Greenifying Gadgets: Thermal Imagery

May 28, 2010

I have to quit saying that I'm not a fan of gadgets.  Here it is, two weeks in a row where I'm blogging about an electronic device.  I'm a little surprised at myself, but the one that I spotted today shows every promise of helping you and everyone you know (because you'd share, right?) save on their energy bills. 

It's called a “Thermal Imaging Home Inspection” device.  Can you imagine?  Something that can magically look inside your home and tell you if and where you are wasting energy. 

This is an item so new that you may not have heard about it, but what it does is measure the temperature hot and cold spots of a house or other building.  It is not cheap; a good unit can run for $6000.  But if you find the right real estate agent, you'll pay $150-300 for the inspection.  And think about what it could save you: hundreds in power bills for the home you're in and thousands in negotiations with a home you're interested in buying.  Or take it to the office and have a look around there.  The savings potential there is almost limitless.

It works like a very intricate digital camera.  Just aim the device a house and see where the heat is leaking out or where cold temperatures or water are getting into the house.  This device is so sensitive that it can spot dangerous wiring, non-functioning heat vents and mold are located. 

What to do with this information?  Some of these problems can be fixed with simple improvements like extra insulation, new outlets and rewiring areas that can dramatically reduce energy bills. 

“The home owners are actually seeing savings of about 20 to 22 percent off energy costs, when they button up and sela up their house,” according to Real Estate Expert Sherri Vandervort.

Other possibilities?  Could this be the new business that you've been looking for?  Invest in a unit and become a “thermal energy use inspector” on weekends.   At $250 per inspection, you're just 24 inspections from paying off the investment and after that, it's all “Greenifying as a business” ahead for you. 


Greenifying Gadgetry: iPad?

May 20, 2010

I am not a fan of buying the latest gadgets.  I'm writing this on a laptop given to me by a former boyfriend and it was four years old when I got it.  I've had it for two years and earlier this year, I replaced the hard drive.  I think I can safely say that I'm a “use it up, wear it out, make do or do without” kind of girl. I try to recycle and repurpose everything that I can.

So when I saw that a television station in Albany, Georgia was buying Apple iPad computers for some of its news team, I was a little skeptical.  But I want to examine what's going on there.

The average television station can run through a case of printer paper in almost no time.  Their reporters do background research, run off copies of stories on the Internet, get the latest newswires printed out on the run and write their scripts before printing them out to discuss with the editors. 

Their producers write their entire shows on computer and then have to flip a switch and print it out in multiple (usually about seven?) color-coded copies to disperse to directors, anchors, audio technicians and occasionally, their legal department.  These are not people who have ever concerned themselves with saving a tree by sharing a page or two.

So when I saw that Barrington Broadcasting's WFXL in Albany bought iPads for their anchors and producers, I was intrigued.  The company says the motive is economy, both financially and environmentally.

"By using the iPad, we're saving hundreds of thousands of sheets of paper annually," says News Director Terry Graham, who also anchors the news at 6:30 and 10 p.m. at the Fox affiliate. "Our projected savings per month are $800, or about $9,600 per year."

WFXL bought six entry level iPads for $499 each.  Instead of printing out the scripts, they email the final script to each of the anchors who use their scripts, now digitized in front of them, primarily as a reference tool, anyway.  The savings are covering the costs.  And the thinking  is well “outside the box.” 

Most companies wouldn't have said that an iPad was an economic advantage that could be worked into their budget, but Barrington's Albany news team has found a way to lead in the environment, financially and also electronically.  They're making an effort to Greenify all the way to the bank.


More Green Business Ideas

May 13, 2010

With the economy now in recovery, we hope your business is “greenifying” in more ways than one.  Spring is a good time to grow and this year in particular, it's nice to see the business environment a little more lively as well.

So if you are just out of college and looking for work this summer, you still may be having a tough time.  I thought we'd offer a few more green business ideas for the beginner or someone who'd like a new start.

First off, a solar oven bakery.  Can you build commercial size solar ovens or even hybrids that can run on solar heat on sunny days and switched to electric on cloudy days?  We're thinking that putting the idea out there could make it a big seller for someone.

Urban forests.  What about if you spent your summer helping to increase oxygen levels, reduce CO2 and reintroduce wild life to urban areas?   You might find city dwellers going a little more wild for their urban lifestyles, too.

Golf course design and irrigation.   I know that golfers love their greens, but is there a rule about only playing where the water is wasted?  Golf courses are among the worst water-wasters in California, Nevada and Arizona.  Golf courses need some reworking to make them eco-friendly.  And if you start now, you may be done in time to play a few holes yourself.

