Greener Holiday Party Ideas

December 5, 2008

If you’re going to make the rounds of holiday parties or give one yourself, plan now to Greenify.

Going to holiday parties, you want to make sure to carpool, right?  This makes it easier to save gas, save wear and tear on the car, and potentially save lives.  The latter because this is the time of year when we all enjoy seeing our friends and business associates and sharing holiday foods and drinks together.  Carpooling makes it much easier to designate a driver so that everyone makes it home alive.  It’s better for the environment and all of us in it because we all feel better when there are fewer drunk drivers on the road.

If you are the one throwing the holiday party, consider going “old school.”  Even if you are trying to cut costs and downsizing the party from country club to office commissary, forget about the past years of plastic cups and throw-away paper table coverings. 

Buy a fabric tablecloth.  Festive holiday clothes of all sizes can be had at discount stores for prices close to the same as those of the throw-away paper ones, but with far less of a carbon footprint. 

The same goes for plates, cups, and silverware.  You can rent or borrow the same, depending on the size of your party.  You may be able to cut costs if you know a church that rents their hall or their linens, flatware, or other houseware items.  These groups often have the items in bulk and may also be looking for ways to make extra money. 

You could even purchase them at a discount store and give them away (for pickup later, after they’ve been washed) as a door prize. Choose well and they’ll be appreciated.  Such things have been done before by our parents’ generation.  And this time, there’s the added benefit of Greenification. 

If you have to wash a few dishes, is that really so bad?  A holiday party downsized per cost but upsized with glassware, silverware, and linens isn’t going to feel as sparsely provided. 

And your company’s carbon footprint shrinks a little more all the way into the New Year. 


Holiday Colors: Red and Greenify!

December 4, 2008

Have you thought about what kinds of goodies your business will give to its customers this holiday season?  You can Greenify your corporate gifts this season without missing out on taste or quality, while enjoying the knowledge that you’re helping the environment.

So let’s look at a few possibilities. How about some coffee? A nice bag of organically grown brew is a welcome gift in most offices and there are dozens of brands out there.  There is an entire website devoted to the organic coffee association and what their growers do to bring you a greener cup of joe:
   
While you’re at it, maybe look around for a well-made mug.   Your client will save a lot of money if they start drinking their own office coffee from their own cup.

Like chocolates?  These are grown pesticide-free so you don’t have to feel any guilt about enjoying them.  And Sierra Club staffers say these three are the best:
Amano Chocolate
Dagoba Chocolate
Ithaca Fine Chocolates

If you’d rather have cookies, these have all won awards for taste and for being eco-friendly:

Dancing Deer
Bellas Cookies

Liz Lovely

Going low-carbohydrate and healthy?  Try some pesticide-free nuts:

Living Tree Community
Sun Organic
Wilderness Family Naturals 

And if you’ve got a one of a kind customer that is worth “a million” to you, then maybe this next one is for you.  This website offers one of a kind heirloom Teddy Bears made from repurposed used fur coats.

You can show you care about your customers and the earth by giving greener gifts this season.  You can Greenify while greeting the season with style.


Two Quick Ways to Greenify Holiday Giving

December 3, 2008

If you’re like many Americans, you’re feeling the economic pinch this holiday.  Greenifying your gift-giving may help you feel a little richer in personal green. 

Have you thought about recycling gifts?  Yeah, sure, you’ve heard about re-gifting: rewrapping a gift you received but don’t care for in order to give it to someone it may be better suited for.  Re-gifting was made popular (and got laughs) on Seinfeld, the old NBC sitcom.

But maybe this year, you’ll consider buying items at second-hand stores.  Americans have been considered “under-consumers” for years, in that they didn’t use an item completely.  They threw things away or took them to second-hand stores well before their usefulness was finished.  Maybe it’s time you considered shopping in those stores.

Some things you can’t purchase at such a store.  You’ll not please the kids wanting a WII with an old VCR.  But if you’re looking for a back-up vcr for your business’ in-house security system, you will pay a lot less by purchasing a cast-off second-hand player in working order.  

Often these items are cast off early.  In some cases, stores have been known to clear inventory to charitable organizations.  If you can wait until after Christmas, many stores and households clear excess items that aren’t fully used.  (Some people never learn to Greenify.  It’s not in their nature.)  

At the very least, consider something made of recycled goods, like this Radio Flyer made of recycled plastic or a lovely star paperweight made of recycled blue glass. (They have them shaped like dolphins, too but that didn’t seem nearly as festive!)

You can teach your children a lesson about greenification by taking them shopping at a second-hand store, like Goodwill or the Salvation Army.  They’ll learn to appreciate the cost of goods, the fun of giving, and the value of a dollar while they shop.  It’s also a great time to talk about the value of conserving natural resources.

Even if the kids aren’t getting or giving second-hand gifts, give yourself or your spouse or someone else the gift of a recycled, second-hand item and feel the joy of helping Greenify the planet and the second gift of a lower budget.


