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. 


Greenifying At Your Desk

February 24, 2009

This blog doesn't endorse TV programs or products, but did you see the Academy Awards Sunday night?  Right in the middle of it all was a commercial (or two) for Apple
Computer's new laptop.  It's got a 17 inch screen, gorgeous resolution, is ultra-lightweight and all those other usual super "Apple" technological improvements that we've done to love and expect.
 
But this commercial bragged about something else.  It bragged about the battery.  It seems this battery can be charged to last as much as eight full hours on one plug-in.  And it can be recharged about 1000 times.  The advertisement pointed out that's three times the battery life that one normally gets for the ever-popular laptops that seem to be powering our businesses and lives these days.
 
Now, we're not suggesting that you run right out and buy an Apple 17-inch laptop.  That would be very expensive (Nobody said they were cheap; they start at over $2000 each) and also defeat that wonderful Greenifying aspect of the computer, namely fewer laptops and batteries in our landfills.  No, keep using the one you have until the very end of its life.

It's just nice to see that companies are starting to get it. They get that there's an alternative, Greenifying laptop computer choice out on the market right now.  And chances are, by the time that you are ready to replace or upgrade what you are working with now, all the other computer companies will be offering similar long-lasting chargeables with extra-long battery life, too.  And the prices will probably come down, as well.
 
It's good to see companies offering ways to Greenify businesses.  It's great to see that they understand that being “environmentally sound” is a marketable, advertise-able benefit that will bring in sales.  And it'll be even better when everybody gets in the Greenification game on that aspect of doing business.


Earth Day 2009!

February 19, 2009

Earth Day 2009 is on the very green horizon.  What?  You haven’t even started to plan?  That’s okay because so many others have sprung into action and are ready to help out.

As I looked around the internet for various activities, I went to one of my modern, go-to-cyberplaces to find activites: Facebook.

The best thing about Facebook is that it’s free.  Now that I’ve said that, I want to point out that it can also be incredibly local.  You can start a page on Facebook in just a few minutes and find all kinds of activities for Earth Day. 

If you haven’t done this, you should.  I typed in “Earth Day 2009” and got 228 results. (Probably by the time you read this, there will be more!)  If I add “Los Angeles,” I narrow the field to the activities that might interest me most.  Or if you added New York, Washington, Chicago, Houston or any other location.

What?  You live in a small town and there’s nothing posted?  That’s great!  That means you can start a page for Earth Day in your town and use it to post activities for everyone to see. You can also post your own efforts to Greenify at home and at work.  Swap tips on how to conserve natural resources.  And maybe even start a carpool club. 

All kinds of opportunities to observe Earth Day are out there.  And Facebook isn’t going to be the only place to find them.  Earth Day is what you make it.  Consider that when you’re turning out the light as you leave the room and hanging a new clothes line across your backyard. That’s all it takes to Greenify going into Earth day 2009.


Greenify Your Construction Project: Future World

February 18, 2009

If you’ve never been to Hong Kong, let me paint a scene for you.  The city itself is like any major metropolis but set on a harbor.  The water there is an amazing shade of brilliant blue green, like the bright blue green of a peacock feather.  And buildings under construction are sheathed in scaffolding that is pale green. 

The reason?  Hong Kong builders use natural bamboo to build their scaffolding as high as they want.

It’s a fascinating phenomenon: earth-friendly bamboo being used to build lattices that construction workers stand on, as high as most metal construction crew frameworks built in this country.  Bamboo is really more than just breakfast, lunch, and dinner for pandas.

It’s also one of the most renewable of resources.  It’s being used in flooring, wall coverings and in kitchen-ware and cutting boards.  Bamboo is the largest of the woody grasses on our planet and the fastest growing.  A stick of bamboo is capable of growing 24 inches in a day, depending on soil, nutrients, and a steady supply of water. 

We may be seeing more of this wonderful plant as we grow together as a planet.  It’s a resource for the future and we hope you’ll consider it when the next opportunity to Greenify and grow your business comes up. 


New Ways to Greenify for Old Items: Upcycling

February 12, 2009

Upcycling is the newest way to Greenify our lives and businesses.  And here at the Green Business Alliance, we’re hoping it will catch on.  What is upcycling? 

You may have been to art galleries in the past where artists were taking found items (which can also be described as junkyard trash) and turning them into new and useful things.  It’s kind of like that, with less focus on looks and more on purpose.  Wikipedia defines “upcycling as turning waste items into new, usable items.”  And it generally involves a certain level of creative ingenuity.

Lots of folks these days are upcycling things and making small businesses out of it.  There are websites (http://www.etsy.com/) that focus on selling such repurposed materials, carefully and cleverly recycled into marketable products that then get further use by new owners.  Imagine seeing an old pair of jeans “upcycled” into an expensive designer handbag.  It’s been done.

Our grandparents did this to a certain extent.  They used old newspapers and magazines to light fireplaces and firepits.  These days, we know not to do that because those magazines can contain inks that become toxic when burned.  But there is still a lot to learn here.

