Greenify the Holidays with the Spirit of Giving

November 25, 2008

Let’s Greenify your holidays a few steps more.  What can you do to conserve without putting a damper on the joy of the holidays?
 
‘Tis the season to hit the malls.  When you go shopping, take your own shopping bags.  Yes, you may well be stopped going into the stores, as you carry a shopping bag, but you’ll help save on the millions of shopping bags that many stores have printed for Christmas shoppers.  And if you’re afraid of being stopped for shoplifting, take along paper or binder clips to fasten the receipts to the outside of your bag.

Once you get the gifts home, what’s next?  How about wrapping presents in posters, decorated grocery store bags, or pages from glossy fashion magazines?  Put a small present in a beautiful scarf and make the wrapping part of the gift given.  If you truly love brightly colored holiday wraps, purchase recycled wrapping papers online from websites like fishlipspaperdesigns.com and paporganics.com, which also may sell biodegradable ribbons.  Did you know that Americans use more than 38,000 miles of ribbon during the final months of the year?

"You don't have to sacrifice the celebration for sustainability," says Zem Joaquin, founder of ecofabulous.com and eco-editor of House & Garden. Her advice: be "eco-wise."

Another tip: consider going paper-free on holiday cards.  Direct friends to your family blog or create a free multiphoto card or an online slideshow on photobucket.com. You can add holiday music, snowflakes and bits of text, and then e-mail friends and family a link.  They may get a bigger kick out of your fun slideshow of the past year than they ever got out of pre-printed cards and posed single photos that almost always hit the curb the week after Christmas.

You don’t have to clamp down on holiday spirit to Greenify the season.  In fact, it may put you “in the holiday mood” earlier when you help conserve the environment.


The Card Question: to Greet or to Greenify?

November 24, 2008

Every year at this time, American businesses communicate their hopes for a joyous holiday and best wishes for the year ahead to their customers and friends.  But should they?  Does it need to be done?

American businesses and individuals send billions of holiday cards.  But perhaps this is the year to reconsider.  Most of those cards will end up going out in the trash, but not before they have consumed millions of dollars in valuable resources.

So instead of a glossy corporate Christmas card stamped with signatures that are undeniably false, consider what else could be done? Perhaps taking a video clip of each of the employees at your office and sending a slide show on the internet that allows viewers to get to know who is on the other end of the phone?  You could post it on youtube.com, and enjoy hope that it becomes the viral marketing tool that boosts the bottom line.  Or for the most important customers, an organic fruit basket or selection of jams is always welcome.  Organic chocolates are also likely to be popular choices.

The point is that cards which carry the holiday wishes aren’t really good for anything and they use up valued resources.  Other “holiday gifts” could be more useful, fun to look at, edible, and less consumptive of natural resources, all while conveying appreciation for business relationships and friendship and other relationships along with respect for the environment.

If you must send a card this holiday season, then try cards on recycled paper.  And next year, consider recycling this year’s cards as a statement to your customers of good cheer for the Greenification of our planet.


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.


Greenifying the World’s Largest Retail Supply Chain

November 18, 2008

If you’re watching what the “Big Boys” do and trying to pattern your success after theirs, here’s something to take note of: Wal-Mart, the biggest retailer in the world is attempting to Greenify with a makeover of its global supply chain.

Wal-Mart has a vision of going green, and is now demanding its suppliers, including many based in China, to live up to environmentally friendly manufacturing practices and product-safety guidelines to make that vision come true.

The Arkansas-based retailer got together with more than 1,000 suppliers in Beijing, China, telling them that change was coming.   And not just for the Chinese suppliers. The company is holding suppliers to higher manufacturing and operations standards to “build a more environmentally and socially responsible global supply chain,” announced company executives.

Here is what CEO Lee Scott had to say, “A company that cheats on overtime and on the age of its labor, that dumps its scraps and chemicals in our rivers, that does not pay its taxes or honor its contracts--will ultimately cheat on the quality of its products. And cheating on the quality of products is the same as cheating on customers," Scott said.  "We will not tolerate that at Wal-Mart," Scott stated.

The specifics of the new policies, requirements and deadlines for what Wal-Mart called its "Global Responsible Sourcing Initiative" were equally as bold, and most were targeted at suppliers based in China.  The requirements will force the factories to meet environmental standards in China by 2009 (elsewhere by 2011), make a 20% improvement in energy efficiency, and source 95% of their production from factories that receive high ratings on environmental and social practices.

