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


Greenify Your Fight Against H1N1

November 19, 2009

As the influenza season goes on, let’s talk for just a moment about fighting spread of H1N1 “swine” flu or any other influenza virus in greener way. 

First off, viruses are spread through contact and being around someone who has the illness.  In this particular case, the virus can be spread by being inhaled after someone sneezes or coughs.  Or it can be picked up if the infected person has touched surfaces or items that others then pick up, touch and interact with.

The key thing here is very simple: wash your hands.  Clean surfaces with soap and hot water and disinfectant.  Antibacterial chemicals sound great, but in fact, scientists are concerned that overuse of them could lead to the formation of “super germs.”  And really, as much as we’d all like to think we can scrub up every germ in our surroundings, the surroundings, ie the furniture, computer keyboard, telephone and doorknobs don’t get sick. 

The best, most effective way to avoid the flu will be to wash your hands with hot, soapy water as frequently as possible after coming in contact with those who have the illness or those whose health status is unknown.  Wash.  Wash frequently.  And wash with soap.

We’ve all been hearing so much about the vaccines against these viruses.  There are shortages of some and surpluses of others.  Some need multiple shots or nasal sprays, while others only need one exposure.  Because of the specific groups that are recommended for immunization, you’ll want to read the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s latest updates for vaccine availability as well as who is most at risk and what advice can be offered, at this web address:  http://www.cdc.gov/H1N1FLU/

If you do get sick, the CDC recommends you cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.  If you can’t grab a tissue, cough into your sleeve or arm.  And stay home as much as possible. 

For most of us, the flu season will pass without greater threat.  But to prevent germs and viruses from becoming any worse, you’ll want to follow the CDC’s latest updates at the website above.

 

 

 

 

 

 


ICMA: Brownfields 2009

November 16, 2009

This week, your blogger here with the Green Business Alliance is on location in New Orleans, attending the Brownfields 2009 Conference which is sponsored by the International City/County Managers Association.

Brownfields is what the U.S. government calls its efforts to revive and renew environmentally damaged (and usually economically challenged) areas and efforts.  In other words, they take a “brown” and deadened location and try to restore it to green, vital life again.

Brownfields 2009 is being held in New Orleans because where else to better what the U.S. government has been able to do with a damaged municipality than in New Orleans, post-Hurricane Katrina. 

In 2005, the Hurricane roared through, destroying levees that allowed water to rush in and inundate numerous parishes with floodwaters from six to sixteen feet in depth for up to three weeks.  When the waters receded, the damage left behind totaled into the billions of dollars.

City officials told me today that 80% of the city was damaged.  But they are rebuilding and so where better for the Brownfields Convention to be located this year.

Today, I went to Andrew H. Wilson Elementary School in the Broadmoor area.  The school has been serving New Orleans children since 1907, except for the last five years. 

Broadmoor itself includes about 2500 homes, all of which were devastated by floodwaters.  The city intended to raze all of them and make a “green space.”  But the residents wouldn’t give up on their neighborhood.  They refused to let it go.

They organized their own revitalization plan with the idea that they were coming back, but would be better than ever.  They’ve remediated all contamination at Wilson Elementary, cleaned up and rebuilt using sustainable practices and are scheduled to reopen in January 2010. 

The Brownfields 2009 Conference is underway now, which means in another week or so, your local city and county managers will be back in their communities, with more ideas and enthusiasm than ever for helping your business Greenify.  I hope you’ll take advantage of everything they’re learning here in New Orleans this week. 


Sustainable Farming: What Can Our Gardens Grow?

November 13, 2009

It’s the time of the year when we reflect back on the summer.  If we planted gardens, we harvest vegetables.   We put those fruits and vegetables away to be savored in the winter.  We hope they’ll sustain us.

Sustainable farming is the catchphrase for food production methods that are focused on environmental stewardship, farm profitability and prosperous farm communities.  I thought it might be nice to consider sustainable farmers just for a moment in this blog; they operate a “business” that can be very green indeed.

Our nation has been the food basket of the world for some decades because of advanced practices in agricultural production.  We led the way in developing beefier cows, faster producing hogs and chickens that laid eggs ‘round the clock.  This first “green revolution” paved the way for decades of success in this country.

The cream in our crop seemed a little heavier than farmers in other lands could produce, it seemed at various times.  But the cost has been tremendous.  Doctors and geneticists ponder the hormones in milk that our children drink.  The run-off of animal wastes from hog and poultry farms has seeped into water tables around these operations.  And the small farmers themselves have been mostly driven out of business in favor of larger corporate farms that take over and leave communities without a new generation to assume their responsibilities. 

In introducing sustainable practices, we may have a chance to rewrite the book for agriculture’s place in our nation and across cultures, as sustainable farming could benefit cultures who still use antiquated, outdated farming techniques.  Adding even a slight percentage of productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa could mean saving lives.  Done correctly, it could mean saving soil.

"That's great because these people need to eat. At the same time I'd like to hear wow, we improved the soil so that down the road they're going to be better off," says John Reganold, Regents Professor of Soil Science at Washington State University.

Sustainability isn’t the easiest thing to produce in an arid clime.   You have to choose your crops wisely, work with the land’s inherent limitations and then try to get the crop to market before its lost.  All of these battles are fought against the steep incline of tradition and farmers who say “That’s the way my Daddy did it.” 

But we can do better.  Rotating crops, introducing legume and other forages such as peanuts and alfalfa into production where such crops are unknown and teaching people about stewardship of their land is important and valuable.


Your Business’ Paper Policy

November 9, 2009

Have you thought about the paper policy at your business?  Most businesses use a lot of paper.  They write down their dealings with other people, with their employees, their plans for the future, their actions in the past and even their hopes and dreams for the future.  Doing business is a paper-intensive activity.  And paper is resource-intensive stuff.

Let’s think this through.  The benefits of a smart paper policy (ie, recycling paper and using both sides before ultimately recycling it through to its next life) are as follows:

• Saves your business money.  A typical business uses 350 pounds of paper per person, per year.  If you think about that, it’s expensive stuff, but the pure expense of getting rid of all that paper, too, is not insignificant.
• Gives you an edge over competitors.  You’re saving money which you can apply elsewhere, but also, as we have certainly seen this year, a tidy marketing edge which your advertising and sales departments can certainly use.
• Boosts morale.  Yes, employees like concerned, environmentally friendly bosses, too.  They want to help.  Get them involved.
• Shows your investors that you’re smarter than the average duck.   Do it!
• Lessens your risk of environmental liabilities.  If you show initiative in this area, you’re more likely to avert environmental issues because you’re on your guard for them.
• Help build market demand for high quality, lower priced recycled products, ultimately cutting your costs.

Yes, there are reasons to develop a sound paper policy.  Not to mention the backaches you’ll save, dragging those bags of used trash and paper out to the dumpster.  Every good reason to Greenify starts at the root level, doesn’t it?


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