Buzz Building for Green Businesses

March 26, 2009

Are you noticing more talk about green business?  More advertisements by large, international companies about "sustainable energy sources," new listings at business conferences for added "green business opportunity panels," and even President Barack Obama on the “Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, talking about electric cars going over 150 miles as Leno smiled and added that he already owns a car that runs on hydrogen, which is "an entirely different technology."
 
These increases in "buzz" about Greenification are a healthy sign for our world.  Our planet is in a state of emergency: we are consuming and polluting at a rate 25% faster than the planet can sustain.  That fact has to change or we and our children are doomed.  We may no longer be able to “buy cheaper from Asian producers” because of the cost in terms of carbon. 
 
In the coming months, we're going to be encouraged to support business within our borders.  And as part of that, I suggest we also look for green businesses that are local and sustainable, too. 

Buying local equals buying greener.  Have you ever thought about the effort needed to get a product made in a small town in rural Georgia to market in Portland, Oregon, for instance?  The product has to be packaged for sale, re-packed for shipping, then put on a truck or train (or both) and then unloaded from that container into a warehouse, re-loaded for shipping to a store before being placed on a shelf.  Isn't there a greener way? 
 
Look around for local producers of products that you buy from remote producers.  Prices are changing because of the recession and things that were once out of consideration may now be priced more attractively.  That would also make a case for them being a lot more planet-friendly.  
 
We have to find a balance between the social and natural systems in a world where people on one land-mass consume resources at 5 or ten times the rate of people in other regions.   We need to Greenify as one world in order to save our one world.  


Follow the Leader: Grow Your Own!

March 23, 2009

The Greening of the White House continues in Washington where Michelle Obama has now planted a garden on the White House'  South Lawn.  The First Lady is after more "fresh, unprocessed, locally grown" vegetables for her family, and if she has to raise them herself, she says she will.
 
This is one indication of the commitment to environmental issues apparent in the Obama administration. Mrs. Obama is a backer of what is called the "Slow Food Movement," begun by Alice Waters decades ago. 
 
It includes foods that have lower carbon footprints because they are locally grown, locally produced, and locally consumed.  They are grown organically, without chemical pesticides and fertilizers that can leach into the water table and in spite of doing good where intended, resurface elsewhere with harmful effects.  
 
We're all capable of doing this ourselves, and in a recessionary economy, maybe it's time to see about that green thumb you've been hiding in your pocket?  How about putting in a few tomato plants on along the side wall of your house?  Maybe see about some peas and beans to climb the rear fence?  A couple of rows of corn along there might not be a bad idea, too.
 
So your soil doesn't do well, you say?  Maybe it's time to get some natural fertilizer?  Start your own decomposition chamber in a back corner. You may want to build a container, because sometimes that can have an unneighborly side effect: smell.   You can also visit an area stable and procure some equine refuse matter (that's my nice way of saying horse manure).  Break up a pound or so into a gallon bucket of water, let it sit for a day.  Then pour that steeped "tea" over the plants and in the areas you intend to sew seeds.  You'll reap the rewards.

And as you're out there, toiling away, don't think you're the only one who is going to be working in their garden this summer.  The First Lady says the President will be commandeered into green garden duty, too.  As Mrs. Obama says, "whether he likes it or not.”


Earth Day Is On The Way!

March 14, 2009

Earth Day is now just over a month away and signs of this year’s celebration are beginning to build.  I was in a business in Arlington, VA this past week and noticed a paper poster that looked like a child’s bright-colored painting of a bright green bush with the words “Earth Day 2009!” printed on it. 

What does Earth Day bring?  It’s a chance to remind everyone on the planet that this is where we all live and work.  And that we have to share its resources and work together to make sure that it stays a healthy place to live and raise families.

Earth Day is our chance to stop focusing on the problems that we all face, dealing with the economic worries and the poor job climate and the mortage/market crises.  It’s a day to put those aside and focus on being positive about our planet and our ability to work towards one goal for the good of all people.  (I wish I could say it was a day off from the threat of terrorism and all violence, but I don’t think terrorists work like that.)