Eco-friendly tires.  Is there a solution for tire pollution problems?  Is there anyone who doesn't grit their teeth and try to go around a shredded tire on the interstate?  Even worse, have you ever seen such black, nasty smoke as happens when a pile of used tires takes flame?  There must be a better solution and whether it's finding a more ecologically sound material to make tires out of, or finding ways to recycle them, we need to get on this one now.

And last but not least today, solar roofing for parking lots.  With the hot weather on the way, you have to think twice about where you're parking. Perhaps the roof above could be used to power what's down below, providing energy to operate businesses and homes?  

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking because there's always room for more when it comes to taking steps to Greenify.


Recyling Electronics: Pro or Con?

May 11, 2010

Do you recycle your electronics?  I only ask because it's one of those “in things to do” that perhaps ought to be out. 

I'm not talking about when you repurpose your old cell phone and give it to your 12 year old daughter.  I think it's great to carefully remove all names and numbers and gift the phone to a new user.  (Whether  your 12 year old should have her own cell phone is another discussion and I would like to carefully step aside from leading that one.)  That type of recycling is great!

And I'm not thinking of printer cartridges, either. I happen to love those little green envelopes that allow me to send the cartridges back to the manufacturer where they are dutifully reworked for reuse.  I  think that's my favorite kind of delivery!

But what about those old computer monitors, CPU's and other hardware that were used for a few years and then updated out the backdoor.  Do you recycle those?  Are you recycling those?  If you are, the outcome might not be quite as good as you think it is.

First off, where are those goods going?  A recent “60 Minutes” segment exposed the ugly truth that some supposed “green recyclers” aren't so green.  They are merely accepting the materials for recycling, packing them up and shipping them off to another country where the hazardous materials inside our former computer monitors, CPUs and other peripheral materials are contaminating those countries' landfills and putting their people at risk. 

Lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium and polyvinyl chlorides.  Those are some of the toxic materials that we're shipping overseas.  We're taking our toxic carbon footprint and making it bigger by sending it abroad to someone else's “backyard.”

And when we don't ship them abroad, we offer the work of dissembling them to people that often aren't in a position to say no.  Prison recycling workers have been found to be exposed to that very same list of chemicals by dissembling computers in prison work areas.

The next time you get a new computer and start to think about what to do with the old one, ask your recycler a few questions about what's going to happen to those old parts. 

But do start with yourself: have you used this item fully?  Have you completely used it up or are you perhaps just wanting the latest model?  Right now, most of us can't afford the extra cash for the luxury of “the latest gadget,” but our planet can never afford the extra carbon without a fight. 


Space Heaters: Energy Efficient?

February 2, 2010

Are space heaters energy efficient? Or are they sucking the life out of your energy efficiency plan, one outlet at a time?

When I was growing up, my family lived for a year in a small two bedroom house. It wasn't a shanty in the Appalachians, but a farm house on a family ranch in the West. There was no central heat or air and not even a window unit in the summer. But winter was the time that things got really tricky. The house was heated by a black coal-fired pot-bellied stove in the front room.

Most people like sleeping in a chilly house and this one certainly accomplished that handily. My father arose early every morning to restart the fire and get it blazing for when he woke the rest of the household. And when it was time to get cleaned up, the bathroom was in the farthest corner of the house. It was cold in that bathroom! So we had a space heater.

Dad guarded the use of that space heater with his life! He would turn it on low while we were in the tub, and allow the highest setting only as we got out to shiver while drying off. We only lived in that house for about 10 months until a new home could be built for us. And these days, of course, heaven bless my college professor father for teaching his children to be frugal about both energy and money. But I also wondered if that old space heater was really the expensive consumer of power that he said it was.

Modern space heaters can actually be extremely energy efficient little machines. If you live in a large house and don't use parts of the house during various times, or if you have an employee who is always colder than the rest of the staff, then you know how helpful these little gadgets can be, if you purchase the right one.

With central heat, you lose a large amount of the heat into the system of ducts and vents weaving in and through the house. With a space heater, you can individualize the heat. You can turn the temperature down in the rest of the house or office, while applying heat directly where desired. Think of all the times you've been blown through a business' front door and wondered how the person at the front desk ever tolerated the wild shifts in temperature that came with the arrival of every customer. It was likely that they had a space heater just below the front counter, trained on their knees.

Space heaters often use between 900 and 1500 kilowatts. This can be quite a lot of heat, but if you only need to supplement one smallish area, they can be a lot more energy efficient than using central air to heat the entire house or building to a desired temperature when only one (or perhaps two?) rooms are needed.

