacturer.  Apple will refurbish and recycle them or sell them for spare parts.

Computers and printers: return them to manufacturer when you buy the new one.  Many stores have a “trade in” as part of a sales deal to entice you in.  You can also turn them over to schools, charitable groups, libraries or churches. (Just have to make sure to get all the personal information out of the computer before you release it.)

Printer cartridges: *always* get recycled.  Even the small home-use ones are routinely sold with mailing envelopes for recycling.

TV’s: Millions of TV’s will be set out on the curb this year.  The “digital conversion” that has now been delayed to June has inspired many people to get new HDTV’s. Sometimes stores will remove the old set when they bring the new one.  Also because of the HDTV phenomenon, cash value for old tv sets is neglible.  Try freecycle.com. Or again, try the charitable groups and churches. 

You can see your business’ used equipment “go green” this year, with just a little extra effort on your part.


Make It Your Business to Green Your (Air) Space

March 9, 2009

When you arrived at your place of business this morning, did you breathe deep and hope that the air was clean… and green?  What if instead of buying an expensive (and energy consuming) air purification system, you could add plants and get some of the same healthful effects?  You remember from sixth grade science class about how humans breathe oxygen and release carbon dioxide, while plants need carbon dioxide and release oxygen?  If plants are constantly renewing our air, wouldn’t it be great if adding a few living plants could help clean the air at work?

Some scientists say that adding common houseplants can help clean the air at a business or at home.  That’s because many plants function as natural air filters, cleaning contaminants out of indoor air and improving the quality of what you are breathing.

The scientists say that their studies have found that some common plants are effective at removing toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, benzene and other natural pollutants from air, particularly helpful in enclosed areas.  These studies were first reported by NASA over two decades ago. 

Dr. Bill Wolverton, one of the NASA scientists who was involved in the original studies recommends plants like Peace Lily, Areca Palm, Lady Palm, Ficus Alii, and Golden Pathos, because they are easy to take care of and among the most effective at naturally removing pollutants.

And there’s more.  University of Georgia researchers searching for floral purifiers suggest Purple Waffle Plant, English Ivy, Purple Heart, Foxtail Fern, and the Wax Plant. 

When it comes to indoor air purification, can there ever be too much?  The air inside our homes and businesses can be heavily polluted.  Chemicals used to clean offices and businesses can be very harsh; and traffic passing on nearby roads pushes toxic exhaust into our homes as well. 

That's not great news when you consider that we spend about 90 percent of our time indoors.  Maybe it’s time to add a few lush green accents to benefit to our lungs and our businesses. Greenify today for better business!


Greenify… the Economy or the Environment?

March 4, 2009

There’s a battle shaping up in Florida right now. Call it “Greenification versus Employment.”  And it’s struggle that’s going to be shaping up in other locations around the country.

To light a fire under the Sunshine State’s frozen economy, some legislators are seeking to "streamline" a slew of environmental and growth regulations.  They are proposing everything from erasing or weakening protections for wetlands and wildlife to cutting requirements that developers improve roads to handle the traffic glut involved in building new projects.

One proposed law that is already drawn up could have major implications for urban counties like Miami-Dade and Broward as it virtually eliminates state oversight of new mega-developments. Other proposed measures could bar Miami-Dade County from enforcing its own environmental rules which are tougher than the state’s standards.

Advocates argue a regulatory overhaul, which is backed by builder and industry groups, could spur growth and jobs by making "duplicative" permitting processes for homes, offices and other buildings cheaper and faster.

These days, with the current economic “contraction,” we are all worried about the economy. We are all worried about jobs.  But the choice isn’t employment or environment; it’s as President Barack Obama says “doing the right thing for right now, or making the tough choice for long term benefit.”

As for the proposals in Florida, Charles Pattison, executive director of 1,000 Friends of Florida, an advocacy group that promotes "smart growth" policy, said he supported encouraging construction in cities, but said the bill's definition of "urban" could wind up promoting more sprawl.

"This is like trying to build our way out of the problem," Pattison said. "What we did in the past didn't work, so let's do it again, only more of it."

We know we’ve made the short term choice in the past and we’re not in a good spot now.  So maybe it’s time to try to do both: Greenify the planet and green up our economy, too. 


State of the Union: Going Forward to Greenify

March 3, 2009

If you heard the State of the Union address by President Barack Obama this past week, then you heard him talking about moving forward on alternative energy to get Americans away from fossil fuels and on to something that relies less on foreign sources.  He says he believes it’s within our reach and that investing in it now will pay off big benefits in the long-term.

And as for his budget, President Obama's budget proposal would repeal several oil industry tax incentives while imposing new taxes on Gulf of Mexico producers to close "loopholes" that have allowed companies to avoid royalty payments.  In fact, those “loopholes” would bring in $31.5 billion in additional funds and taxes to tax coffers.

