White House Update: Keeping Promises Greenly

June 3, 2009

Did you see the news this weekend?  The President of the United States took his wife on a date including dinner and a play in New York City.  On Saturday, after watching their daughter Malia play soccer earlier in the day, Barack and Michelle Obama flew to New York taking their Secret Service officers, the media and a few staffers with them.

"I am taking my wife to New York City because I promised her during the campaign that I would take her to a Broadway show after it was all finished," the president said in a statement read to members of the media by an aide.

There was quite a lot of hubbub about the cost and money wasted by flying the First Couple and their security and media entourage to New York.  But that’s a story for a different blog. 

What I found interesting was the choice of restaurant: Blue Hill, a West Village restaurant that is described by New York magazine as a "seminal Greenmarket haven," featuring food grown by chef-owner Dan Barber at a farm he owns upstate.

Restaurants were one of the first types of businesses to pursue greener operations.  One of the leaders was Alice Waters, who began the “slow food” effort to provide high quality organic seasonal cuisine at her restaurant Chez Panisse in the San Francisco Bay area years ago. Ms. Waters believes that the international shipment of mass-produced food is both harmful to the environment and produces an inferior product for the consumer, therefore, she decided to Greenify her tables by offering her customers locally produced, seasonal organic cuisine.  And she’s won dozens of awards in doing so.

Since then, other restaurants have gotten on the bandwagon.  They’ve seen that diners are attracted to healthy, fresh-tasting, organic cuisine.  They are willing to pay more for interesting and well-done seasonal cuisine.  And that success can follow through waving the greenification flag high overhead.

The restaurant listed above is part of New York City’s effort to Greenify its produce.  The Council on the Environment of New York City has this website to help its consumers learn about local farmers and what they are offering:
http://www.cenyc.org/greenmarket

The site spotlights what began as “12 farmers in a vacant lot in 1976,” but has become one of the largest farmers market networks in the country.   The restaurant the Obamas dined at is listed on the website as shopping for some of its fresh produce there. 

It’s nice to see the President making good on campaign promises to all his supporters and doing it in a way that can, at some level, be thought of as green.


Green Is Green, Except When It’s Pink!

June 1, 2009

Going green and the work involved to Greenify homes and offices is going to help a lot of people this year.  You knew that, right? 

The stimulus package put in place by President Barack Obama includes $5 billion in funds for low-income U.S. households for energy-efficiency upgrades.  That includes everything from new double-paned windows and doors to “the pink stuff” insulation going into attics.

While these dollars will help these lower-income Americans, the money will also help businesses.  Those dollars will purchase insulation. They’ll buy caulking and weather-stripping.  And provide furnace and air-conditioning tune-ups.  

In doing so, those dollars will also pay for salaries of manufacturing plant workers at window and door factories.  They will pay the guy to install the doors and windows and insulation.  And any other project that the government deems helpful in both providing improved energy efficiency and of course, stimulating dollars back into the American economy.

The government has accepted applications for federal weatherization funds through this month, with thousands of companies, community groups, governments and others vying for stimulus dollars.  And tens of thousands of applications have been filed for the dollars in almost every state in the nation.  The government’s dollars are only now beginning to filter out of Washington.  The full impact should be felt by September: just in time for home and businesses to fully utilize improved energy efficiency.  

But Greenification is coming: both improved energy efficient heating and insulation and greening up the economy.  And pinking up attics everywhere.


Painting your roof tops White?!

May 27, 2009

Yes, you read the title of this blog correct. White roof tops was a topic of conversation in London yesterday at a climate change symposium. In an effort to Greenify our nation, one of the outcomes of this symposium is that the Obama administration wants homeowners to paint their roofs an energy-reflecting white color.

US Energy Secretary Steven Chu represented the United States at this London event. He also indicated that light-colored (or "cool-coloured") pavement and cars could also mean energy savings for our country.

Click here to read more about how the US wants to paint the World White, and the positive environmental effects these actions may have, in Tuesday's blog post on Yahoo Green.


