Greenify your lighting with CFLs

May 9, 2008

Compact Fluorescent Lights (aka CFL’s or CFB’s) seem to be on everyone’s top ten list of ways to conserve energy. Are they worth the hype?

Absolutely! CFL’s are a great way to Greenify your office and your home. CFL’s use 50-80% of the energy that incandescent bulbs use for the same number of lumens and last 7-15 times longer than an incandescent bulb. CFL’s are more expensive, but on the other than, they have gone down in price considerably over the last few years. Depending on how large a bulb you need, costs range from around $4.00 to just over $1.50 a bulb at the larger home improvement stores. Dimmable CFL’s have just recently hit the market as well.

There are a couple things to keep in mind when using Compact Fluorescent Lights. Like any fluorescent light, the bulb’s life is shortened if turned off and on frequently. If you have an area where you need light for only a few minutes at a time, use an incandescent bulb. CFL’s have a tiny bit of mercury in them, about as much as an average household thermometer. With that in mind, they need to be disposed of with hazardous waste, rather than with the trash. Should your CFL break, the EPA has suggested guidelines for site cleanup. CFL’s can be a little more effort than incandescent bulbs, but they are worth it.


Go Green and Reduce Your Junk Mail

May 6, 2008

If you keep all the junk mail you receive this year, you will end up with about 41 pounds of useless paper by the time New Year’s Eve 2008 rolls around. The environmental and financial costs of junk mail are enormous, 100 million trees are sacrificed, the production and disposal of junk mail uses as much energy as 3 million cars, 44 million pounds of junk mail is never opened before it is thrown away and barely a third of the junk mail is recycled. Local municipalities will collectively spend hundreds of millions of dollars to dispose of all this mail.

A few years ago, I remember reading in an environmentally friendly magazine (name purposefully withheld!) that they had determined that six subscription cards per magazine per issue was the ideal number. Apparently it was the most environmentally friendly and cost productive way they had to keep their subscription base. Well, lets see, at most I will use one subscription card. So that is 71 post cards a year I am throwing away- just me. This particular magazine has a paid subscription base of 350,000. That is almost 2,500,000 post cards thrown away- assuming that everyone who gets the magazine uses one post card!

The best way to Greenify and stop most junk mail from coming into your office or your home is to go to the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service website and ask them to remove your name from their lists. You should include every variation of your company name that junk mail comes to.

However, that will not rid you of all your junk-mail problems. If you order something from a catalog, the company will continue to send you more catalogs unless you tell the company specifically to remove your name from their lists. Also, when ordering, remember to include these important words: “Please do not sell, rent or give my name away to any other organization.”  I’m off to the DMA site to remove myself from mailing lists!


Power of the Greenified Seal

May 2, 2008

Going green may be the hip thing to do, but it is more than just a trend. Many people are trying to incorporate being greener into their everyday lives and are making deliberate choices such as searching out companies who are green. Which brings me to today’s topic – why the Green Business Alliance Greenified Seal matters.

When you display the Greenified Seal on your website, your windows or in your office, you are telling your customers and clients that you have made a conscious effort to adopt environmentally friendly business practices. In fact, you have made such an effort that you have third party verification – someone else other than you is saying “yes, this company has demonstrated a commitment to going green.”

The Greenified Seal assures the new breed of consumers that the business they are considering is one that cares about the environment and its employees. There are organizations that one can purchase a membership to, but in order to receive the Green Business Alliance Greenified Seal, the company actually has to embrace a green philosophy. This step is enough to create sales and business from environmentally concerned consumers.


E-waste...how to reycle or reuse it

April 29, 2008

Inevitably, the technology equipment you invested in a few years ago, no longer meets the demands of your business. Or maybe you would just like a newer, shinier computer/printer/cell phone/what have you. But the old one is still functional, so what is the Green thing to do with your e-waste?

Fortunately, you have many alternatives! One of the easiest ways to recycle your cell phone is to donate it to a local domestic violence organization. Cell phones are generally able to dial 911 with no SIM card, and that may be all someone needs from a cell phone. If your company has many phones to dispose of, investigate options like ReCellular which will purchase your old cell phones, (with pre-paid postage for over 50 phones) or connect you to charitable programs such as Cell Phones for Soldiers.  I read earlier today that the amount of copper wire contained in cell phones disposed of each year could cover the Statue of Liberty, twice over. That’s a lot of copper!

