Greenifying: The Presidency

April 8, 2011

Have you ever listened to the President's weekly speeches?  I listen to them every weekend and I want to pass along a few words to you: sustainable, alternative energy, environmentally responsible and stewardship. 

These speeches are a long-standing tradition dating back to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who delivered his weekly address via radio to a weary and tired nation and called them "fireside chats."  The country was troubled and economically depressed.  Roosevelt comforted the people by speaking to them. 

The White House speeches fell silent for awhile, but President Ronald Reagan revived it to tradition status once again and President George W. Bush moved it to the Internet with podcasts.  President Obama began putting out his speeches early, during the transitional period immediately after he was elected and through his inauguration to the present. (Over the years, the opposing political party has added their own weekly "response" speeches which are equally welcome.) 

In these speeches, you can hear the substance of what the President who speaks cares about and is committed to.   And whether you favor Mr. Obama or his political opponents, listening to these speeches, you can't help but be impressed with the man's commitment to environmental issues.   

On a weekly basis, he talks about the need to find alternative energy sources, to cut America's dependence on foreign oil and to find answers to both economic, business and environmental problems through American ingenuity.  He repeatedly says he believes that creativity and ability will find new paths and develop new solutions to any issues.  It's also a tradition of U.S. presidents to believe in Americans and American know-how.  It's good to see that tradition is changing, evolving and becoming a little greener.


Van Jones: Green Entrepreneur

February 9, 2010

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I recently attended  "The New Green Economy" conference organized by the National Council for Science and the Environment.  The conference was held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington and welcomed 1,000 attendees at this year's gathering.  I worked with the team providing the event coverage and was fortunate to meet and interview Van Jones.
 
You may remember Van Jones.  He was nominated by President Barack Obama to be his Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.  Although ultimately, Jones withdrew under a cloud of controversy, he is widely regarded to be at the forefront of innovation on environmental jobs and entrepreneurship.  He was a little reluctant to be interviewed, but he did want to get his message out as widely as possible.  I asked him what that message would be.  His response:

"The main message is the tremendous opportunity that we have to make a difference.  The desire that is still there in the country to make a real difference with green solutions.  People in the country are concerned about the economics and jobs and America's strength for the long term.  We need to help them understand that there are green economic solutions for all of that; that you can save money and make money and not just spend money with green solutions."
 
That is the sound of positive thinking at work.  It's also what we believe first and foremost here at the Green Business Alliance.  Right now, a lot of people are thinking the worst about the economy, but those people are wrong.  We've always turned things around in this country and we're likely to do the same again.  And even though things can seem a bit bleak right now (it is difficult to be positive, with the unemployment rate at 9.7% this month, but consider that's up from 10 percent in the final month of 2009), the reality is that the American economy has started to grow again.  The gross domestic product grew at 6 percent in the final quarter of last year. 
 
There really is a lot of good news out there for us.  Sometimes, it can be hard to focus on the good things that are going on.  At such moments, it can be even harder to make good things happen for ourselves and the planet.  But Van Jones seems to think it's the best of all times to do exactly that.  Click here to see more of his interview. 
 
(You can click on his photo to check out his interview or watch all of "The New Green Economy" conference coverage.)


The New Green Economy

January 28, 2010

This past week in Washington, DC, I interviewed the Environmental Protection Agency Adminstrator, Lisa Jackson, at the "The New Green Economy" conference organized by the National Council for Science and the Environment.  The conference was held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington and welcomed 1,000 attendees at this year's gathering.  I caught Adminstrator Jackson as she entered the back of the hall and waited to be announced for her speech.

The keynote session topic was what many of us wonder these days: "The New Green Economy: (How) Can We Get There From Here?"  Since she was waiting to address the group, I asked her what her message for the 1,000 conference-goers would be?  She said she wanted to offer them the encouragement of President Barack Obama's administration and said that all of us must find our places in the new green economy.  She talked about how the future is full of opportunities to Greenify and that businesses, if they want to survive, will need to fit into the new green economy to succeed in business.

We all want that, don't we?  To fit into the new green economy and to succeed in business?  A lot of people are wondering that right now, so that was my other question (you don't get many questions in while waiting to be announced before a speech) to Administrator Jackson.  "Is there a choice to be made between the environment and the economy?  Can American businesses do both?"

Her answer was extremely encouraging.  She said businesses are going to have to do both. We all are worried about the economy, staying productive and growing as a business, but we need to join the new green economy, too.  In fact, she says that now is the best time to Greenify because being greener is often less costly to businesses. 

That's right, both Administrator Jackson and every expert I spoke with this past week said that a greener business is a more productive and cost effective business.   For instance, if you put on a sweater to lower your thermostat and install energy efficient lightbulbs, you will save money.  If you use recyclable paper, you will save the environment and be able to advertise that to customers.  If you drive an energy efficient car, you will pay less for gas.  If you drive a hybrid, you can save even more.  Re-use, use it up, wear it out and recycle your way into the new greener economy. 

It's an exciting time to be in business.  It's a great time to Greenify.  And doing both is the only way to move forward into the future with the New Green Economy.