Spring Forward to Greenify!

May 5, 2009

We're finally feeling the Spring temperatures in most areas of the United States, which means it’s time to get out and enjoy the warm air and sun on our faces.  How can you do that and gather the gang for some Greenification?  How about a little community project? 

You’ve seen those signs along the side of the freeway: "Adopted by Acme Business Supply."  Ever wonder what that "adoption" entails?  Usually, it means contacting your state or local municipality to formally sponsor taking care of the side of the highway, clearing it of litter and debris.  It could be your business’ name instead of “Acme Business Supply” on the roadside sign.

That’s right: you sponsor the section of the highway.  In most states, you aren’t expected to get out there to clean and maintain that section yourself.  They do it for you as part of the sponsorship fee.  But maybe you’d like that opportunity?

I was walking through my neighborhood this past weekend when I saw a discarded takeout container.  It surprised me, because I was in the “gated” section where such littering usually doesn’t happen.  I picked up the container because it was so out of place that I felt a little leaving it there.  I walked it over to another neighbor’s recycling bin where I tucked it safely inside.

You can do that anytime, anyplace, you know.  If you see a cup or plate out of place, you can just pick it up and carry it to a waste receptacle.  Nobody has to tell you that it’s not a pretty sight.  You can just properly dispose of it when you spot such littering. 

Of course, if you’d like to pay to sponsor the greenification of a section of roadway, that’s great, too.   But maybe grab a picnic lunch and the office gang some weekend and go find a street you can clean on your own.  Since it’s greenification not glorification that’s the goal, it’s all good in our thinking.  And maybe it’ll make the Spring flowers smell a little sweeter, too.

 

 


America the Beautiful; Americans the Energy Conservationists!

April 24, 2009

I just finished driving across country from the East Coast to the West Coast, which I have done several times before.  Every time I do this, I notice something different.  This time, what struck me was the growth of alternative energy sources around the country.  We’re looking for alternative energy and it seemed to me, the answer is blowing in the wind.

I am accustomed to seeing the huge turbines in the desert surrounding Palm Springs.  They sometimes are turning but many of them are stilled and I’ve always wondered whether they are still due to lack of wind or lack of interest in making them provide clean energy to operate our cities?

I took a different route this time and saw wind farms where I had never seen them before including the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center.  This energy farm in Texas is the world’s largest energy producing wind farm with 735.5 megawatt capacity.  Texas is the state with the most wind farms in operation as well as the most farms under construction. 

I also saw wind farms in operation in Iowa when I was there last summer.  Minnesota and Oregon both also have large numbers of farms.

But the sight of these gentle-looking giants slowly turning, looking as though they will spring loose and roll away with the wind driving them always makes me wonder why we don’t have more of these?

The government has been pouring resources into renewable energy sources.  There is support for these programs and interest in them. Americans have said in surveys that they will pay more for green products.  This is one that ought to be supported.

Taking a coast-to-coast road trip is actually a fairly resource-intensive undertaking.  But my plans necessitated it, and I hoped some good would come it.  So thanks for letting me share these hopeful views of our country.  We can Greenify together, and we need to find answers.  This past week, I saw that process getting underway. 


Earth Day 2009

April 20, 2009

Earth Day is coming up this Wednesday, so I thought today we’d talk a little about the history of this great day on our planet.  It’s a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for our Mother Earth. 

In September 1969 at a conference in Seattle, Washington, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin announced a “nationwide grassroots demonstration on the environment” that would be celebrated the following Spring. This announcement came at a time of great concern about overpopulation and when there was a strong movement towards "Zero Population Growth."

Senator Nelson proposed the nationwide environmental protest in order to thrust the environment onto the national agenda.

"It was a gamble," he recalls, "but it worked."

April 22, 1970, Earth Day marked the beginning of the modern environmental movement as approximately 20 million Americans participated, with a goal of a healthy, sustainable environment.