Should you try to heat the entire house with a space heater? No, that would be overuse and in fact, could overload the electrical circuitry. (You'll need to make sure your outlets, fuses and circuitry can handle the full 1500 watts) But dropping the temperature to slightly below the comfort zone in most of a house or business and using space heaters in one or two rooms could see an 8 percent savings on the fuel bill.

And that would be good Greenifying on for both the environment and the home or business expense.


Green Business Ideas

January 22, 2010

Want to get into a new and greener business this year?  There’s no time like the present to start greenifying.  And in case you wanted for a few ideas, I’ve got some right here.  These are things you can do to make the world a little greener while greening your bank account, too.  They can be part or full-time.  It’s up to you and what you make of each proposal.

Recycling Business.  You know what this is, right?  It includes anything from thrift shops to art galleries.  Also scrap metal dealers help reuse and recycle.  (These guys are the “junkyard dogs” of this business.) Can it be recycled or reused? If so, look closely for a business opportunity limited only by your imagination.

Green Schools and Education.  This includes hundreds of opportunities from energy efficiency to curriculum writing, to green job training vocational schools, being a school district vendor of organic foods for the cafeteria.  You can bring greener ideas into your children’s educations.

Green Lawyer.   A green litigator could help resolve anything from a neighborhood dispute about shade tree positioning to solar panels being integrated into design to representing corporate America on environmental clean up operations.  Also, you could specialize in helping green businesses get started or resolve their issues, too.   Just think of the possibilities.

Cool Roofs.  From actually doing the roofing jobs to supplying the products that help reduce heat gain in buildings both residential and commercial. Reflective roofing material and other technology.  For the most “low tech” of the solutions, how about a coat of white, heat-reflecting paint on rooftops. 

Green Light for Green Lighting.  Have you thought of the opportunities?  You could make good money in designing lighting fixtures that use CFLs and LED lighting to reducing energy consumption through natural lighting (solar tubes) and specializing in interior design lighting to businesses effeciently light retail spaces and offices.

These are just a few ideas for businesses that Greenify.  There are hundreds more out there.  We’ll be offering more ideas here as the year goes on. 


Greenifying Business 2010: Part B

January 14, 2010

We’re continuing our ideas for new businesses (or updates to existing businesses!) that Greenify.  How about…

6. Green Marketing Expert. You can help companies develop marketing plans that reduces costs and improve their reputations both with consumers and in their communities. From social media marketing to cooperative marketing and using green promotional products, green marketing methods are in demand!

7. Green Investment Adviser.  People that are concerned about the environment want to put their money where their mouth is.  They are looking for green ways to invest and want someone to do the due diligence to find green companies as opposed to green washed companies to invest in.  Could you be that person?

8. Green Business Consulting.  Help businesses that can't afford full time environmental management departments, take the steps toward sustainability.  We’ve got a lot of experts here at the Green Business Alliance that will help you help them.  (We’re ready to help anyone who wants to put a greener foot forward!)  If you can get in there and help them develop a plan, we’re all for that.

9. Boutique Organic Foods for Restaurants.   This truly is a new, small business idea and much of it depends on what kinds of things you can produce.  It can be done on a small scale on less than 5 acres of land and can provide local restaurants with seasonal produce at premium prices.  Might take a deft hand with a hoe and a good supply of the neighbor’s cow manure, but you could find yourself sitting in clover.  And  producing honey.

10. Green Plumbers.  You could help homeowners and businesses reduce their water costs and pollution by promoting, selling, installing green toilets, faucets, and water heating systems.  This one is obviously not meant for a “quick start,” but is more of a lifetime commitment and we wish you luck.

As we wish everyone luck who starts a green business or any new venture this year!  Good luck Greenifying in 2010.  The Green Business Alliance wants to encourage you in every way possible.


Greenifying Business 2010: Part A

January 12, 2010

I thought to start this year off, we’d go with some Greenification ideas that are maybe off the beaten path.  These are ideas for people who might be considering going into business or perhaps have a business that they might want to update in more environmentally sensitive fashion.   For instance, what about…

1. Green Salons.  These would be salons and spas that use organic hair products (coloring products and nail care in particular) and water and energy conservation efforts, plus green furniture (lots of bamboo!) and all natural tools such as wooden combs and bristle brushes.  Going into the business?  (Or making a few changes!)  You can design your salon to be eco friendly and market it as a green Salon, which will greatly appeal to younger consumers.