These proposals are sure to be fought over by Republicans and Democrats alike on Capitol Hill and the fighting over this budget is expected to go on for months. 

But in the meantime, companies starved for work for their engineers, designers, dreamers and other American workers will be focused on the possibilities of alternative fuel sources.  They’ll be looking for ways to attract investment dollars, define themselves as alternative energy producers, and getting government interest in those projects.  (If you look on the internet, there are already predictions of which companies will be first with success in the alternative energy areas. Investors are circling.)

The economy is bleak and barren looking for the moment, but maybe this is the way to find our way back to greener pastures: by looking for a Greenified future that’s more focused on energy supplies that we all hope will leave smaller carbon footprints. 


Eat Sustainably on Earth Day 2009

March 2, 2009

Earth Day 2009, coming up on April 22nd.  Have you thought about your own personal celebration?  Let’s talk about a small, personal way to celebrate it that you can do for a day, a week, or the rest of your life: sustainable food.

You know what that is because we’ve talked about it before.  Sustainable food is food that is grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers and it’s grown locally, as much as possible.

It’s healthy for you and healthier for our environment because frankly, trucking food thousands of miles so that we can all enjoy South American grapes in March is, well, wasteful of natural resources.

It can be tough for some to suddenly switch to sustainable eating.  Mothers with finicky small children want their kids to have the benefits of fresh fruit year-round, in order to become accustomed to a “well-balanced diet.”  And others may have health problems that require them to eat specific foods.

But on Earth Day 2009, if we all pack a lunch instead of going out for fast food, we’ll be healthier.  If we carry that lunch in a reusable insulated bag, maybe the one we keep in the car to bring home groceries instead of using those (indestructible “disposable” plastic bags) to tote it in.  Maybe use some reusable storage containers (we prefer glass, but as long as you’re reusing, we don’t judge!) and bring in something from the local farmers’ market?  You can get fruits, vegetables, breads, cheeses and sometimes meats and fish there, depending on your location.  But check to see what the products’ origins are. 

Greenify your Earth Day celebration with a taste of what the Earth and those who farm it close to you produce.  Celebrate with the abundance of sustainable food.  And if you can celebrate with sustainable food once, maybe you’ll find a way to eat that way more frequently in the future beyond Earth Day 2009.


Plastic Bag Competition in Colorado Mountain Towns

February 25, 2009

Have you seen the latest news from Colorado? It's not having to do with the last snowfall. It has to do with going green! The headlines... Aspen vs. Telluride plastic bag competition expands - dozens of mountain towns compete to eliminate grocery bags. It seems that a small competition between two famous ski towns has, pardon the pun, "snow-balled, this year! They are all trying to replace plastic bags with reusable bags. What started off with Aspen and Telluride, now includes 26 mountain towns.

Here is Katie Reddings' article taken from the Aspen Times on February 23, 2009.

ASPEN — Last year’s contest between Aspen and Telluride to see which town could replace more plastic bags with reusable ones has grown to include 26 mountain towns.

Nathan Ratledge, of Aspen’s Community Office of Resource Efficiency (CORE), co-organizer of last year’s contest, said most of the towns sought out inclusion after hearing about last year’s contest.

“Everyone has kind of [joined] of their own volition,” he said.

The contest will run for six months, from March 1 to Sept. 1. In each town, grocery stores will tally the number of reusable bags used. At the end of the contest, the community that uses the most reusable bags per capita will receive a $5,000 grant from Alpine Bank to install a solar panel system at a local public school.

This year’s contest was organized by David Allen at Telluride’s New Community Coalition, with help from CORE and the Colorado Association of Ski Towns.

To publicize the contest, the Colorado Association of Ski Towns will spend $5,000 producing a television spot to be made available to all participating towns.

Also starting March 1, Aspen High School’s Earth Club will begin stocking several local hotels with reusable bags they have designed themselves, Ratledge said. The bags will be provided to guests for use on their shopping trips. Guests will have the option of leaving the bag for other guests, or they can purchase it.

Last summer, Aspen and Telluride held a plastic bag contest between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The two towns eliminated the use of an estimated 140,359 single-use shopping bags between May and September — or 284 bags per store per day. Telluride beat Aspen soundly, using more than twice as many reusable bags per capita during the contest.

This year’s contest includes the Colorado towns of Telluride, Aspen, Mountain Village, Snowmass Village, Basalt, Breckenridge, Silverthorne, Dillon, Frisco, Steamboat Springs, Grand Lake, Granby, Winter Park, Fraser, Estes Park, Crested Butte, Vail, Avon, Eagle, Gypsum, and Mount Crested Butte. Idaho participants include Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey. Also participating are Jackson Hole, Wyo. and Park City, Utah.