The man who coordinated all those people, Denis Hayes led the organization of massive coast-to-coast rallies. There were thousand of colleges and universities organizing protests against the abuse and deterioration of the environment.  Groups that had fought against pollution of factories, steel mills, and power plants, organizing against oil spills, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways and wildlife extinction all suddenly came together under one umbrella.

By Earth Day on April 22, 1990, the number answering the rally cry had reached 200 million, with a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide.  It also helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

The Earth Day in 2000 focused on global warming and a push for clean energy.  It combined the big-picture feistiness of the first Earth Day with the international grassroots activism of Earth Day 1990. It also had the Internet helping to link activists around the world as 5,000 environmental groups reached out to hundreds of millions of people in a record 184 countries. Earth Day 2000 sent the message loud and clear that citizens the world 'round wanted quick and decisive action on clean energy. Earth Day 2007 was one of the largest Earth Days to date, with an estimated billion people participating in the activities in thousands of places like Kiev, Ukraine; Caracas, Venezuela; Tuvalu; Manila, Philippines; Togo; Madrid, Spain; London; and New York.

Earth Day 2009 is expected to push forward with more driving force, bringing over half a billion people together with one goal and focus: to stop deterioration and pollution of the planet; to undo damage where possible and to provide a better world for all of us to live in.  We hope you will join in this wondrous cause with us. 


A Personal Commitment to Greenify: A Life Less Plastic

April 10, 2009

Have you thought about committed you are to a Greener life?  I was reading about various groups and individuals who are trying to make a difference when I spotted one person who is really tackling the idea for herself.  Jeanne Haegele is a 29 year old marketing coordinator in Chicago.  She writes a blog called “Life Less Plastic.”  The blog name tells all, so I emailed her a few questions and this fascinating woman offered these answers:

GBA: Where did you get the idea for your plastic-less blog?

JH: The project was set in motion when a friend of mine in the medical field explained that plastic may have negative health effects.  I started to research about plastic online.  I read that certain plastics may have serious potential for harmful effects and also found that plastic use is having very serious effects on the environment, mostly because plastic really isn't being recycled. After learning this, I became convinced that I wanted to give up plastic.

As I learned more about plastic and how to avoid it, the project became more about the environment.  Americans use 30 million tons of plastic each year, according to the EPA's statistics from 2007.  Very little of that is recycled, mostly because recycling plastic really isn't an economically viable thing to do. 

Giving up plastic became increasingly important for me.  I wanted to protect myself from the chemicals in plastic, yes, but I also wanted to do something to protect the environmental damage created by plastic, a substance that never bio-degrades.

GBA: How successful do you feel have you been and what were the trickiest parts of your efforts to get plastic out of your life and be more environmentally conscious?

JH: After working out lots of strategies to avoid the plastic, I feel like I've been really successful at getting it out of my life.  I barely use any, and I'm really proud of that.  The trickiest part of this whole experiment was just figuring out how to avoid plastic in the first place.  I had to completely revise how I shop.  Instead of buying lots of pre-packaged goods, I now stick to fruits and vegetables and go to stores that sell food from bulk bins.

GBA: Do you feel like you are missing out on anything living without plastic?

JH: The one thing I really miss is cheese.  It's very difficult to find cheese that isn't wrapped in plastic so I don't eat too much of it anymore.

To catch up with Jeanne and get ideas on how to further Greenify your life by eliminating plastic, you can visit her blog.

(LINK: http://lifelessplastic.blogspot.com/ )


A Greener View: Energy Efficient Windows

April 9, 2009

As a home or business owner, this year may be one of the toughest years you’ve ever faced.  You’d like to do something more to Greenify, but how can you spend money that you may need to pay bills and keep the business afloat?
 
You might want to look outside your four walls and consider new windows.
Thanks to the stimulus bill, homeowners can now claim a tax credit of up to $1,500 for new, energy-efficient windows, doors, and skylights.  For businesses, it can be an asset to the business that will be quickly cost effective.  