By the way, I interviewed someone else that I was very excited to meet.  I'll tell you about that in a week or two.  I'm waiting for the video link to go up so you can all see that interview in action.  I think you'll be excited, too!


Greenifying Haiti

January 21, 2010

Most of us, at some point in the past week, have turned our eyes, minds and hearts towards the Caribbean nation of Haiti. As we all know, this country, the poorest in the world, was hit by a terrifying earthquake one week ago. The quake measured 7.0 on the richter scale, making it the most severe earthquake in 200 years and one of the largest natural disasters of our times.

The resulting agony of Haiti will be months in unfolding, but most immediately, at least 50,000 are dead and the number could rise as high as 200,000. In a nation of nine million, this loss is very painful. The capital city of Port-au-Prince was flattened and all of Haiti's plans for economic development have been put aside in favor of rescue and recovery.

The United States has promised $100 million in assistance and already sent at least 12,000 U.S. military personnel to the region to assist the United Nations and other agencies in recovery and peacekeeping operations. Other countries around the world including China, Brazil, Britain, Japan and Italy have or will send assistance, also in the millions of dollars.

Also being sent are individual donations. If you are considering such a donation, you are to be commended. It's a difficult time in Haiti and if there is a chance that a few dollars could make a difference in someone's life, then surely we all want to help out.

Whether you send that money through your church, a private organization or by offering the money to a public group such as the Red Cross or the fund that President Obama asked former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to set up, we want to offer you some reassurance about a greener future ahead for Haiti. This is part of a statement by President Bill Clinton (made on Fox News on Sunday) about what he sees in Haiti's future:

"Before this earthquake hit, Haiti's per capita income was about $780 a year. Seventy-five percent of the people were living on less than $2 a day. One of the big problems was the deforestation. One of the reasons that the hurricanes hurt more there is its trees have been taken down. People will cut for fuel. They cut up the trees for charcoal, (to) cook dinner.

By the same token, Port-au-Prince and the other cities, like most cities in poor countries, hardly pick up the garbage and they have these unsightly landfills that are public health menaces.

There is a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince which brought the crime rate down and the employment rate up by collecting the garbage, taking the organic material and turning it into fertilizer for farmers, recycling the plastic and the metal, and taking the paper and mixing it with charcoal -- I mean, with sawdust and wetting it then drying it and cutting it into these little briquettes.

And three of them will burn as much for as long to cook dinner for a Haitian family as charcoal, and at about a quarter of the price.

So it's -- you employ 10 times as many people in the process. You save money for the families. And you reduce the incentives to tear down the trees. And if you do that and at the same time build income-earning trees, like mango trees, and reconstitute the mahogany forest and other of these fast-growing trees you can cut down without deforestation. That is, the roots stay and they grow up again."

There is hope for Haiti and we can help them Greenify as they recover from the disaster that has befallen them.

 


Green Versus Lean

October 22, 2009

Should Greenification supercede the economy? It's a vital question that a lot of people are pondering these days. Which is more important: economic survival or environmental sensitivities?

"When I came into office there was this kind of belief that you can only protect the environment or the economy, you have to choose between one or the other," California Governor, Arnold Schwarznegger said at an event staged to accept $26.5 million in federal clean air grants. He dismissed the argument bluntly: "We don't have to accept that."

The environment often has been a luxury item for California voters. Though "going green" was always a concern, it seemed to rank higher in interest when economic times were good.

But that view may be changing, as indicated by a July poll from the Public Policy Institute of California. Sixty-six percent of Californians, for example, supported the global warming bill signed by Schwarzenegger. That is still technically "landslide" territory, but it is down from 73% support in 2008. Institute president Mark Baldassare blames some of the slippage on the economic downturn, but he also says some is clearly the result of partisanship: Democrats are greener at 78% support ahead of Republicans at 43%.

That mirrors national polls. Last year, 73% of the more than 1,000 Americans surveyed said they favored an expansion of offshore drilling for oil and natural gas in protected U.S. waters, even though many environmental advocacy groups have deemed offshore drilling as hazardous to the environment.

But environmental activists argue that choice may not have to be made.

"It's a false dichotomy," said Carroll Muffett, deputy campaigns director at Greenpeace. "In truth, what is truly good for the environment is what is truly good for the economy, because a shift to better energy solutions would create jobs."

That's on a large scale. On a small business scale, we are idealists here at Green Business Alliance, but we also need to be realistic. For the average small business, survival in a difficult economy has to come first. There are some out there who are facing such choices and although we hope that's not you, if it is, we understand. We hope you'll continue to do the things you can and look for more ways to greenify through the recovery period that we all know is ahead.


A Greener (Capitol) Hill

June 29, 2009

The U.S. House of Representatives has now proven they are interested in clean energy and reducing carbon emissions released by Americans and American business.  They have passed the Waxman-Markey bill, designed to curb carbon emissions by setting  a cap-and-trade program to cut global warming pollution.   What does that mean? 

