A Plastic World

February 22, 2011

If there was one thing you could do to make your business green this year, it might be to eliminate plastic packaging.  Whether we're talking about a clamshell that conforms and protects the product, some "popcorn" that you pack it in or the bag you send it home in, we all know we have too much plastic floating around our world. 

We use billions of plastic bags, bottles and other debris that end up in landfills or in the ocean.  We've all seen reports on the news about this problem.  We've read of the problems caused by unrecycled plastics (and the vast majority of it goes unreclaimed) that logically, we can't defend ourselves against the accusations of waste.   

Plastic is made of chemicals, often utilizing petroleum products in its manufacture.  It's not biodegradable.  The plastics in the ocean form debris fields, known as "gyres.  Anna Cumins co-founded "5 Gyres Institute" to study solutions to the situation, and says plastics are a problem, "In the marine environment because plastics are designed to last forever.  They don't break down, they can't be digested by marine organisms" and they persist in the ocean for thousands of years."  Think about your future "ocean views," and the image forming is a bit depressing. 

Until we can find a solution (biodegradable, non-petroleum-based, low-carbon packaging and other convenience products?) we're  contributing to it daily.  So what can we do?  Use less. 

Here at Green Business Alliance, we want you to succeed and we know that reasonably, we can't demand you change, but we can ask you to alter your practices.   If your product goes out in a clamshell, look for smaller clams on your next order.  Use less plastic, while keeping an eye out for alternative packaging in the future. 

Sending your product out with popcorn packing?  Consider the lowly bag of air packed around many items currently. Or can you help recycle newspaper by packing it around some items?  (Put up a sign asking for donated newspapers to recycle and see if that doesn't bring in a few new customers!)  

And when your customer buys a product, wrap it up to go in… nothing.  It's alright to send items home with the sales receipt and a grateful smile.  We've proven that customers will pay more for "green" products and packaging.  Think how grateful they'll be to not pay more.   

We may not have the solution to our plastic world yet, but we'll find it.  And until we do, we can Greenify by slowing down plastics consumption piece by piece.


Chevrolet Volt: A Green Success Story

January 31, 2011

We want to point out the latest business Greenification success story.  The Chevrolet Volt is sparking interest even though it's barely entered the American marketplace.   

You remember Chevrolet, right?  They are one of those American automakers that have been so troubled for years.  When Asian carmakers offered better made, smaller, more economically-minded (and greener) cars, they rolled out minivans.  When European automakers offered luxury, American automakers gave us SUV''s.  And when the recession gave us all headaches, they sent us the bill.  We wondered if they would ever recover.  They seemed unable to hear the call to Greenify.

But the Volt is evidence that they can.  Volt is evidence of what our President said in his 2011 State of the Union speech: We Do Big Things.  It's a 16-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery vehicle with a 1.4-liter 16 valve, 4-cylinder, in-line gasoline engine that sips gas from a 9.3 gallon tank.  Worried about pick-up?  It has front-wheel drive and does a peppy 8.8 second zero-to-60.   

And it's putting all that "go" into car shows right now, too.  This past weekend's Portland International Auto Show was packed with car and driving enthusiasts, flocking to the electric cars, hybrids and other green vehicles.  

One of the most popular booths was the Portland General Electric booth, where customer representatives report a lot of questions about one point: how much will it cost to charge an electric car.   

Reports suggest the cost will be about $1.50 per charge.   That charge on a Volt will get you 40 miles, added miles at about half the cost of a gallon of gas.   

Also intriguing?  This isn't a car for nerds.  And instead of being a drain on the company, it may revive Chevrolet's brand all over the world.  Wall Street Journal reviewer Dan Neil had this to say: 

"A bunch of Midwestern engineers in bad haircuts and cheap wristwatches just out-engineered every other car company on the planet."   

Those are karate chop words for some other car makers.   

Unfortunately, there are only about 4 car dealerships offering the car currently.  Just getting on a wait list may take awhile.  But what a turn-around this was for Chevrolet and American business in general.  It proved that it can be done and this is a great success story for pursuit of the Green Dream.