If your computer or printer is still in generally good repair, one way to reuse is to call the local schools and see if they either need a used computer themselves or perhaps know of a student from a low-income household who could benefit from a computer. Computer donations to a non-profit institution may yield a tax deduction. Another option would be to Freecycle your computer. Dell, Apple, HP and other large companies offer recycling programs and your refuse hauler or local waste authority may offer a recycling program as well. If Waste Management services your neighborhood, they were the first electronics recycling company to achieve ISO 9001 and 14001 certification. Earth911 mentioned in Friday’s blog offers some other great tips for recycling e-waste.

No matter which recycling method you choose for your e-waste, keeping it out of the landfills helps you Greenify!


Office Recycling 101

April 25, 2008

One inquiry that is continually coming our way is “how do I start an office recycling program?” We know that the official celebration of Earth Day came and went earlier this week. We at Green Business Alliance are hopeful that our citizenry is beginning to realize that Earth Day is really EVERY day. Along these lines, an office recycling program can be implemented in a variety of fashions in order to allow all employees to participate in taking care of the environment on a day to day basis. We can all do at least a small part …at the very least throw a way a piece of paper in a special bin in order for that paper or cardboard to be recycled rather than pile-up in a land-fill.

Earth911 provides some great resources on how to get started with the 3 Rs...Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Anyone can contact their local Solid Waste Authority and ask about implementing an office recycling program. Keep in mind, office recycling is not limited to paper and cardboard. There are many items that can be recycled in an office ranging from aluminum cans to fluorescent tubes for lighting to many sources of e-waste (electronic waste like computers, VCRs, and cell phones). The point is to just do it. Just recycle something – paper, electronics, bottles and cans etc. It’s good for the environment, our land-fills and our future on this planet!


Earth Day Resolution #7 – Greenify

April 22, 2008

It’s hard to believe but it is finally Earth Day! This blog series began 55 days ago when many of us were seeing white (as in snow) but hoping for green (as in spring). Along the way we discussed Earth Hour, Earth Day music, eco-friendly water bottles, reusable shopping bags, green foods, green fundraisers for schools, and carbon footprints. We have now reached our seventh and final resolution for Earth Day 2008. We can sum it up in one word, 8 letters…

GREENIFY

This Earth Day resolve to make a permanent change to your daily habits by making the decision to Greenify at work and/or at home. Integrate environmental stewardship into your day-to-day routine. We at Green Business Alliance can help you to achieve this goal. By implementing our Guidelines to Greenify your home or company, you will not only have a positive impact on the environment, but also on those around you. You will send a message to others that you are a part of the go green movement and that you have taken action to ensure that your daily practices are eco-friendly. To learn more about how to Greenify, visit our business and residence pages.


Earth Day Resolution #6 – Going Green for Schools

April 18, 2008

For the past few weeks, the parents at my children’s school have been hearing about the upcoming spring fundraiser. One never knows what that is going to entail – selling cookie dough, chocolates, wrapping paper or magazine subscriptions. As I my kids became more excited about the ‘sale’ and the prospect of selling enough items to get that coveted grand prize, I became more concerned about which neighbors and family members were ‘on deck’ in the friendly rotation of supporting one another’s schools via the children’s fundraisers.

I was very pleasantly surprised when the folder came home in the backpack and it looked unfamiliar. My kids could not stop talking about the ‘Go Green’ sale they were having. “Go Green,” I asked? “Yes mom…you know Go Green as in doing something good for the earth,” the kids replied. I immediately opened the envelope to find an eco-friendly looking brochure from Growkids – help children/heal the earth. What a concept, the kids are going to sell items like seed collections, green foaming soap, reusable shopping bags and hemp frisbees. The school receives 50% of all proceeds, a tree is dedicated and planted for every sales participant and the products being sold are environmentally friendly. It seems like a win for all – the school, the kids, the buyers and our environment!  As Sarah Talley, the founder of Growkids states on her website, “I’m not ready to run off into the forest and forfeit all of the comforts of modern life ... but I am learning to walk a little softer on the earth.”

In the midst of my excitement I picked up the phone to tell a friend at a neighboring school. When I started to talk about the Go Green fundraiser at our school, my friend quickly responded with her school’s version of the Green sale…CFL light bulbs. Her school was having a CFL sale. We seem to be moving away from cookie dough, candy and magazine sales. How nice!

