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.


Green Music

May 19, 2008

I thought I’d switch gears a little bit and focus on green music. The Dave Matthews Band has a well deserved reputation as an environmentally and socially friendly company. Well, they’re a band, but they are a company as well. The Dave Matthews Band (aka DMB) has had their foot in the social/environmental arena since the mid-90’s, performing at FarmAid benefit concerts. In 2002 they made a splash when their tour was certified “Climate Cool” by the Climate Neutral Network. In the following five years, they have gone even greener. In 2007 DMB teamed up with Reverb, a non-profit environmental group which works primarily with musicians. DMB had an extremely green tour last summer utilizing everything from B20 bio-diesel to reducing waste to eco-friendly merchandise.

In 2008, DMB and Reverb are again joining forces to create one of the most environmentally friendly concert tours out there. The techniques employed last year which saved over 3.3 million pounds of CO2 will again be employed, along with some neat new tricks. DMB will be instituting an online ride-sharing/carpooling program for fans to utilize to get to and from the shows. An eco-footprint reduction contest will be held to educate fans about their own eco-footprint (not to mention teaching people how to reduce it). Stonyfield Yogurt and Climate Counts will be sponsoring the Eco-Village, which is an environmental outreach program featuring education, prizes such as solar-backpacks, national and local non-profits, etc.

Reverb has greened 50 tours and is currently working with Jason Mraz, John Meyer, Jack Johnson and the Honda Civic Tour as well as DMB. If you are so inclined and would like to volunteer at a DMB show near you, Reverb offers that opportunity. You will get some free swag, see the show and help save the environment!


Office Recycling 101

April 25, 2008

One inquiry that is continually coming our way is “how do I start an office recycling program?” We know that the official celebration of Earth Day came and went earlier this week. We at Green Business Alliance are hopeful that our citizenry is beginning to realize that Earth Day is really EVERY day. Along these lines, an office recycling program can be implemented in a variety of fashions in order to allow all employees to participate in taking care of the environment on a day to day basis. We can all do at least a small part …at the very least throw a way a piece of paper in a special bin in order for that paper or cardboard to be recycled rather than pile-up in a land-fill.

Earth911 provides some great resources on how to get started with the 3 Rs...Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Anyone can contact their local Solid Waste Authority and ask about implementing an office recycling program. Keep in mind, office recycling is not limited to paper and cardboard. There are many items that can be recycled in an office ranging from aluminum cans to fluorescent tubes for lighting to many sources of e-waste (electronic waste like computers, VCRs, and cell phones). The point is to just do it. Just recycle something – paper, electronics, bottles and cans etc. It’s good for the environment, our land-fills and our future on this planet!


Earth Day Resolution #7 – Greenify

April 22, 2008

It’s hard to believe but it is finally Earth Day! This blog series began 55 days ago when many of us were seeing white (as in snow) but hoping for green (as in spring). Along the way we discussed Earth Hour, Earth Day music, eco-friendly water bottles, reusable shopping bags, green foods, green fundraisers for schools, and carbon footprints. We have now reached our seventh and final resolution for Earth Day 2008. We can sum it up in one word, 8 letters…

GREENIFY

This Earth Day resolve to make a permanent change to your daily habits by making the decision to Greenify at work and/or at home. Integrate environmental stewardship into your day-to-day routine. We at Green Business Alliance can help you to achieve this goal. By implementing our Guidelines to Greenify your home or company, you will not only have a positive impact on the environment, but also on those around you. You will send a message to others that you are a part of the go green movement and that you have taken action to ensure that your daily practices are eco-friendly. To learn more about how to Greenify, visit our business and residence pages.


Earth Day Resolution #6 – Going Green for Schools

April 18, 2008

For the past few weeks, the parents at my children’s school have been hearing about the upcoming spring fundraiser. One never knows what that is going to entail – selling cookie dough, chocolates, wrapping paper or magazine subscriptions. As I my kids became more excited about the ‘sale’ and the prospect of selling enough items to get that coveted grand prize, I became more concerned about which neighbors and family members were ‘on deck’ in the friendly rotation of supporting one another’s schools via the children’s fundraisers.

I was very pleasantly surprised when the folder came home in the backpack and it looked unfamiliar. My kids could not stop talking about the ‘Go Green’ sale they were having. “Go Green,” I asked? “Yes mom…you know Go Green as in doing something good for the earth,” the kids replied. I immediately opened the envelope to find an eco-friendly looking brochure from Growkids – help children/heal the earth. What a concept, the kids are going to sell items like seed collections, green foaming soap, reusable shopping bags and hemp frisbees. The school receives 50% of all proceeds, a tree is dedicated and planted for every sales participant and the products being sold are environmentally friendly. It seems like a win for all – the school, the kids, the buyers and our environment!  As Sarah Talley, the founder of Growkids states on her website, “I’m not ready to run off into the forest and forfeit all of the comforts of modern life ... but I am learning to walk a little softer on the earth.”

In the midst of my excitement I picked up the phone to tell a friend at a neighboring school. When I started to talk about the Go Green fundraiser at our school, my friend quickly responded with her school’s version of the Green sale…CFL light bulbs. Her school was having a CFL sale. We seem to be moving away from cookie dough, candy and magazine sales. How nice!