It’s also a day to stop, smell the roses, feel the grass under our feet and find the cleanest air we can to inhale.   There will be demonstrations and gatherings all over the world this year. There will be people shouting their strong feelings and those quietly smiling as they enjoy watching cows graze along the side of a road somewhere.  There will be words from our leaders and probably a few proposals put forward on this day.

But also let’s keep in mind that if just a few more of us decide to recycle and try to reduce their carbon footprint, the most important goal of Earth Day will have been achieved: to bring us together to protect and improve life here on this great green Earth.

We can be the Green Generation: a generation that really gets the effort underway to Greenify and to make the planet a better place for those to come.


Greenify… the Economy or the Environment?

March 4, 2009

There’s a battle shaping up in Florida right now. Call it “Greenification versus Employment.”  And it’s struggle that’s going to be shaping up in other locations around the country.

To light a fire under the Sunshine State’s frozen economy, some legislators are seeking to "streamline" a slew of environmental and growth regulations.  They are proposing everything from erasing or weakening protections for wetlands and wildlife to cutting requirements that developers improve roads to handle the traffic glut involved in building new projects.

One proposed law that is already drawn up could have major implications for urban counties like Miami-Dade and Broward as it virtually eliminates state oversight of new mega-developments. Other proposed measures could bar Miami-Dade County from enforcing its own environmental rules which are tougher than the state’s standards.

Advocates argue a regulatory overhaul, which is backed by builder and industry groups, could spur growth and jobs by making "duplicative" permitting processes for homes, offices and other buildings cheaper and faster.

These days, with the current economic “contraction,” we are all worried about the economy. We are all worried about jobs.  But the choice isn’t employment or environment; it’s as President Barack Obama says “doing the right thing for right now, or making the tough choice for long term benefit.”

As for the proposals in Florida, Charles Pattison, executive director of 1,000 Friends of Florida, an advocacy group that promotes "smart growth" policy, said he supported encouraging construction in cities, but said the bill's definition of "urban" could wind up promoting more sprawl.

"This is like trying to build our way out of the problem," Pattison said. "What we did in the past didn't work, so let's do it again, only more of it."

We know we’ve made the short term choice in the past and we’re not in a good spot now.  So maybe it’s time to try to do both: Greenify the planet and green up our economy, too. 


Greenify by Cashing Out a Clunker?

January 29, 2009

A measure introduced this past week by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) would establish a national voucher program to encourage drivers to trade in older, less fuel efficient cars, trucks or SUVs for a more fuel efficient vehicle.

It’s billed as the “Cash for Clunkers” program.  It would give drivers a credit of between $2,500 and $4,500 to turn in fuel-inefficient vehicles to be scrapped, and purchase a more fuel efficient vehicle. The traded-in vehicles would have to be drivable, have a fuel economy of no more than 18 miles per gallon, and have been registered for at least the past 120 days. Vouchers could also be redeemed for transit fares for participating local public transportation agencies. The program would operate for four years, from 2009 – 2012, and is expected to encourage the early retirement of up to one million vehicles per year.

This is Congress’ attempt at encouraging drivers to trade in less fuel efficient vehicles in a tough economic client. 

“If enacted, this bill would be an important part of helping getting America’s struggling automobile industry back on its feet – and help consumers who are concerned about covering the cost of buying a more fuel efficient vehicle,” said Senator Feinstein.

The bill would also…

  • Save an estimated 40,000 to 80,000 barrels per day of motor fuel by the end of the fourth year.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 6.6 million metric tons to 7.6 million metric tons, or the equivalent of removing 1.1 million to 2.2 million vehicles from the road in one year, (based on an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 vouchers issued per year).
  • Reduce nitrogen oxides, which cause ground-level ozone (a leading cause of respiratory health problems, like asthma), by 3,043 short tons (2,761 metric tons) by 2013, (based on an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 vouchers issued per year).

The senators hope this will compliment a new fuel economy law, which if passed, will raise average fuel economy standards for America’s fleet of vehicles by at least 10 miles per gallon over 10 years or from 25 to at least 35 mpg by the year 2020.


Green the Environment or the Economy?