If the world’s largest retailer can get its suppliers to Greenify, then maybe its time to consider how smaller companies can also go green in their own place and time as well.


Recycling Can Greenify Your Overhead

November 14, 2008

Many businesses can realize a substantial amount of money saved by going green and reducing waste.   Since many businesses are charged by the amount of waste they put out for their local waste removal company to haul away, this is one of the first and most common sense ways to save money and Greenify at the same time.

Some of the steps in doing that: purchase recycled, post-consumer products to start.  These products are now starting to become available at prices that are comparable, if not better than “new” products.  And just seeing them in your business lets your employees and your customers know that you care about the environment.  It encourages them to recycle, as well.

Post recycling containers.  Lots of them.  Everywhere.  The big, blue “recycled paper” containers are eye-catching and with luck, they’ll catch more use, too.

Look for products with minimal packaging.  Who is impressed by big, fancy thick packaging when smaller, more eco-friendly designs work just as well? 

Optimize your use of paper products.   If the memo is internal to the office, use both sides of the paper.  Send it around in envelopes with multiple lines for addresses, so that the folder can be reused again and again. 

Consider whether new office equipment is needed, or whether sturdy used machines and furniture can be purchased (at a savings!) from a clearance center.  There may be more choices right now than in recent years, because of the condition of the economy and businesses being forced to go under.

And look for ways to streamline your operation.  Cutting the steps may help you cut costs, increase productivity, impress customers, and improve your public image as you reduce waste and Greenify.


Greenify Your Cleaning

May 30, 2008

It is a little ironic that those cleaning products which are supposed to help us spruce up the office or home can actually be responsible for poor indoor air quality and even asthma attacks. Cleaning products are not required in the US to list all their ingredients, so one could be cleaning with a veritable chemical soup containing butyl cellosolve, ammonia, chlorine, sodium hydroxide (lye), alkylphenol ethoxylates, and more. Any of these can cause lung irritation and some will contaminate water supplies, deplete the ozone and cause endocrine disruption. Harsh repercussions when all you wanted was a clean floor or sparkling windows.

Consider Greenifying by stocking your office with eco-friendly cleaning products. Seventh Generation may be one of the best known brands on the market, but others exist such as Shaklees, Mrs Meyers Clean Brand, Method Home, Ecover, and Edible Nature. Trader Joe’s, Target and Whole Foods all carry in-house brand natural cleaners. If your office uses a cleaning service, ask them to use your products. They may balk at first, but perhaps you will convert them to a greener way of life when they discover the breathing is easier in your office.

If you clean your office yourself, you can create your own very environmentally friendly cleaning products using white vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, borax and olive oil. A 1:1 mixture of water and vinegar (or even straight vinegar) in a spray bottle will kill bacteria, germs and mold. A cup of olive oil and a ½ cup of lemon juice makes a good furniture polish. Mix the two in a spray bottle, shake well and spray a little on a polishing cloth; polish evenly over the furniture, buffing to a light shine. Baking soda can be used in place of an abrasive cleaner. It will also remove odors. Sprinkle a little on the carpet before vacuuming in place of carpet freshener. To clean glass or mirrors, mix up 1 cup of isopropyl alcohol, 1 cup water and a tablespoon of vinegar. It evaporates quickly and will leave your glass streak free. Greenify to Clean!


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The Latest Green Gadgets

May 27, 2008

Is it just me or does everyone like to check out all the new gadgets that the Green movement has been producing? I love my solar watch, not to mention solar radio/alarm clock. A friend of mine is waiting for her economic stimulus check to arrive in July, so that she can purchase a cordless electric lawnmower complete with a small solar panel to charge it.

Saazs has developed light emitting glass. Instead of a light bulb, the entire fixture radiates a warm light. The glass has been used in walls, tables and floors. You will have to go to Paris to see the showroom and then spend between E 4,300 and E 5,300 to actually get one of the lights. But, the lights will last for about 50,000 hours – or 20 years! And the Planilum technology used is very cool- 4 layers of a special glass, a rare gas and serigraphed phosphors.

The Solio has been around for a year or more, and is another gadget on my wish list. A little hand held solar charger, it can power up your cell phone, iPod, GPS, digital camera and more. One hour of free solar charging will give you twenty minutes of talk time. How great is that for those camping trips where you can’t afford to be out of touch with the office for long. And if your locale features more wind than sun, there is the HYmini, a handheld wind turbine.

Does your commute to work involve biking? Puma is now selling the “Stealth Visibility Bike”- a glow in the dark bicycle- improving your visibility on your way home after dark.