2. Eco Gym.  It’s time to get back to basics.  Get rid of the electronics and design all exercise areas to optimize green heating and cooling, reduce air conditioning costs using green cooling (Ice Bear) and create a more healthful environment with all natural, sustainably produced flooring and eco-friendly decor. Incorporate natural health supplements in your shop and bamboo and organic cotton sportswear.

3. Green Lobbyist.  If legislation and government peak your interest, then you should know the field of environmental lobbyist positions is growing with the potential to open your own green lobbyist firm.  This is a high growth field.

4. Green Gardener.  Help local homeowners reduce their water use (critical in California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico) by becoming a specialist in drought tolerant greenery and replacing wasteful grass lawns with native plants, stone gardens or organic herb gardens.

5. Green Bed and Breakfast.  If you’ve been one who has always dreamed of owning a bed and breakfast, then consider this: solar or wind powered, organic cotton or bamboo sheets, green meals (locally produced meats and fish and organic produce and fruits), and beautiful natural settings will attract eco-vacationers no matter where you are situated.

If you are opening a new business or considering making changes, we’ve all seen in that green marketing does provide motivation for new customers and clients.  You’ve got more reasons now than ever before to Greenify.  And we’ll have more ideas later this week.


A Year of Greener Business Straight Ahead!

January 7, 2010

We’re right back at the start again, aren’t we?  The start of a new year is always exciting.  We’ve got the chance to rethink our approach, start with fresh eyes, a new balance sheet and an open road ahead to Greenification.  It’s all waiting for us.  So where to start?

Here’s a basic checklist of things you’ll want to consider in plotting your green business year ahead:

Sustainable energy sources.  Does your business consume a lot of energy?  Some use more than others, and some energy sources are certainly more renewable than others.  Look for those that produce the optimum results with the minimum carbon footprint left behind.  Sometimes that isn’t immediately apparent, so check carefully. 

Building design.  Energy-efficient design for new construction and/or remodeling will utilize efficient equipment while optimizing the use of natural energy sources. The ultimate goal is to provide increased comfort with reductions in energy costs and greenhouse gas pollution.

Using paper.  You may not think of your business' paper use as an area to save energy, but it is. Paper manufacturers in the U.S. consume a significant amount of energy each year in the production of paper - not to mention the energy spent harvesting and shipping trees, and shipping paper products to your business.  Will this be the year your business goes paperless?

Manufacturing processes and packaging.  Using environmentally preferable products and services is an encouraged practice for business in the retail industry. You can find information on greening suppliers, product packaging, selling and buying green products and transporting your products.

Recycling and waste management.  This is the most obvious of these topics.  How much are you recycling each week?  Does your recyclables exceed your waste product?  I hope so.  But we’ll talk more about that in coming weeks.

Business trends.  Millions of small businesses across the United States are also trying to learn these same principles. Some are your competitors; others are not.  But if we are all trying to achieve benefits for all, shouldn’t we work together a little more?  Surely the results won’t be the same for every company, but the benefits will be enjoyed by all. 

What may be even more important, every little bit helps.  The effects are cumulative.   We’ll be talking about all these topics this year and information is of course, always available here at the Green Business Alliance website.  We hope you have a great, successful 2010 and surpass both your business goals and goals to Greenify in the next 12 months!


A Greenification Challenge for 2010

January 5, 2010

Simple is better.  Greenification is grand.  And it’s growing.  Isn’t that what we learned in 2010?   If you looked around at the newspapers (they may be struggling, but we need them!) over the last week, you probably saw all kinds of stories about how Americans “did more with less” and “learned to buy experiences instead of gadgets” in 2009.  It’s a lesson we’ve needed to learn for a long time.

As the greatest nation of consumers the world has ever seen, we needed to take a step back.  The numbers show we’re doing that now.  We’re saving more than we spend.  We’re making it a goal to use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.  We’re learning not to throw aside something just because there’s a newer, flashier product in the market.

And we’re finding satisfaction in doing that.  Look at this challenge from one of the nation’s top financial writers...click here to view.

By doing this, we could Greenify both our bottom line and the planet. 

During the last year, I’ve wondered if we, as a people, would be forced to choose between the environment and the economy.  But what we’ve seen in the last 12 months has shown that most of us believe the choice doesn’t have to be made and that in fact, just adhering to a few more economically advisable policies would have the natural outcome of greenifying our lives.    We’ve done well and now we’re ready to move forward even stronger.

I challenge you to a “green fast” for the year of 2010.  Let’s make this year the best, Greenest year we’ve seen so far.  Let’s make 2010 a year in which we truly do use things to their fullest potential: use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without all the way to a greener style of business and life.


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