January 28, 2009

What has you feeling most concerned: Greenifying the environment or the state of our economy?  A recent poll shows for most Americans, worries about jobs and the economy outweigh their concern about environmental issues.

According to the latest survey by the Pew Research Center, strengthening the nation’s economy and improving the jobs situation now rank as the two top priorities by a respective 85 and 82 percent of those surveyed. 

In the jobs category, this is up 21 points since the previous version of this same polling material, one year ago. 

As a category, “protecting the environment” fell 15 points on our national worry list in the past year. While it’s still a top priority with 41 percent of voters, that’s down from 56 percent in the past 12 months. 

There is still concern about the energy debate, with 60 percent of Americans calling it a “top priority.”  Energy prices and the need for independence from fossil fuels has risen steadily for the past six years beginning in 2002, when the poll found 42 percent cited energy concerns as a top issue.

While the poll shows that some voters are less concerned about the environment and more concerned about the economy, it should be noted that the mood among those surveyed seems to be a group concern.  That obviously not everyone polled is unemployed, therefore they are being concerned about their fellow man, which ought to be a prime concern of all of us.

The survey also showed that while a growing number of us are worried about the economy, there is attention being paid to the economic benefits that clean energy systems can provide, with a growing number of home and business-owners having first-hand knowledge of those good qualities because they’ve already begun to Greenify.

And PS: Going Green is often more economical than not!


President Barack Obama’s Greener Days Ahead

January 26, 2009

Our new President of the United States seems very bent on Greenifying all of us.  This week, he’ll direct federal regulators to move quickly on an application by California and 13 other states to set strict automobile emission and fuel efficiency standards, according to administration officials.

This latest action makes good on an Obama campaign pledge and at the same time, reverses Bush administration policy.   Granting California and the other states the right to regulate tailpipe emissions would be one of the most emphatic actions Mr. Obama could take to quickly put his stamp on environmental policy.   He’s also removing his predecessor’s efforts which markedly expanded our carbon footprint.

The Bush administration rejected California’s previous application.  EPA regulators are now expected to reverse that order after completing a formal review process.

Once they act, automobile manufacturers will quickly have to retool to begin producing and selling cars and trucks that get higher mileage than the national standard, and on a faster phase-in schedule. The auto companies have lobbied hard against the regulations and challenged them in court.  Not surprisingly, environmental groups are thrilled.

“This is a complete reversal of President Bush’s policy of censoring or ignoring global warming science,” said Daniel J. Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress in Washington. “With the fuel economy measures and clean energy investments in the recovery package, President Obama has done more in one week to reduce oil dependence and global warming than George Bush did in eight years.”

In this week’s action, Mr. Obama will order temporary regulations to be put in place by March so automakers have enough time to retool for vehicles sold in 2011. Final standards for later years will be determined by a separate process.

The next part for you and I will be stepping up and buying these new vehicles in support of their stricter standards.  The new standards don’t work until someone starts using them to Greenify.


Inaugurating the Green!

January 19, 2009

With the new administration coming into the White House, there are big events playing out in Washington this week.  Millions of extra visitors are coming to this historic event as the first ever African American President of the United States is inaugurated.

And the District of Columbia is preparing in the greenest of styles. 

The Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) is trying to be as green as possible, including a recycled carpet and runner for the platform where the new President will take his oath of office and a plan to scoop up all of the manure from the horses in the parade and sell it to a nearby farm.

“We’re committed to holding an Inauguration that isn’t just the most open and accessible in modern history, but also as environmentally friendly and sustainable as possible,” said Kevin Griffis, a spokesman for the PIC.

The PIC has planned to have 6,000 volunteers pick up recycling along the National Mall and the parade route after the day’s events.

The blue recyclable carpet on the platform was installed last Tuesday along with the runner, which has a blue center and red borders. They extend about 725 square yards and were made by employees of the Chief Administrative Office (CAO).

Few previous presidential inaugurations have attempted to take such environmentally friendly steps. But the Chief Administrative Officer, who is appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), has been working to reduce the Capitol’s carbon emissions as part of the “Green the Capitol” project for the past year.

Not bad for a party with an estimated 4 million expected guests.


