Start at the Beginning!

January 14, 2009

If you’re going to Greenify this year, where’s the best place to start?  Obviously, you want to start at the beginning.  But that means you need to know where you are now. You’re going to have to assess where you stand on putting your business firmly on the green.

That means figuring out what you’re already doing.  Are you recycling?  Are you, your employees and sometimes, even your customers doing what you can to put recycling programs into play?  Are you sorting out recyclables for pick-up?  Are you taking computers and other obsolete or broken computers and gadgets to drop-off locations where they or their materials can be properly rerouted back into service and away from landfills?  Do you send computer printer cartridges back for refill or reuse?

Are you using recycled products yourself?  Sometimes, we all know they can cost a little more.  But even if you can only afford to use recycled products for one week per month or a few days, every little bit helps.

What about water?  Are you filtering the water or still bringing in the bottled products?  If you haven’t already, get off that expensive and carbon-costly water wagon as quickly as possible.  You’re doing yourself, your community and your landfill a favor by doing that.
 
Look overhead.  Still using the old-style lightbulbs?  Get the CFLs.  They’ll save you money long-term.  Also take a hard look at your thermostat and the temperature gauge on your water-heater.  Dropping them even a few degrees saves energy, saves you money on your energy bill and helps to Greenify your business.

Do you encourage your employees to ride-share into work?  That can open up valuable parking places for customers, too.

“You can’t reduce what you don’t measure first,” says Allison Hannon, Midwestern regional manager for The Climate Group, which is a group that helps companies and governments address global warming issues.  The time to assess where you’re at in in the process to go green is now. The time to start doing more, of course, will be as soon as you’re doing figuring that out.


Greener Computer Cooling for the Planet; for the Pocketbook

January 5, 2009

Could Greenifying the planet be as simple as using fresh air to cool your data center?  If that statement is true, it may also Greenify your company's bottom line. 

Ok, we're oversimplifying, but improving our environment is a step-by-step process.  Companies that use natural air to cool their facilities often see huge benefits on both the environmental end and the bottom line.  IT experts, analysts and environmentalists say there are plenty of opportunities for tech organizations to create more Earth-friendly operations, cut their energy needs and slash their carbon footprint, all while saving money.

A recent survey of IT executives showed a little reluctance on the part of some leaders. Nearly half (42%) said their IT departments have no plans to launch projects in the next 12 months to reduce energy consumption or carbon emissions, and nearly three quarters reported no plans to create committees to oversee energy-saving initiatives.  Those are delays which may force them to play catch up down the road.

"The green issue is not going to go away. There's too much at stake," says Rakesh Kumar, a Gartner Inc. analyst.

That's not to say IT leaders don't have their reasons for staying away from green computing. Kumar says some of them think it's a fad. And others, even among the educated and informed, believe global warming is a hoax and that there's no need to act on the issue, or they see green as merely increasing expenses.  It's time for those ideas to be updated along with energy usage patterns.

Increasingly, however, IT leaders and other executives are putting aside such concerns and pushing for green IT initiatives.

In the September 2008 "U.S. Green IT Survey" by IDC, the market research firm, 44% of the respondents said that IT plays a very important role in their organizations' efforts to reduce their environmental impact.  That number is up from the previous year's survey, in which only 14% of CEOs said they felt such concerns.

This year, however, another factor is in play.  The 2008 survey shows the high cost of energy is among the most pressing reason for changing how data centers and computers are cooled.

"We don't see many or indeed any companies that are hesitant to explore green IT projects," IDC analyst Vernon Turner wrote in an e-mail on this topic. "In fact, the scary thing is where to start, and it may be that reason why there is somewhat a feeling of lost souls. There has been a lot of marketing by the IT vendor community around green, and I think that CEOs and CIOs are 'green-washed' by it."

Cooling computers and other data and tech apparatus using natural air is earth-friendly as well as pocketbook friendly; two areas where expertise combines to be extra important in this New Year.


Ready to Kick it Up a Notch on Greenifying?

