Earth Day: April 22

April 14, 2010

We don't normally dig into Youtube.com here at the Green Business Alliance blog, but a friend showed me this over the weekend and I wanted to share it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wupToqz1e2g

The link above is to a video (by the way, you don't have to actually watch it. You can just listen. It's mighty!) of Carl Sagan talking about the “ pale blue dot” of our world. In it, Mr. Sagan talks about how important, amazing and humblingly beautiful our earth is. It's a simple message that seems utterly appropriate to watch this video as Earth Day 2010 approaches.

As we celebrate and honor our Earth, it is wonderful to have such an eloquent message of how important it is in our lives.

We're heading for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, with millions of our neighbors here on our planetary home celebrating with us. There will be parades, ceremonies, speeches, dinners, picnics, commemorations, honors and pledges to do better. It would be great if you could attend and lend some support.

But as the video implies, the most important part comes the day after when someone who used to litter drops their refuse in a garbage can. Or recycles their soda can. Or purchases recycled products that they didn't before. Or comes to your business because it's “green” as opposed to one that isn't.

We've got to work together to take care of our most important resource: the Pale Blue Dot.


Earth Day: April 22, 2010

April 6, 2010

Earth Day is right around the corner and this year, it's a milestone: 40 years of Earth Day.

When Earth Day began in 1970, it was designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment.

It was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, (D) Wisconsin as an environmental sort of “teach-in.” He announced his proposal to a fledgling conservation group in 1969, hoping that a grass-roots effort would prove to Washington that Americans in every state did care and at the same time, light a fire under the country's greenification efforts, still in their infancy at the time.

After a bit of rooting around for a name, “Earth Day” just seemed logical, according to all involved and they got started organizing the actual event. It was clearly a movement just getting off the ground. The organizers, mostly volunteers and some still in school, were thrilled when New York City agreed to take part with then-Mayor John Lindsay saying that he would shut down Fifth Avenue for the event.

By the time the day rolled around, participation had swelled to 20 million Americans. There were massive coast-to-coast rallies and thousands of college and university-organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting pollution in factors and industrial areas, trying to clean up oil spills, toxic dumps and raw sewage, and prevent spoilage from pesticides and chemical fertilizers used and over-used in our environment, all suddenly came together for a day of celebrating the Earth and recognizing their common values.

Earth Day 2007 (one of the last years for which there is good data) was one of the biggest worldwide celebrations ever, with an estimated one-billion-plus people marking the day with celebrations, awareness, education and efforts at cleaning up our world.

The best part is that you and your business can celebrate Earth Day, inviting your customers, employees, friends and family to participate, too. It can be as simple as operating with the lights turned off and using just daylight for business or going all out with special offers and deals for customers on April 22nd, or closing completely and going out to the celebration in your city.

That's because Earth Day, like your corner of our planet, will be what you make it. We hope you enjoy Earth Day to the very fullest, possible extent this year and for many years to come.


April 22: Earth Day 2010!

March 16, 2010

It's our favorite time of year at the Green Business Alliance. I'm sure you know why.

Spring is on the way and in the spring, our young-at-heart thoughts turn to Earth Day! And this year, it's the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

As glad as we are that the world has enjoyed forty years of marking the importance of taking care of our world, it seems the planet needs our care and attention more than ever. Climate change is likely to be the biggest challenge of our lifetime.

Earth Day 2010 is a focus point: a moment for some to begin turning their minds and hearts to trying to help clean up and care for the planet. For others, it's a time of renewing the commitment to work together to make sure that our planet is cleaner, that we live a more sustainable life and attempt to help others to do the same. Earth Day 2010 is our annual day to think and act more greener than ever before.

What can we do differently and better this year than last? Where are the small changes that we can make? What are the more long-term, engrossing and community projects we can take on? Are there change we can make at work? What about at home? Is there some small contribution you can make or a leadership role among many that you can take?

For those who have been focused on efforts to Greenify for some time, it may be harder to find new ways to commit to a more planet-conscious approach to life. The road ahead to improve is likely to be found in little tweaks and bits of taking down one's carbon footprint.

If you're just starting to go green, well, you're just in time! There's always room for more and a world of ideas, big and small, for greenifying. We like them all and we like to talk about them here at the Green Business Alliance. So stick around, because Earth Day 2010 is just around the corner and we'll have more information and ideas here at www.GreenBusinessAlliance.com for on how you can get yourself and your business involved.


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.


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.


Loca-Procurement

October 28, 2009

So by now you've heard of the "locavore movement."  You may even be using a locavore approach in your own food shopping and dining habits.  Locavores are people who try to eat foods in season and shop for their fruits and vegetables within a limited distance.  One popular approach is to dine only on foods produced within 100 miles as much as possible.  But how about putting your business on a "100 Mile Diet?"  How about if you tried green procurement?
 
Green procurement would be seeking out goods and services that are less environmentally damaging.  A good portion of a product's "greenness" can often be based on proximity.  And here's good news: goods and services that are produced locally are going to be less environmentally damaging than goods and services produced from afar, as less energy is expended getting them to the consumer.  Many times the savings in terms of shipping a product or hiring in a service can be passed along to purchasers.

Even if all you do is purchase your office supplies from a supplier in the local town, rather than driving to another town to purchase them, consider the carbon emissions eliminated by limiting the distance involved.  You'll almost certainly save money on gas and possibly on the investment of your own valuable time as a business person.  If you tally up the mileage, gas, and general wear and tear on your business vehicle, the savings could be considerable.  They certainly could be sizable for our environment.
 