Bush’s Greenification Legacy

January 12, 2009

With just days left in his final term, President George Bush is making an effort to Greenify his legacy: he’s designating three remote Pacific Ocean regions as national monuments, thereby establishing the largest marine preserve ever created.

The new Mariana Trench, Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll Marine National Monuments encompass 195,280 square miles of high seas barred from fishing, mining and other uses. 

The Mariana Trench is famous as the world’s deepest canyon at 36,000 feet and the surrounding area will be the largest of the three protected regions at 95,222 square miles.  It’s a natural wonder that most of us will never see, but home to billions upon billions of living organisms.  A chain of 21 underwater volcanoes and vents ring this deepest of all ocean floors.

Endangered birds, sharks, and other marine wildlife live within all of these regions.  The seven-island Pacific Remote Islands monument covers 86,607 square miles while he Rose Atoll is much smaller at 13,451 square miles.  The smaller monument includes the world’s smallest coral atoll which is just 15 acres.  “These locations are truly among the last pristine areas in the marine environment on Earth,” says James Connaughton, head of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality.

The protected area eclipses the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument at 139,797 square miles, designated by President Bush in 2006, and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Reserve at 133,000 square miles.

“Taken together, this president has protected far more of the threatened and vital places in the sea than any other,” says Joshua Reichert of the Pew Environmental Group, which advocates for conservation of ocean areas.  But not everyone favors the plan.

We feel the monument is not based on science and is a feel-good attempt by the administration to leave some sort of legacy on the environment,” says Wayne Heikkila of the Western Fishboat Owners Association, in Redding, CA.

While no one is suggesting that this means the Republican President will go down in history as a “Leader for the Environment,” it seems clear that if more world leaders would attempt to “feel-good” the same way, we’d have more Greenification at an international level, more inspiration to act for the environment by business and individuals, and generally, a world that more of us would feel good about.


The Greenification of the White House

January 2, 2009

What can we expect from the new Obama administration going into the White House?  What will the Obama Presidency mean for businesses trying to become more green?  If it’s any consolation to us, this should be a banner set of years for businesses hoping to Greenify as the Democratic President is expected to put forward numerous proposals that will forward environmental causes such as mitigating global warming, promotion of “green” industries and alternative energy, while cracking down on toxic chemicals in our environment. 

So far, President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Lisa Jackson as his nominee to head the EPA.  The nominee is said to be tough on enforcement of laws and regulation.  Jackson ran New Jersey's state environmental agency before becoming the chief of staff for the governor in the Garden State.  Before that, she was at the EPA for 16 years in Washington, D.C., and New York. Under Obama, she would be part of a three-person team that would oversee environmental policy.

The other two serving with her are Carol Browner, who directed the EPA under the Clinton administration and would oversee climate-change policy out of Obama's White House; and Nancy Sutley, a deputy Los Angeles mayor who would run the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Obama has chosen Steven Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to be his energy secretary, and Rep. Hilda L. Solis, a California Democrat, to become labor secretary, charged with enforcing workplace safety laws, among other duties.

Many Washington insiders are noticing that numerous of these positions are being filled by Californians, giving the state a hefty chunk of influence.  Starting in the 1970s, when it became the first state to establish its own auto emissions standards under the federal Clean Air Act, California has been considered a trendsetter.

After the state banned a class of chemicals, phthalates, from children's products last year, 12 states introduced similar bans.

The California ban on phthalates inspired Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to successfully push for a federal prohibition, which takes effect in February. It is a rarity -- the first time Congress has banned a chemical in decades -- and it faced stiff and well-financed opposition from Exxon Mobil, which makes one of the banned chemicals.

Roger Martella, a former EPA general counsel who is an attorney for many corporations affected by environmental regulation, says the strength of democrats in Congress, along with the new administration coming in could see  an era of significant new government action.

"Whether at the end of the day every policy that California has gets implemented on a national level is a matter for debate," Martella said. "At the same time, we'd be foolish to ignore those stars that are lining up."

Which may mean more inspiration, motivation and legislation to help businesses Greenify as the new administration puts its policies in place.


Green Business Alliance - Home Greenify For Better Business - Greenify Now