A Year of Green Business

January 19, 2011

Four tree sitters were removed and arrested from a forested area in Arcadia, California in early January.  They were trying to prevent the removal of scores of trees as part of a dam improvement project.  They were escorted out of the forested area and immediately taken into custody.  They were booked on suspicion of delaying a peace officer and trespassing.  

These are four very dedicated environmental activists.  Whether you agree with their actions or not, you can do as much or more this year to constructively to Greenify in your own business.    

This year, you can choose to reuse your computer paper, printing on both sides of each page and then recycling the results after it serves the purpose.   You can offer a price break to customers who use electronic billing.  If you haven't already set up electronic payments, you should do that, too.  You can keep a sweater at your office and encourage your employees to do the same.   

You can walk in the public restroom and check to make sure the faucets are turned off and that no precious water is being wasted. 

You can put plants in the front windows.  They'll insulate against cold in the winter and heat in the summer and create more oxygen.  Plus they create a soothing, more relaxed atmosphere at work.   

These ideas are just for starters.  But these are things you can do starting today and we'll have more ideas for you as the year goes on.  And remember, you don't have to go out on a limb to Greenify your business.


100 days and counting...EARTH DAY 2011

January 12, 2011

Mark your calendars now! April 22, 2011 is quickly approaching. In just 100 days, millions of people from around the world will celebrate the 41st Annual Earth Day. The focus of Earth Day is to raise awareness of and support our environment and eco-friendly habits. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin was the principal founder of this event which dates back to 1970. It began as a nationwide grassroots demonstration on the environment intended to inspire gratitude for and consciousness of the Earth’s environment.

Earth Day festivities and events will be held here in the United States in major cities such as: Washington, DC, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Dallas and Miami. Additionally, there will be Earth Day celebrations held locally in schools, community centers, and colleges around the world. In central Ohio, Green Columbus, a local nonprofit responsible for coordinating and mobilizing the largest volunteer turnout for Earth Day service projects in the country, has chosen Lighten Up as this year’s Earth Day theme.

The time is now to start thinking about your Earth Day plans and efforts to Greenify. This blog marks the first in a series dedicated to this global environmental celebration. Check back soon for the next installment of Green Business Alliance’s Earth Day blog.


The Stairs – a Green and Healthy Choice

September 7, 2010

Believe it or not, there are more beneficiaries of Greenifying than simply our environment and your business. Some Green steps can directly impact your health. For instance, let’s examine your method of transportation to and from work. Yes, if one is able to bike or walk to work rather than drive, obviously the reduced emissions from the vehicle benefit the environment. Engaging in aerobic activity in lieu of driving a car for your commute benefits your heart and body.

Here is another easy way to help the environment while helping your heart. Stairs! If your office is above the first floor, take the stairs rather than the elevator. Walking up to your office will burn some calories while at the same time save the electrical energy used during each push of the elevator. It may not seem like a big sacrifice (unless, of course, your office is on the 90th floor!) but the rewards are both healthy and environmentally beneficial. On average, a 3 minute walk up the stairs burns about 25 calories. Greenify – for the environment, your business, and your health!


Water Bottles: Greenifying Your Life a Sip at a Time

July 16, 2010

You know how much I dislike bottled water, right?  I think plastic water bottles are second only to plastic grocery sacks in polluting our world and packing the landfills.  They waste space, resources and are generally a bad idea.  Bottled water isn't as good for you as water straight from the tap, particularly for children, because bottled water doesn't provide fluoride needed to protect teeth and keep your mouth healthy.  

That said, I do support the idea that drinking water is much healthier for our weight-challenged, overly stimulated society that needs to stop sucking down sugar carbonated drinks and even fruit juices (except in moderation) that lack the natural nutrients and fiber of eating the fruit out of hand.  So what's a person to do?

For months, I've been using the same plastic bottle that I recycled after being given the refreshment at a public event.  The plastic is a little thicker than most bottles, which makes it better for reuse, but means the manufacture of it required even more natural resources. 

I was at a gathering in Washington, DC two weeks ago (“Women Deliver,” which is an international women's and maternal health conference) as a member of the press and was given a “goodie bag” that contained a spiffy reusable metal water bottle.  It was green, so you know I loved it instantly!  I was fascinated because it is about a 20 ounce bottle, complete with a water-tight seal at the opening and a loop in case I want to carry it around my neck or at my belt line.  