Greenifying At Your Desk

February 24, 2009

This blog doesn't endorse TV programs or products, but did you see the Academy Awards Sunday night?  Right in the middle of it all was a commercial (or two) for Apple
Computer's new laptop.  It's got a 17 inch screen, gorgeous resolution, is ultra-lightweight and all those other usual super "Apple" technological improvements that we've done to love and expect.
 
But this commercial bragged about something else.  It bragged about the battery.  It seems this battery can be charged to last as much as eight full hours on one plug-in.  And it can be recharged about 1000 times.  The advertisement pointed out that's three times the battery life that one normally gets for the ever-popular laptops that seem to be powering our businesses and lives these days.
 
Now, we're not suggesting that you run right out and buy an Apple 17-inch laptop.  That would be very expensive (Nobody said they were cheap; they start at over $2000 each) and also defeat that wonderful Greenifying aspect of the computer, namely fewer laptops and batteries in our landfills.  No, keep using the one you have until the very end of its life.

It's just nice to see that companies are starting to get it. They get that there's an alternative, Greenifying laptop computer choice out on the market right now.  And chances are, by the time that you are ready to replace or upgrade what you are working with now, all the other computer companies will be offering similar long-lasting chargeables with extra-long battery life, too.  And the prices will probably come down, as well.
 
It's good to see companies offering ways to Greenify businesses.  It's great to see that they understand that being “environmentally sound” is a marketable, advertise-able benefit that will bring in sales.  And it'll be even better when everybody gets in the Greenification game on that aspect of doing business.


Environmental Case: Libby Montana

February 23, 2009

There is a little environmental lawsuit that is setting the stage for some big repercussions starting this week.  It pits the people of a small Montana mining town against a major chemical company facing federal charges of poisoning their homes and schools with asbestos.

Opening statements are scheduled in the case of U.S. vs. W.R. Grace and Co. and five of its executives, who are charged with knowingly exposing the residents of the town of Libby to the fibrous mineral linked to cancer.

The case stems from the mining for vermiculite from Zonolite Mountain near Libby.  The mineral was then processed into products used for plumbing insulation, fireproofing and gardening.  Mining began in 1920 and continued for about 70 years.  The company’s “Zonolite” brand insulation is in some 35 million homes in the United States.

"This trial is one of the most complex and creative criminal prosecutions in the history of environmental regulation," said Andrew King-Ries, an assistant professor at the University of Montana School of Law.

The problem is that the vermiculite from the Libby mine was contaminated with naturally occurring asbestos mineral fibers, which can be inhaled and can cause mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer.

Libby residents believe the pollution has killed at least 225 people and sickened about 2,000 more in the area.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy has placed a gag order on the parties involved, but court documents are revealing.

"The defendants in this case knew the dangers of asbestos they released into the Libby, Montana air, yet they concealed the dangers, putting local residents at risk while enriching themselves," prosecutors said in their trial brief.

Lawyers for Maryland-based W.R. Grace deny their clients conspired to release asbestos, arguing that most of the releases occurred years before an applicable law was passed in 1990.

"The government has illogically charged that the defendants conspired in 1976 to violate a statute that would not exist for another 14 years," Grace said in its trial brief.

Libby is a town of about 2,600 people located in a forested valley of the Cabinet Mountains, about 100 miles northwest of Missoula, Mont.


Earth Day 2009!

February 19, 2009

Earth Day 2009 is on the very green horizon.  What?  You haven’t even started to plan?  That’s okay because so many others have sprung into action and are ready to help out.

As I looked around the internet for various activities, I went to one of my modern, go-to-cyberplaces to find activites: Facebook.

The best thing about Facebook is that it’s free.  Now that I’ve said that, I want to point out that it can also be incredibly local.  You can start a page on Facebook in just a few minutes and find all kinds of activities for Earth Day. 

If you haven’t done this, you should.  I typed in “Earth Day 2009” and got 228 results. (Probably by the time you read this, there will be more!)  If I add “Los Angeles,” I narrow the field to the activities that might interest me most.  Or if you added New York, Washington, Chicago, Houston or any other location.

What?  You live in a small town and there’s nothing posted?  That’s great!  That means you can start a page for Earth Day in your town and use it to post activities for everyone to see. You can also post your own efforts to Greenify at home and at work.  Swap tips on how to conserve natural resources.  And maybe even start a carpool club. 

All kinds of opportunities to observe Earth Day are out there.  And Facebook isn’t going to be the only place to find them.  Earth Day is what you make it.  Consider that when you’re turning out the light as you leave the room and hanging a new clothes line across your backyard. That’s all it takes to Greenify going into Earth day 2009.


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