As a child, every parent in my hometown made a springtime trip to the elementary school to round up some small milk cartons.  Those cartons were then “upcycled” to use for starting vegetable seedlings for the family garden.  Sometimes, you can spot those who grew up in a small town, huh?

But if we look for those small ways to reuse a resource, then perhaps we’ll utilize the materials more fully.  A little upcycling could also be known as “Greenification” at the most basic level: using something more completely before we put it out to be recycled again.


Earth Day Planner: Personal Observance

February 10, 2009

How do you plan to observe Earth Day, 2009?  It’s coming up in April and if you plan now, you can Greenify and observe it simultaneously at home and at work.

Here are some easy suggestions for how:

  • Close up shop for the day to give employees a chance to go to the Festivities in your town.  Save on resources and enjoy a day of honoring the Earth.
  • No festivities to observe?  Stay open and offer an Earth Day “commemorative token” to each customer who comes in that day.  Preferably, something with the business’ name and contact information on it.   We like apples and if you start now, you can get some nifty stickers with your company logo printed in food-friendly non-toxic ink.
  • Treat Earth Day as the start of the planet’s New Year and resolve to do more to Greenify.
  • Make a contribution to a favorite green organization.
  • Plant a tree or bush.  Better yet, offer seedlings to your customers to plant.  They are remarkably inexpensive when purchased through the Arbor Day Foundation.
  • Remind family members that it is Earth Day and discuss with youngsters why this is important.

Whatever you do on Earth day, know that the most important thing is free: to recognize the Earth’s importance and our individual stewardships in taking care of it.   We’ve wounded our Earth in some ways, so we’ve got plenty of Greenification opportunities to go around.


Is the Green Movement a Passing Fancy?

February 3, 2009

The Green Movement. Is it here to stay or just a trendy fad? Ursula M. Burns delves into the answers in her recent article for the January 27th edition of Business Week.

Click here to read more about what the president of Xerox has to say about going green and the long-term benefits for both the world and corporate America.


A Greenification Success Story: U.S. Postal Service

January 20, 2009

We all know that this year, we’re going to have to Greenify in two ways: for the environment and for our back-pockets.  The economic concerns that are hitting our businesses are mounting but what if we could help the environment AND cut our costs?

The United States Postal Service said it did that last year, saving $5 Million by consolidating some of its transportation. 

The USPS deployed a transportation optimization system that consolidated trips.  The program was developed with IBM to analyze operations, loads, and routes to determine the best way to make sure the mail gets through while saving gas and expensive employee hours.

The Highway Corridor Analytic Program (HCPA) was put in place in 2006.  It helps USPS find the best way to allocate mail among its transportation resources.

Of course, the Postal Service has various transportation methods for moving around mail, depending on the type of mail and when it needs to be delivered. Our letters and packages flow through a number of networks, along processing routes and into distribution centers with some trips still overlapping.

But they did it!  They looked for ways to conserve and they did, saving energy, lowering cost, shrinking their carbon footprint and in the end, cutting the bottom line.  (You may use mostly email, but doesn’t it still bug you every time they ask for an increase in the price of stamps?)

Could you use a similar system on a smaller basis for your business?  You might be able to do it the old-fashioned way, on paper (or a spreadsheet) and without involving IBM.  Organize your schedule of weekly (monthly, quarterly) deliveries and pickups.  Talk to your drivers and customers.  Then lay out the routes, times, truck capacities, and end points. 

This year may be the year that doing a little extra brain-work offers the extra businesses that keep the bottom line in the black.  Simply spotting a few overlapping delivers could save money and allow you to Greenify.

Back to the USPS: savings of $1.3 million annually in Chicago, $3.7 million on the West Coast, and $400,000 in Greensboro and Pittsburgh, adding up to more than $5 million and over 615,000 gallons of gas saved per year.  That’s Greenification that gets thru in wind, sleet, or snow!


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.


A little Greenification to Get Started

January 7, 2009

2009 may be a tough year to Greenify.  If it's tough for you, as it may be for many businesses during this recessionary economy, consider taking smaller steps towards reducing your carbon footprint.  Using recycled paper is one such area.    

Recycled paper is the end product of paper recycling. The production of recycled paper has significant environmental advantages over virgin (nonrecycled) paper production, including less impact on forest resources, less air pollution, less water pollution, less water consumption, less energy consumption, and less solid waste.  

Recycled paper is produced in most varieties that virgin paper is produced, with quality generally equal to virgin paper. 

But here's the problem: prices for recycled printing and writing papers are generally slightly higher than for virgin printing and writing papers, because of a much smaller economy of scale for recycled paper production. Recycled papers still comprise less than 10 percent of the printing and writing manufacturing and market.

That cost margin can hit a small business like a ton of bricks, weighing down on profits that already may be slipping in the last several months.  What can be done?  Some businesses may want to take smaller steps this year.  And that's an excellent place to begin

If every business would buy and use recycled paper for even a few days or one week per month, the savings in carbon output would help Greenify our planet.  We have to begin somewhere and while a small step may seem insignificant to some, it is not unimportant to the whole of our environment.  You can afford to Greenify, even if only for one day or week.  And our world can't afford not to start someplace.


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