I was thinking, “Wow, this is convenient!  And look, the convention put its logo on the outside so that everyone will know where I got it.”  And what a great marketing idea!

So think about it: last year, we talked about putting your name and logo on reusable shopping bags.  They were inexpensive, easily printable and the “oh-so-trendy” way to advertise your greenifying efforts to both current and potential customers. 

This year, people are using the shopping bags you've offered.   Cities all over the country are emphasizing reusable shopping bags, cutting down their pollution (is there anything worse than seeing those plastic bags on the side of the road or in a body of water?) and feeling better about what they're doing for the environment. If you made and provided these bags, you're a part of that good feeling.

Now step in and get ahead of the pack by considering putting out some reusable water bottles.  You can find a manufacturer or use one of these:

http://www.kleankanteen.com/

http://mysigg.com/

You can also get reusable plastic water bottles that are environmentally friendly and have no unhealthy side effects:

http://www.nalgenechoice.com/index.html

Ordering these bottles is a slightly more expensive option for putting your logo out there, but doing it now will put you a step ahead of the pack with your efforts to Greenify.  And it's a great way to continue to feel good about the way you're advertising your green business status. 


Green Hero: Kevin Costner

June 28, 2010

Kevin Costner: actor, director, Academy-award winner and now greenifying leader.  Tell the truth, you did a double-take and your head turned completely around to check if you had heard right, but it's true: Hollywood's Kevin Costner may be one of the good guys in the unfolding crisis in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.  Here's what happened:

15 years ago, Costner was watching old pictures of the Exxon Valdez disaster and the cleanup of that mess in Alaska.  As he said, it was “rubber boots, pitchforks, straw and oil coming up on the beaches like pudding.”  He came up with an idea for a centrifuge device that separates the oil from the water and other elements.

$20 million of Costner's own money invested later, the machine, called a “V20,” was ready for testing. 

It was tested out by BP earlier this year, but turned out the oil with the consistency of peanut butter, so some adjustments have been made.  BP is interested and now retesting the re-adjusted machines for use in the Gulf and this news couldn't come at a better time, as we find out that the oil company may have downplayed the amount of oil gushing out of the broken well and into the environment. 

The well has now been leaking for more than two months and internal documents just discovered show that from the start, BP was privately estimating the leak's flow at 100,000 barrels per day, while publicly suggesting the leak was much smaller.  The news has not been well received.

“BP has either been lying or grossly incompetent from Day One,” said Rep. Ed Markey, (D-MA).

Also angering Americans, the news that BP's CEO Tony Hayward spent part of the weekend in an exclusive yacht race on an English coast this weekend.  The CEO has made several public relations errors recently including referring to victims in the crisis as “small people.”

The country is waiting for news that the tide has turned in this story.  We're all hoping that somehow, we'll awake from this ongoing environmental nightmare, but so far that hasn't happened.  But it does seem great that one possible light at the end of the tunnel is Kevin Costner's green machine.  What a wonderful thought that the man who “dances with wolves” may be the one who can Greenify our ocean, too.  He's recycled himself in our minds from actor to ultimate green business owner. 


Fish Farms in Coal Mines?

June 15, 2010

It's an interesting thought, isn't it?  Putting fish farms into spent coal mines?  I hooked you right in with that one! 

It's what they are thinking in West Virginia, where coal mines are famous for providing the livelihood of miners and their families.

Farmed fish are now accounting for about half of the world's annual consumption (mostly due to farmed salmon) of 110 million metric tons of fish.  The experts say, demand will soon exceed supply.  We're going to need more fish farms.

With an estimated 1,000 closed mines in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, some are beginning to look at those empty pits as future “fishing holes.”  Except the fish will be farmed and caught for consumers in grocery stores.

The Freshwater Institute in Shepherdstown, WV, estimates that turning mines into fish farms could generate hundreds of jobs and millions of pounds of fish annually.   And here's the best part: the particulars of mine water are especially conducive to raising fish.  Mine water temperatures hold steady at a brisk 56 degrees, which is impossible for human swimming but perfect for what else? Artic char, salmon and trout. 