With a "cap," each large-scale carbon emitter, or company, will have a limit on the amount of greenhouse gas that it can put out. This particular proposal would require companies to have a "permit" for every ton of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. As time goes on, the limits on these permits, their size and ability to obtain them would become stricter until ultimately, our country reduces its carbon emissions, the limits become stricter, allowing less and less pollution, until the ultimate reduction goal is met.

The trade: It will be relatively cheaper or easier for some companies to reduce their emissions below their required limit than others. These more efficient companies, who emit less than their allowance, can sell their extra permits to companies that are not able to make reductions as easily. 
 
The bill aims to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change: 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, with other measures promising additional reductions. At its core is a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program that gives away about 85 percent of the carbon permits to utilities, heavy industry, refiners, among others, and includes provisions to shield consumers from rising energy prices.  Environmentalists are very excited about the bill's passing. 

"This vote was a major hurdle, and we've cleared it," said Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists.  "President Obama can walk into the G8 summit of world leaders in Italy next week with his head held high. Now we have momentum to move and improve legislation in the Senate and put it on President Obama's desk so he can go to December's international summit in Copenhagen with the full backing of the Congress and the American people."

Before the vote, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told her colleagues "we cannot hold back the future." She offered four words that she said represent the meaning of the legislation.

"Jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs," she said.
 
Companies will be required to purchase the emissions permits from the federal government, which in turn results in a sizeable revenue stream to the federal government. Much of the back room politicking that has occurred over the last few weeks regarding the Waxman-Markey bill has involved how this revenue stream will be allocated to government programs.  
 
But before any of this can go forward, the Senate has to vote to approve the measure as well.  And many industry groups oppose the measure.
 
James C. May, the president of the Air Transport Association of America, said, "We have strong concerns about the Waxman-Markey bill and its punitive one-size-fits-all approach. This cap-and-trade bill creates an onerous fuel tax on the airline industry."
 
In order to Greenify our planet, we are all going to have to work together.  Some businesses will struggle to bring themselves into alignment with these new environmentally friendly restrictions, but others will be born because of them.  The larger benefit will be to all of us and as such, we hope you'll support the Waxman-Markey bill and others like it by calling your representatives in Washington to encourage their vote for such issues.


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.


Greenifying Government, One Job at a Time

May 14, 2009

I've signed up for work as a government contractor and as such, been assigned a new email account which is connected to my government contractor listing on a website somewhere.  Already I am getting emails encouraging me, via the government contractor site, to "certify and go green!"   As if I needed any encouragement?

I do find this encouraging, if a bit stunning.  We have all heard President Barack Obama, now in the second hundred days of his administration, is making good on his promises to further environmental causes and alternative energy research.  It's amazing when you see it laid on your front door step. 
 
The most recent email is from a group offering to assist contractors and businesses with efforts to certify as a green product or service, or as having implemented a green manufacturing process.  The government wants to hire green contractors, so this group is offering an online self-certification process allowing small businesses to create a customized certification site with advertising tools as well as a "certification seal" from the group.  The company boasts being the "nation's leading certification for green business with over 45,000 certifications in the United States."
 
The government is intending to hire more green businesses and green contractors.  (Since my "business" is writing, I'm guessing all I'll need to do is use a lower-powered laptop rather than a full size PC!)  They are making it clear to contractors that the road ahead is green with opportunity. 
 
They are also offering homeowners opportunities to improve the energy efficiency of current structures and drivers to turn in gas guzzling "clunkers" for cash.  These are great opportunities to Greenify with the government's help.  Some of these Greenification efforts will save thousands of dollars over the life of the house or car. 


Counting Down to Earth Day: What Can You Do?

March 27, 2009

What can you do in these final weeks before Earth Day, 2009?  There is no time like the present to start working to pollute less personally and participate in the discussion in your own community. 
 
First, here’s a personal pollution checklist. Are you:
 
Carpooling?
Recycling every item possible?
Buying locally grown and manufactured?
Checking second-hand stores before buying that new gadget?
Recycling printer cartridges, motor oil and auto batteries, along with newspapers the right way, every time?
 
Good job!
 
Now, regarding getting involved in that community discussion.  First, check with your city council to find out if they have an "Earth Day Proclamation" and what your municipality's observance will include.  If they are all set, ask if you can help out.  Volunteers are almost always welcome.

If nothing is in place, there is still time for you to change that.  Draft a simple resolution to honor "Earth Day" where you are.  It doesn't have to be fancy and you don't have to spell things correctly.  You’ll need a few "Whereas" statements to lay out the resolution’s premise.  The “whereas” statements can be thought of having two parts, general points and locally focused points.  You’ll follow that with the "Be it resolved" statements, suggesting what needs to done.
 
For instance:
 
"Whereas we are using resources faster than our planet can produce them, and whereas we are polluting faster than we can clean it up, be it resolved that we work together to cut our carbon emissions, try to slow and stop pollution and Greenify the Earth.  And be it further resolved that we will honor April 22 as Earth Day 2009, to be observed as such in our homes and businesses and every day thereafter." 
 
Put that together on recycled paper, and you'll be a sure hit in any city council on this planet. 


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