December 28, 2008

Are you already a concerned Greenifying business owner who wants the company to be more environmentally friendly?  You’ve already put in the energy saving fluorescent bulbs and reset the thermostat to save money.  Now let’s go a little further in your commitment to the planet.

Check your carbon footprint.  There is many more ways to reduce your household carbon emissions. Find out more about your emissions and where you can best reduce them by using an online “carbon calculator.”  A list of those is found on the website of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Look into ride sharing or mass transit.  Over a quarter of the vehicle-miles travelled by households are for commuting to and from work – usually with one person in the vehicle. If business owners lead the way and encourage employees to follow, carpooling and mass transit could offer a huge reduction in carbon emissions. 

Plan and combine trips, too.  And talk to your employees about this.  Many times, an employee thinks “Oh, it’s just the boss’ vehicle.”  Remind them that in a recessionary economy, the money they save may provide their paycheck in the future.  And if they do combine and plan their trips better, they’ll help Greenify, as well.

Switch to green-power, too.  Contact your electricity provider to find out about the green power options available to you.  Many areas offer these services, and sometimes, all you have to do is check.

A more long term commitment to lowering the carbon footprint is a commitment to being in business a lot longer.


Cyber Greenification

December 22, 2008

Have you thought lately about the computer that you’re using and how much it costs the environment?  Computers in the business sector waste $1 billion worth of electricity a year.

First, let’s consider the kind of computer that you have.  PC or laptop?  A standard personal computer uses a significant amount of more energy to operate during a daily work cycle than a laptop.  PC’s are the “6 cylinder engines” of the computer world.  What you want to be operating is more like a moped.  A laptop can pay for itself in the course of one year, in energy savings over a personal computer. 

Make it a policy to invest in energy-saving computers, monitors, and printers.  You’ll want to research, looking for energy-saver decals and then once you buy them, use the most energy-saving cycles possible. 

So now that you’ve got the computer, make a habit of turning it—and the power strip it's plugged into— off when you leave for the day. Otherwise, you're still burning energy even if you're not burning the midnight oil. (You definitely want to check with your IT department before doing this to make sure the computer doesn't need to be on to run backups or other maintenance.)

During the day, setting your computer to go to sleep automatically during short breaks can cut energy use by 70 percent. Remember, screen savers don't save energy.  Turning the computer off or putting it into hibernation both save energy.

When it’s time to get a new computer, look for a recycler with a pledge not to export hazardous e-waste and to follow other safety guidelines. Old computers that still work, and are less than five years old, can be donated to organizations that refurbish them, giving them another life in new homes.   (You may even get a tax deduction.)

Computers are part of our life, but they shouldn’t be allowed to take control of our environment.  And certainly not after they are done being of service.


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.


Have You Greenified for the Season?

November 12, 2008

Winter has now descended on the North American hemisphere, reminding us one last time to Greenify at work and at home. Heating and cooling account for about 56% of the energy use in a typical U.S. home, making it the largest energy expense for most of us.   Cutting your energy use will help Greenify and at the same time, could save you some money, which is always a welcome idea.  Here are some easy ideas on where to look to improve Greenification and save money:

While the temperatures outside are low, remember to open the draperies and shakes on south-facing windows during the first half of the day to allow the sun’s light to enter and warm structures.  Close the blinds and drapes at night to keep the heat in.

Reset your thermostat.   By lowering the thermostat even just a few degrees can save money.  If you drop it from 72 to 65 degrees for eight hours a day, you can cut the heating bill by 10%.   Get a sweater, and you might just find yourself enjoying greater savings on your power consumption than ever before.

Next check caulking and weatherstrip around doors and windows that might leak air.  Remember those old-fashioned “draft dodgers” that grandma used to make by sewing a tube of fabric and then filling it with beans and placing it along the bottom of the door?  It might be time to get those sewing skills polished up again. 

And don’t forget to check and replace the furnace filters regularly.  By checking filters, insulation and caulking, you can stop the loss of energy from your home, lower your power bills, and help Greenify in a way that will pay off with immediate and long-term benefits.