It's an idea whose time has come.  When it was put forward in 1994, West Virginia dreamed of having hundreds of mines, but 16 years later, has only two.  America's fish consumption was not so great then, but now, demand is up. 

And to be sure, this may be not a case of “making lemonade from lemons,” but making dinner from leftovers found in a coal mine. 

Greenification at its best.


UPDATE FROM THE GULF: 12,000-19,000 Barrels of Oil Gushing Daily

June 3, 2010

It's now being called the “Worst Environmental Disaster in U.S. History.   The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana is still pushing oil out of the broken pipe, leaking and wreaking destruction on the once-clean gulf waters. 

British Petroleum, BP, is the company that owned the lease and the platform that exploded, starting the spill that has been going on for six weeks now.  The hard and painful news for most of us involves pictures of a massive oil plume, stretching across the water; ugly pictures of oil-soaked seabirds and dead fish; and the knowledge that wildlife in that area will suffer for years to come. 

At first, BP tried to contain the oil with booms, placing the massive sponges and blocks in the way of the plume in a painfully useless attempt to block the spread of the oil to beaches and breeding grounds of animals in the area. 

Then there was the dome.  BP lowered a huge dome over the well in an attempt to cap the well and stop the flow.  That didn't work either. 

The effort that followed was the “top kill” in which engineers tried for three days to top off the gusher with heavy drilling mud and junk to stop the leak.  After initial hopeful reports, we now know that is not working either. 

BP announced today that they have another plan.  Their latest attempt will be to send down unmanned robots to saw off the leaky broken pipe and cap it with a funnel that will then direct the oil to the surface and waiting boats. 

The company tried to reclaim the leaking oil with a funnel in the past, but ice crystals formed in the pipe and blocked the flow.   Why will this attempt be different?  The company intends to warm sea water and pump it into the pipe as well, preventing the formation of the ice crystals.  The soonest that this could work is four to five days.  Does that disappoint you? 

Then this could make you despair: the company says that the gusher may not be capped until August.  That news on Sunday amid the destruction, disappointment and misery that the spill has already wrought.

What can you do?  Only what you have been doing.  Try to think of your efforts as an “off-set credits” for the spill.  Put your best efforts into greenifying at home and at work in order to off-set the huge disaster that seems to be unfolding day by day to our great disappointment.   We can only do what we can do, but perhaps as a group, we can do the tiniest bit more as we watch this bitterly unhappy scenario continue in our world.


Greenifying Gadgets: Thermal Imagery

May 28, 2010

I have to quit saying that I'm not a fan of gadgets.  Here it is, two weeks in a row where I'm blogging about an electronic device.  I'm a little surprised at myself, but the one that I spotted today shows every promise of helping you and everyone you know (because you'd share, right?) save on their energy bills. 

It's called a “Thermal Imaging Home Inspection” device.  Can you imagine?  Something that can magically look inside your home and tell you if and where you are wasting energy. 

This is an item so new that you may not have heard about it, but what it does is measure the temperature hot and cold spots of a house or other building.  It is not cheap; a good unit can run for $6000.  But if you find the right real estate agent, you'll pay $150-300 for the inspection.  And think about what it could save you: hundreds in power bills for the home you're in and thousands in negotiations with a home you're interested in buying.  Or take it to the office and have a look around there.  The savings potential there is almost limitless.

It works like a very intricate digital camera.  Just aim the device a house and see where the heat is leaking out or where cold temperatures or water are getting into the house.  This device is so sensitive that it can spot dangerous wiring, non-functioning heat vents and mold are located. 

What to do with this information?  Some of these problems can be fixed with simple improvements like extra insulation, new outlets and rewiring areas that can dramatically reduce energy bills. 

“The home owners are actually seeing savings of about 20 to 22 percent off energy costs, when they button up and sela up their house,” according to Real Estate Expert Sherri Vandervort.

Other possibilities?  Could this be the new business that you've been looking for?  Invest in a unit and become a “thermal energy use inspector” on weekends.   At $250 per inspection, you're just 24 inspections from paying off the investment and after that, it's all “Greenifying as a business” ahead for you. 


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