Greenifying as Basic as an Acorn

December 1, 2008

There is growing interest in an unusual story reported out of Washington, DC, this week.  It’s not about the President-elect’s latest appointment or what members of Congress are packing up to leave office permanently as new members move in.  It’s about what’s missing from the nation’s Capitol and from several surrounding states.  What is missing is acorns.

"I'm used to seeing so many acorns around and out in the field, it's something I just didn't believe," botanist Rod Simmons said. "But this is not just not a good year for oaks. It's a zero year. There's zero production. I've never seen anything like this before."

The absence of acorns could have something to do with the weather, Simmons says in this weekend’s Washington post.  Hickory nuts aren’t around either.  And Simmons is not the only one who noticed.  

"I couldn't find any acorns anywhere," said Greg Zell, a naturalist at Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington, VA. "Not a single acorn. It's really bizarre."

Zell researched and found Internet discussion groups, including one on Topix called "No acorns this year," reporting the same thing from as far away as the Midwest up through New England and Nova Scotia. "None in Kansas either! Curiouser and curiouser," posted another.

Some have theories about rain cycles. But many skeptics say oaks in other regions are producing plenty of acorns, and the acorn bust in these areas is nothing more than the extreme of a natural boom-and-bust cycle. 

And others say they’re not worried yet. "What's there to worry about?" said Alan Whittemire, a botanist at the U.S. Arboretum. "If you're a squirrel, it's a big worry. But it's no problem for the oak tree. They'll produce acorns again when they're ready to."  Of course the squirrels could starve in the meantime.

Naturalists expect this is an isolated biological event.  But it’s one that bears noting by those of us who like our world as green and beautiful as it is.

And I point it out as an interesting article you can read and also because if we let parts of our living world and food chain slip away, we are all the poorer for it. But we are in danger ourselves.  When greenifying is within reach, we have to do it to protect ourselves and out world.

Link to story: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/29/AR2008112902045.html?hpid=topnews

 


Christmas Greenification: It Starts with a Tree

November 26, 2008

Christmas is when our culture seems to forget about honoring the earth and neglects to Greenify.  We hit our annual high for consumption.  We decorate bigger and brighter every year, we send cards that kill forest after forest, and we consume prodigious quantities of food and drink.  This holiday season, Americans will put millions of miles and thousands of kilowatts into lighting holiday trees, homes and businesses.  But there are ways to Greenify your Christmas at home and at work. 

One of the biggest symbols of the holiday is the tree.  Brightly decorated with lights, tinsel, and ornaments, can this symbol be made more green?  Yes.  First off, choose a real tree.  An artificial tree is primarily a petroleum product.  A real fir or spruce is exactly that: a real tree. It brings scent and cheer to what might otherwise be a dreary corner of the room. And at the end of the holidays, it can be taken to the county recycling effort and turned into mulch. 

What about the decorations?  How about buying LED lights?  They look the same as convention incandescent bulbs, but last longer and use 80 to 90 percent less energy.  They’re also safer since they barely warm up.  Also invest in timers to continue the savings by dimming the lights, inside and out, when everyone goes to bed. You’ll find plenty of uses for those, turning off lamps, after the season is over.

As for decorations, many people use the same decorations year after year, and that’s an excellent way to conserve.  If you’d like to have new decorations, edible decorations can be freshly made and shared with customers who come by the business (or friends at home) during the holiday season.  Or you might consider a “theme tree” and make doggie treat decorations using any of the dozens of recipes for doggie treats available on the internet.

Christmas can be a great time to Greenify and keep the spirit of the holidays alive.


Greenify the Holidays with the Spirit of Giving

November 25, 2008

Let’s Greenify your holidays a few steps more.  What can you do to conserve without putting a damper on the joy of the holidays?
 
‘Tis the season to hit the malls.  When you go shopping, take your own shopping bags.  Yes, you may well be stopped going into the stores, as you carry a shopping bag, but you’ll help save on the millions of shopping bags that many stores have printed for Christmas shoppers.  And if you’re afraid of being stopped for shoplifting, take along paper or binder clips to fasten the receipts to the outside of your bag.

Once you get the gifts home, what’s next?  How about wrapping presents in posters, decorated grocery store bags, or pages from glossy fashion magazines?  Put a small present in a beautiful scarf and make the wrapping part of the gift given.  If you truly love brightly colored holiday wraps, purchase recycled wrapping papers online from websites like fishlipspaperdesigns.com and paporganics.com, which also may sell biodegradable ribbons.  Did you know that Americans use more than 38,000 miles of ribbon during the final months of the year?

"You don't have to sacrifice the celebration for sustainability," says Zem Joaquin, founder of ecofabulous.com and eco-editor of House & Garden. Her advice: be "eco-wise."

Another tip: consider going paper-free on holiday cards.  Direct friends to your family blog or create a free multiphoto card or an online slideshow on photobucket.com. You can add holiday music, snowflakes and bits of text, and then e-mail friends and family a link.  They may get a bigger kick out of your fun slideshow of the past year than they ever got out of pre-printed cards and posed single photos that almost always hit the curb the week after Christmas.