This website, http://www.efficientwindows.org/ is sponsored by the government to provide information for homeowners who are trying to decide whether they can afford to make this commitment to energy savings this year, in this difficult economy. 
Who wouldn’t like to have fresh new windows to look out of or maybe a skylight overhead that brightens the day and allows you to fully enjoy a pounding rainstorm when it rumbles through? 

Whether we’re talking about adding double paned windows, tinted and treated glass, or skylights that eliminate the need for electrical lighting through a major portion of the day, these windows are increasingly valuable in the workplace and at home. 

The tax credit related to the current stimulus is to cover 30% of the cost of energy efficient windows, doors and skylights purchased and installed in 2009 to 2010.  The maximum amount covered, as previously mentioned, is $1500.  But even without the tax credit, these windows can save their owners hundreds of dollars every year in energy costs, whether it’s on heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer. 

The website’s factsheet contains information and estimates about the cost savings in multiple areas of the country for your convenience.   Another factsheet details how to qualify for the tax credit.

Spending the money and upgrading to new energy efficient windows may also help Greenify the economy, since the stimulus is designed to work better if we all spend a little extra.  Wouldn’t it be great if we spent the money to buy something that could help cut down our carbon footprint and benefit everyone in more ways than one? 


How Green is Your Portfolio?

April 6, 2009

We’re not usually “all about the investments” here at Green Business Alliance.  We want to help you Greenify the planet and invest in your life here on it.  But we have a little investment advice for you today.  Some people think we may be about to hit the “Golden Age” of green business.

Why? Look to the leadership in Washington.  The Obama Administration’s increased support of environmental issues backed up by regulatory changes that are already taking shape along with strong green elements in the proposed stimulus make it appear as though the way is clear, lush, and yes, GREEN. 

But that’s also the assessment of results from the latest survey of American investors at Allianz Global Investors, which shows Americans see a "Golden Age" on the way for enviro-investing.

Here are some of the investors’ survey findings: 

• 91 percent believe that resolving environmental problems will be a major issue for years
• 69 percent consider it important to look at investing in companies that capitalize on addressing those problems.
• 78 percent say environmental technology has the potential to be the "next great American industry,"

The survey found that 97% of those questioned think exploring alternative fuel sources remains important despite gas prices going down. 
The poll showed investors are already looking for firms that seek to address environmental issues.  They are looking for ways to pour in dollars to businesses in a more environmentally friendly business climate.

We think it will be a great year to Greenify your business, your life, and maybe even your portfolio. 


Green at the Grocer’s

April 3, 2009

Did you ever wonder about the food you eat?  Sure, it looks healthy, but could you green it up a notch and make it healthier for you and the earth?   Sustainable food is a movement across the country that seeks to Greenify the food industry, but could also improve your nutrition.

Fuel used to ship your food is the culprit in this scenario.  If you plan ahead now to grow your own tomatoes, a few herbs and some squash in a backyard garden, you’ll be saving yourself a few dollars, control the use of pesticides and fertilizer, and at the same time, cut down on customers for expensive shipped produce and food items.

Don’t have a green thumb?  We understand that. (Boy, do some of us understand that one!)  But how about if you buy your produce at a Farmer’s Market? 

These days, you have to check, because lots of “farmers” at markets these days are actually buying shipped products wholesale and showing up to sell them at markets.  They won’t usually be dishonest about where the vegetables were grown and under what conditions, but sometimes you do have to ask to get the truth.

And what will you get for your trouble?  Locally grown food, usually organic, healthy and safe for all members of your family to eat.  It’s better for you. It’s also better for your children.  Nutritionists say parents can help cut childhood obesity rates by shopping at the outer edges of the store: that’s the produce and fresh meat section. That means stepping away from canned, over-processed foods that have hidden sugars, fats, and other unhealthy additives.

So invest in a lunchbox.  Eating sustainable food may cost a little more and it may require more time and effort on your part.  But the dividends it pays in terms of health, cutting your carbon footprint, and committing to Greenification may grow as time goes on.


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