Greenify your lighting with CFLs

May 9, 2008

Compact Fluorescent Lights (aka CFL’s or CFB’s) seem to be on everyone’s top ten list of ways to conserve energy. Are they worth the hype?

Absolutely! CFL’s are a great way to Greenify your office and your home. CFL’s use 50-80% of the energy that incandescent bulbs use for the same number of lumens and last 7-15 times longer than an incandescent bulb. CFL’s are more expensive, but on the other than, they have gone down in price considerably over the last few years. Depending on how large a bulb you need, costs range from around $4.00 to just over $1.50 a bulb at the larger home improvement stores. Dimmable CFL’s have just recently hit the market as well.

There are a couple things to keep in mind when using Compact Fluorescent Lights. Like any fluorescent light, the bulb’s life is shortened if turned off and on frequently. If you have an area where you need light for only a few minutes at a time, use an incandescent bulb. CFL’s have a tiny bit of mercury in them, about as much as an average household thermometer. With that in mind, they need to be disposed of with hazardous waste, rather than with the trash. Should your CFL break, the EPA has suggested guidelines for site cleanup. CFL’s can be a little more effort than incandescent bulbs, but they are worth it.


E-waste...how to reycle or reuse it

April 29, 2008

Inevitably, the technology equipment you invested in a few years ago, no longer meets the demands of your business. Or maybe you would just like a newer, shinier computer/printer/cell phone/what have you. But the old one is still functional, so what is the Green thing to do with your e-waste?

Fortunately, you have many alternatives! One of the easiest ways to recycle your cell phone is to donate it to a local domestic violence organization. Cell phones are generally able to dial 911 with no SIM card, and that may be all someone needs from a cell phone. If your company has many phones to dispose of, investigate options like ReCellular which will purchase your old cell phones, (with pre-paid postage for over 50 phones) or connect you to charitable programs such as Cell Phones for Soldiers.  I read earlier today that the amount of copper wire contained in cell phones disposed of each year could cover the Statue of Liberty, twice over. That’s a lot of copper!

If your computer or printer is still in generally good repair, one way to reuse is to call the local schools and see if they either need a used computer themselves or perhaps know of a student from a low-income household who could benefit from a computer. Computer donations to a non-profit institution may yield a tax deduction. Another option would be to Freecycle your computer. Dell, Apple, HP and other large companies offer recycling programs and your refuse hauler or local waste authority may offer a recycling program as well. If Waste Management services your neighborhood, they were the first electronics recycling company to achieve ISO 9001 and 14001 certification. Earth911 mentioned in Friday’s blog offers some other great tips for recycling e-waste.

No matter which recycling method you choose for your e-waste, keeping it out of the landfills helps you Greenify!


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.


REC’s – Dollars and Sense

February 25, 2008

RECs, Renewable Energy Credits, Green Tags, Tradable Renewable Certificates, Renewable Energy Certificates. What does it all mean? Let’s begin with the basics of renewable energy (also referred to as clean energy). There are varying forms of this energy which are derived from resources that can not be depleted. In other words, these resources are naturally replenished. Wind and Solar power are two common examples of renewable/clean energy. Biomass, Biodiesel, and Geothermal are also types of clean energy. 

So what exactly is a REC (Renewable Energy Certificate) and how much does one cost? According to Wikipedia’s definition of Renewable Energy Certificates, RECs are “tradable environmental commodities that represent proof that 1 megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity was generated from an eligible renewable energy resource. These certificates can be sold and traded and the owner of the REC can claim to have purchased renewable energy.” Businesses and individuals can buy these RECs whether or not they have access to clean energy.

The cost of the REC depends on which type of renewable energy one is interested in purchasing. The price of these renewable energies can fluctuate. The quantity of the RECs purchased is often determined by how much electricity a business or home uses over a period of time. The REC provider will help you with the calculation. Suffice it to say that RECs are not super expensive. For example, a business I know recently purchased RECs to offset their yearly energy consumption in their 6,000 square foot office. The total amount of the RECs was less than $350 for the year.

The bottom line is that purchasing RECs makes good business and environmental sense without breaking the bank.


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