You don’t have to clamp down on holiday spirit to Greenify the season.  In fact, it may put you “in the holiday mood” earlier when you help conserve the environment.


The Card Question: to Greet or to Greenify?

November 24, 2008

Every year at this time, American businesses communicate their hopes for a joyous holiday and best wishes for the year ahead to their customers and friends.  But should they?  Does it need to be done?

American businesses and individuals send billions of holiday cards.  But perhaps this is the year to reconsider.  Most of those cards will end up going out in the trash, but not before they have consumed millions of dollars in valuable resources.

So instead of a glossy corporate Christmas card stamped with signatures that are undeniably false, consider what else could be done? Perhaps taking a video clip of each of the employees at your office and sending a slide show on the internet that allows viewers to get to know who is on the other end of the phone?  You could post it on youtube.com, and enjoy hope that it becomes the viral marketing tool that boosts the bottom line.  Or for the most important customers, an organic fruit basket or selection of jams is always welcome.  Organic chocolates are also likely to be popular choices.

The point is that cards which carry the holiday wishes aren’t really good for anything and they use up valued resources.  Other “holiday gifts” could be more useful, fun to look at, edible, and less consumptive of natural resources, all while conveying appreciation for business relationships and friendship and other relationships along with respect for the environment.

If you must send a card this holiday season, then try cards on recycled paper.  And next year, consider recycling this year’s cards as a statement to your customers of good cheer for the Greenification of our planet.


Video Games and Their High Energy Consumption

November 20, 2008

Before you head out to start your holiday shopping you may want to think twice about bringing home that coveted video game system for your children. Do you have any idea how much energy is consumed by these video game consoles each year? These consoles require about the same amount of energy as it requires to power a major US city. Any guess on which major US city that may be?

Suffice it to say, I think you will be shocked. Take a look at a recent blog post on green.yahoo.com. Click here to read Lori Bongiorno's article on how non-green the video consoles are and if you guessed the right city. She even provides a graph of the annual energy usage of three major brands of consoles - Wii, Xbox and Playstation 3. If your goal is to Greenify your holiday gifts, a video game console is probably not going to be at the top of the list.


Incandescent Bans: Why Wait to Greenify?

November 19, 2008

The end is near.  But that means that that Europe may begin to go green a little sooner.   

EU energy ministers have recently agreed to ban incandescent filament light bulbs across all 27 member states beginning in 2010.   That’s in addition to Australia, Cuba and the Philippines where bans have previously been announced to begin in the same year. 

Here in the U.S.A, we are coming a little late to the party because our ban doesn’t start until 2014.

The Energy Independence and Security Act, passed by the U.S in June 2007, requires 25 percent greater efficiency for light bulbs starting in 2012.  This will effectively ban incandescents. The EU's decision comes days before it lifts duties on energy-efficient bulbs imported from China.

According to the conservationists if the EU switches off incandescent bulbs, it will cut energy consumption for lighting by 60% and CO2 emissions by 30 million tons (out of the 4 billion tons emitted by the EU every year.   That’s not a lot, but it is still progress.

And no one says you have to wait to start conserving energy now.   Replacing old-style “filament” light bulbs with energy saving compact fluorescent bulbs can save you energy and money starting the moment that you install them.      

And who knows? By 2014, maybe the lighting industry will have come up with something even better.


Greenifying the World’s Largest Retail Supply Chain

November 18, 2008

If you’re watching what the “Big Boys” do and trying to pattern your success after theirs, here’s something to take note of: Wal-Mart, the biggest retailer in the world is attempting to Greenify with a makeover of its global supply chain.

Wal-Mart has a vision of going green, and is now demanding its suppliers, including many based in China, to live up to environmentally friendly manufacturing practices and product-safety guidelines to make that vision come true.

The Arkansas-based retailer got together with more than 1,000 suppliers in Beijing, China, telling them that change was coming.   And not just for the Chinese suppliers. The company is holding suppliers to higher manufacturing and operations standards to “build a more environmentally and socially responsible global supply chain,” announced company executives.

Here is what CEO Lee Scott had to say, “A company that cheats on overtime and on the age of its labor, that dumps its scraps and chemicals in our rivers, that does not pay its taxes or honor its contracts--will ultimately cheat on the quality of its products. And cheating on the quality of products is the same as cheating on customers," Scott said.  "We will not tolerate that at Wal-Mart," Scott stated.

The specifics of the new policies, requirements and deadlines for what Wal-Mart called its "Global Responsible Sourcing Initiative" were equally as bold, and most were targeted at suppliers based in China.  The requirements will force the factories to meet environmental standards in China by 2009 (elsewhere by 2011), make a 20% improvement in energy efficiency, and source 95% of their production from factories that receive high ratings on environmental and social practices.

If the world’s largest retailer can get its suppliers to Greenify, then maybe its time to consider how smaller companies can also go green in their own place and time as well.


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