This Earth Day, resolve to help spread the word at your children’s school about Green fundraising opportunities. Face it, the school fundraiser is here to stay. It’s a right of passage for the youngsters. The cute faces knocking on your door eager to make a sale are not going away and I hope they never do. Why not teach the kids about the importance of doing the right thing for the environment while going green and helping their school at the same time! I hope that we can all walk a little gentler this year!


Green Is The New Black… In Many Ways

April 15, 2008

Right now, there is a ton of buzz everywhere relative to Going Green. Whether it’s the commercial for the new Lexus Hybrids, the school down the street that is adding a new building to Green standards or the April email newsletter from AT&T that promotes “Go Green For Green, Saving The Earth Can Save You Money Too,”  Green is front and center and as a result awareness seems to be reaching new heights.

What we’re noticing is that a lot of people who are reaching out to Green Business Alliance have a large number of questions on what’s actually involved in Going Green. That’s a really good sign in our opinion, as the only way to make meaningful strides is to understand the playing field and ultimately have an effective roadmap to follow.

So it has become hip to be Green. That doesn’t ensure that positive steps will ensue, but it sure beats the ambivalence from the public that many early Green adopters have been frustrated by for so many years.


Earth Day Resolution #5 – Reducing Your Footprint

April 11, 2008

What size is your carbon footprint?  The national average is around 8 tons of Carbon Dioxide per year depending on which Carbon calculator you are using. Do you think your footprint is larger or smaller than the average? 

You can calculate your carbon footprint on one of the many web-based carbon calculators. The EPA has a more sophisticated calculator which asks questions pertaining to the type of dwelling you live in, the number of people in the household, transportation, waste and more. They also offer a calculator on the same page to reduce emissions. Yahoo’s Green site is the simplest calculator which only asks 7 general questions. MSN’s Green site has a carbon calculator which is somewhere between Yahoo’s and the EPA’s.

So gather recent natural gas, heating oil, propane, and electric bills, click on one of the calculator’s above and get ready to determine the size of your footprint. The good news is that no matter how big or small your carbon footprint is, there are many actions that one can take to reduce the size.

With Earth Day just around the corner make a promise to yourself and resolve to reduce your carbon footprint by at least one size. The earth will be a better place for it and you will be happier with your new footprint knowing that your smaller steps have helped our planet by leaps and bounds.


What is a REC and Why Does it Matter for Businesses?

April 8, 2008

Wikipedia defines a Renewable Energy Credit as: “Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), also known as Green tags, Renewable Energy Credits, or Tradable Renewable Certificates (TRCs), are tradable environmental commodities that represent proof that 1 megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity was generated from an eligible renewable energy resource.” 

The idea behind RECS is that businesses (and individuals) can offset their carbon footprint by purchasing Renewable Energy Credits. While the rationale is clear-cut for businesses that are big polluters, it is less obvious for companies work out of an office and are telephone / computer focused.

Wikipedia also notes that: “A popular incentive for buying RECs is to make the claim that your energy use is carbon neutral and hence does not contribute to global warming. Looking at the situation from a macroscopic level, buying RECs finances some portion of the increased costs of green energy producers, to reduce the producer's increase in cost as compared to sources which pollute more. However, it could be argued that the green energy production facilities which are already built today might still continue functioning and producing energy at the same rate even if no one were to buy another REC. On a microscopic level, buying a few RECs has very little direct effect on the amount of CO2 produced at this very moment. As larger and larger numbers of RECs come into demand, however, renewable energy will become more and more cost effective per kWh in comparison to nonrenewable energy. “

So should purchasing carbon offsets be a priority for businesses today? We believe that the answer is YES. As referenced above, in the big picture, the cumulative impact will be enormous, although the direct impact today is much harder to quantify. That logic, however applies to a number of the dimensions of the Go Green movement and every small step matter and is instrumental from a “setting the tone” perspective with employees and customers. Let your customers see first-hand that you go to the efforts to recycle within the office.

Successful business owners make investments everyday with a long term perspective in mind. Going Green is another example of a path to be taken that may not yield tangible benefits in the short run, but has untold, long term upside potential. Lastly, purchasing RECS is not very expensive for most companies, so cost should not be a deterrent.


The Tentacles of Going Green

April 1, 2008

As Green Business Alliance continues to evolve, we're learning a great deal along the way, particularly with respect to how our mission is being viewed by those who are hearing about us. The response thus far has been exceptionally favorable, and there have been some interesting revelations along the way.

One thing we've learned is that curiosity abounds within businesses as to what it actually means to Go Green. With the exception of businesses which are somehow already involved with the movement (i.e. selling green products or services), very few of the people we speak with have a handle on even the basics. Although some folks might see that as disappointing, we believe it further validates the importance of Green Business Alliance today. These passionate folks have been sharing our story with their peers and that has led to people reaching out to us who are far removed from the original source.

What we've also discovered is that businesses who decide to participate in our program and who share their Green vision with their teams are stimulating interest with employees in actually Greenifying their homes. When we launched the Green Home Alliance, we didn't have the foresight to predict that many of those looking to Greenify their homes would emanate from our business clients. Given the reach of the internet, this isn't surprising, but given the grass roots nature of our efforts, it is very rewarding nonetheless.


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