Some things will not be purchasable in terms of the production aspect.  Few enough companies produce pens or paper; but in the service aspect, the local movement may open wide.  And we can supplement green procurement with reusing and recycling.  The savings in terms of carbon emissions and actual dollars may benefit both sides of the equation, if we:
•  make the office more paperless by printing only when necessary
•  use double-sided printing whenever possible
•  invoice electronically rather than sending invoices through the mail
•  use refillable pens rather than "throwaways"
•  reuse old file folders

We've got a long way to go and lots of little ways that will help us get there, if we Greenify together. 


Green Bamboo? …Maybe

September 11, 2009

Have you noticed all the green marketing around lately?  It’s on everything from clothing to clothing to coffee filters to recycled paper.  I’m not about to debate whether recycled anything is green, but let’s take a look at the claims being made about bamboo.

Bamboo, as you may be aware, is the woody stalk of a plant that grows so fast and using so little resources (very few nutrients and a small amount of water) that it’s being labeled as green.  It’s made into cutting boards, clothing, sheets, coffee filters, and flooring.  But are those products truly green?

Let me just ask you a quick question.  Have you seen any bamboo being grown commercially around where you live?  And have you checked the products certification?  There is no global certification standard for using responsibly produced bamboo, and until it’s developed, you may want to the producers for guidance.

Bamboo is popular in clothing, sheets, towels and other textiles because it’s cool against the skin, absorbs water well, and feels soft.  But the process of turning the woody stalks into silky fabric uses a lot of water, energy, and chemicals, according to industry insiders.   Laura Wehrman, owner of Tela Verde, a New York-based company that tracks sustainable textiles for the fashion industry says that it “does not meet the definition of sustainability."  She also says, it’s probably less of a planet-taxing alternative than non-organic cotton or polyester, and has the potential to be greener if manufacturing processes improve.

The group, “Oeko-Tex” certifies textiles that have met safety and environmental standards.  Consumers can check for compliance with this standard.

Bamboo flooring is also growing in popularity because of its low cost and durability.  The Forest Stewardship Council certifies environmentally responsible flooring. Look for the council's symbol when seeking out bamboo construction materials.

One product that is known to be on top of the “ecologically sound” movement is Bambu, a line of tableware available at Target and other retailers.  It is certified organic by a Swiss body, IMO.

Bamboo can be a smart alternative to wood products, but don't assume it's synonymous with sustainability. Most of it is grown and the products produced in Asia, where there is already concern that demand for it is causing clear-cutting of old growth forests. The carbon footprint of shipping it around the world is not insignificant.  So check with companies before you buy, and don't buy new if you don't really have to. 


Bottled Water Fizzles

August 18, 2009

Is your bottled water habit a bit, well, flat? You aren't alone. Budget-conscious consumers are weaning themselves off the bottle because of the recession. It's hard to think of another bit of recession fall-out so beneficial to our planet because we know what this means to our environment: Greenification.

Nestle, the country's largest seller of bottled water, has reported that profits for the first half of 2009 dropped 2.7 percent. This is the first decline in the company's numbers in six years and analysts have pinpointed the source as water.

Market researchers say it's an obvious place to cut. For thousands of years, people have drank water and they've done it without bottles involved. They've put their heads down to streams, locked lips on backyard hoses, and enjoyed pouring glasses straight from the kitchen tap. The bottling of water is an extremely recent phenomenon that has been dangerous for both people and the environment.

The danger for people is that bottled water doesn't contain fluoride, inserted for growing children's teeth. The danger for the environment came on the other end as 86% of plastic water bottles went in the trash, instead of into recycling efforts. They stuffed landfills to overflowing with lightning speed.

"I thought we'd never be able to impact sales of bottled water, and all of a sudden it's really gained momentum," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of advocacy group Food & Water Watch. "I think we're making real progress."

You remember the glory days of bottled H20, right? Sales of bottled water gushed 59 percent to $5.1 billion between 2003 to 2008, making it one of the fastest growing beverages. About 70 percent of consumers currently say they drink bottled water.

But the recession stemmed the tide. Nestle sells a variety of brands, such as Poland Spring, Deer Park, S. Pellegrino and Perrier. It was the only sector in Nestle's food and beverage group to post a decline in global sales during the first half of the year, down 2.9 percent because of weakness in the United States and Western Europe. Coca Cola is also seeing a softening, again in the bottled water sector of its business.

According to Jeff Cioletti, editor in chief of trade publication Beverage World, per capita consumption dropped from 29 gallons to 28.5. Cioletti said he doesn't believe the well will spring forth again anytime soon.

"There were sort of a lot of headwinds," he said.

That's right. Not just the economic downturn, but a campaign by environmentalists to get consumers to turn on the tap.

Government offices are now campaigning to cut off the bottled water and return to the tap. And some grocers are determined to at least stop selling imported bottled water after considering the carbon footprint that goes into producing, transporting and selling it.

According to Food & Water Watch, more than 17 million barrels of oil -- enough to fuel 1 million cars for a year-- are needed to produce the plastic water bottles sold in the United States annually.

So here's an idea whose time has come: since everyone's cutting back at home, this is the perfect time to kick your business' bottled water habit. Buy a distiller. Water: on tap to help you Greenify.


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.


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