This Earth Day, resolve to help spread the word at your children’s school about Green fundraising opportunities. Face it, the school fundraiser is here to stay. It’s a right of passage for the youngsters. The cute faces knocking on your door eager to make a sale are not going away and I hope they never do. Why not teach the kids about the importance of doing the right thing for the environment while going green and helping their school at the same time! I hope that we can all walk a little gentler this year!


Green Is The New Black… In Many Ways

April 15, 2008

Right now, there is a ton of buzz everywhere relative to Going Green. Whether it’s the commercial for the new Lexus Hybrids, the school down the street that is adding a new building to Green standards or the April email newsletter from AT&T that promotes “Go Green For Green, Saving The Earth Can Save You Money Too,”  Green is front and center and as a result awareness seems to be reaching new heights.

What we’re noticing is that a lot of people who are reaching out to Green Business Alliance have a large number of questions on what’s actually involved in Going Green. That’s a really good sign in our opinion, as the only way to make meaningful strides is to understand the playing field and ultimately have an effective roadmap to follow.

So it has become hip to be Green. That doesn’t ensure that positive steps will ensue, but it sure beats the ambivalence from the public that many early Green adopters have been frustrated by for so many years.


Earth Day Resolution #5 – Reducing Your Footprint

April 11, 2008

What size is your carbon footprint?  The national average is around 8 tons of Carbon Dioxide per year depending on which Carbon calculator you are using. Do you think your footprint is larger or smaller than the average? 

You can calculate your carbon footprint on one of the many web-based carbon calculators. The EPA has a more sophisticated calculator which asks questions pertaining to the type of dwelling you live in, the number of people in the household, transportation, waste and more. They also offer a calculator on the same page to reduce emissions. Yahoo’s Green site is the simplest calculator which only asks 7 general questions. MSN’s Green site has a carbon calculator which is somewhere between Yahoo’s and the EPA’s.

So gather recent natural gas, heating oil, propane, and electric bills, click on one of the calculator’s above and get ready to determine the size of your footprint. The good news is that no matter how big or small your carbon footprint is, there are many actions that one can take to reduce the size.

With Earth Day just around the corner make a promise to yourself and resolve to reduce your carbon footprint by at least one size. The earth will be a better place for it and you will be happier with your new footprint knowing that your smaller steps have helped our planet by leaps and bounds.


What is a REC and Why Does it Matter for Businesses?

April 8, 2008

Wikipedia defines a Renewable Energy Credit as: “Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), also known as Green tags, Renewable Energy Credits, or Tradable Renewable Certificates (TRCs), are tradable environmental commodities that represent proof that 1 megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity was generated from an eligible renewable energy resource.” 

The idea behind RECS is that businesses (and individuals) can offset their carbon footprint by purchasing Renewable Energy Credits. While the rationale is clear-cut for businesses that are big polluters, it is less obvious for companies work out of an office and are telephone / computer focused.

Wikipedia also notes that: “A popular incentive for buying RECs is to make the claim that your energy use is carbon neutral and hence does not contribute to global warming. Looking at the situation from a macroscopic level, buying RECs finances some portion of the increased costs of green energy producers, to reduce the producer's increase in cost as compared to sources which pollute more. However, it could be argued that the green energy production facilities which are already built today might still continue functioning and producing energy at the same rate even if no one were to buy another REC. On a microscopic level, buying a few RECs has very little direct effect on the amount of CO2 produced at this very moment. As larger and larger numbers of RECs come into demand, however, renewable energy will become more and more cost effective per kWh in comparison to nonrenewable energy. “

So should purchasing carbon offsets be a priority for businesses today? We believe that the answer is YES. As referenced above, in the big picture, the cumulative impact will be enormous, although the direct impact today is much harder to quantify. That logic, however applies to a number of the dimensions of the Go Green movement and every small step matter and is instrumental from a “setting the tone” perspective with employees and customers. Let your customers see first-hand that you go to the efforts to recycle within the office.

Successful business owners make investments everyday with a long term perspective in mind. Going Green is another example of a path to be taken that may not yield tangible benefits in the short run, but has untold, long term upside potential. Lastly, purchasing RECS is not very expensive for most companies, so cost should not be a deterrent.


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