It is easier than ever to Greenify with some of these gadgets!


Giving Green Business Gifts

May 22, 2008

Do you ever purchase gifts for clients, associates or employees? Here’s another area where it is becoming easier than ever to Greenify. Green gifts will have a low environmental impact and support local economies in a fair manner.

If flowers are your go-to-gift, start looking for organic flowers and ideally, for locally grown organic flowers. By buying locally, you are assisting the local economy as well as avoiding all that CO2 from flying flowers in. Check out Local Harvest for flower growers near you. Organic Bouquets or California Organic Flowers are good defaults if local flowers are not available. Most cut flowers are grown in South America and Africa and are heavily doused with pesticides, including pesticides which are illegal to use in the US. The chemicals negatively impact the flower workers, the ground water, soil and the surrounding villages.

If you prefer to send a food gift, maybe Equal Exchange would appeal. You can send a gift of fairly traded coffee, tea or chocolate. The farmers who grow these products do so in sustainable manner and receive a fair wage for their work. Or what about finding a local baker who uses organic ingredients and buy a couple dozen cookies or cupcakes?

Ten Thousand Villages offers a wide assortment of gift ideas. Ten Thousand Villages purchases their items from artisans in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, using Fair Trade agreements.

If your company regularly hands out promotional gifts, much of that can be Greenified. In an earlier post I mentioned green office supplies- you can use the same concepts if you give away printed paper products, pens or other supplies.

Giving green may take a little more forethought than just calling up the florist and ordering flowers. But it is worth it to take that extra time, lessen the environmental impact and help to have a positive influence on someone’s life.


Green Office Supplies

May 15, 2008

We’ve already written about ways to Greenify your office by using recycled paper, so the only thing I will reiterate there is that the cumulative effects of 100% recycled paper is staggering. A pallet of 100% recycled paper (40 cases) will save 24 trees, 7, 000 gallons of water, and 60 pounds of greenhouse gases.

Copier/printer paper is obvious, but did you know that you can purchase letterhead, envelopes, notebooks, self-stick note pads, pocket-folders and business cards made from recycled content as well?

Your office binders do not need to be made from vinyl. Rebinder Recycled Binders are made from corrugated cardboard and just as durable as vinyl covers. You can even get replacement covers should you need one!

If your office uses AA, AAA, B, C or D batteries, consider investing in rechargeable batteries and a solar charger.

Is there a dry erase/white board in your office? Artline makes a line of ECO-Green dry erase markers which are made from recycled materials and have a lower dose of that dry erase marker smell.

The office pens do not need to be left out of the campaign to Greenify! There are ballpoint pens available made from recycled CD cases, recycled plastic and recycled wood, not to mention that biodegradable pens are available!

If you ordinarily run out to the store for your office supplies, you may discover that you easiest way to order your green supplies is online. But with a little research and ingenuity, you can easily Greenify your entire office without spending much, if any more, than you ordinarily do.


Decorating Your Office In A Green Fashion

May 12, 2008

When thinking about the different ways to Greenify your office, have you considered the way you have decorated? There are many ways to incorporate sustainable and green items into your office décor.

Whether your walls are painted cream or bright yellow, VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) from traditional paint can leach into your air for years after painting. If your walls are looking a little dingy, think about sprucing up with non-toxic paint, zero VOC or low VOC paint. Companies such as The Real Milk Paint Company  or the Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company  produce old fashioned milk paints which are green enough to be thrown on your garden. There are a number of other companies that manufacture non-toxic, zero and low VOC paints including corporations such as Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams.

After you’ve painted your walls, maybe you need some new artwork. Rather than an anonymous photo or motivational poster, why not green the coffers of a local artist? A local artist helps keep money in your community, which is all part of the Go Green movement. If you want something more personal, commission a painting series or photographs from a local artist.

Rugs do not need to be left out when decorating green. Consider rugs made from recycled soda bottles, wool carpets using no synthetics and eco-friendly fabrics such as those made from hemp or bamboo.

And finally, while bringing plants into the office may be the most common way we think of to Greenify our offices, it is definitely one of the most beneficial. NASA studies have proven that live plants can help clean the office air. The top ten plants to clean chemicals from the air are bamboo palm, Chinese evergreen, pot mum, Gerbera Daisy, Janet Craig, English Ivy, Marginata, Corn Plant, Mother-in-law’s tongue, Peace Lily and warneckii. These will help rid your office of benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.


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