The Stairs – a Green and Healthy Choice

September 7, 2010

Believe it or not, there are more beneficiaries of Greenifying than simply our environment and your business. Some Green steps can directly impact your health. For instance, let’s examine your method of transportation to and from work. Yes, if one is able to bike or walk to work rather than drive, obviously the reduced emissions from the vehicle benefit the environment. Engaging in aerobic activity in lieu of driving a car for your commute benefits your heart and body.

Here is another easy way to help the environment while helping your heart. Stairs! If your office is above the first floor, take the stairs rather than the elevator. Walking up to your office will burn some calories while at the same time save the electrical energy used during each push of the elevator. It may not seem like a big sacrifice (unless, of course, your office is on the 90th floor!) but the rewards are both healthy and environmentally beneficial. On average, a 3 minute walk up the stairs burns about 25 calories. Greenify – for the environment, your business, and your health!


Water Bottles: Greenifying Your Life a Sip at a Time

July 16, 2010

You know how much I dislike bottled water, right?  I think plastic water bottles are second only to plastic grocery sacks in polluting our world and packing the landfills.  They waste space, resources and are generally a bad idea.  Bottled water isn't as good for you as water straight from the tap, particularly for children, because bottled water doesn't provide fluoride needed to protect teeth and keep your mouth healthy.  

That said, I do support the idea that drinking water is much healthier for our weight-challenged, overly stimulated society that needs to stop sucking down sugar carbonated drinks and even fruit juices (except in moderation) that lack the natural nutrients and fiber of eating the fruit out of hand.  So what's a person to do?

For months, I've been using the same plastic bottle that I recycled after being given the refreshment at a public event.  The plastic is a little thicker than most bottles, which makes it better for reuse, but means the manufacture of it required even more natural resources. 

I was at a gathering in Washington, DC two weeks ago (“Women Deliver,” which is an international women's and maternal health conference) as a member of the press and was given a “goodie bag” that contained a spiffy reusable metal water bottle.  It was green, so you know I loved it instantly!  I was fascinated because it is about a 20 ounce bottle, complete with a water-tight seal at the opening and a loop in case I want to carry it around my neck or at my belt line.  

I was thinking, “Wow, this is convenient!  And look, the convention put its logo on the outside so that everyone will know where I got it.”  And what a great marketing idea!

So think about it: last year, we talked about putting your name and logo on reusable shopping bags.  They were inexpensive, easily printable and the “oh-so-trendy” way to advertise your greenifying efforts to both current and potential customers. 

This year, people are using the shopping bags you've offered.   Cities all over the country are emphasizing reusable shopping bags, cutting down their pollution (is there anything worse than seeing those plastic bags on the side of the road or in a body of water?) and feeling better about what they're doing for the environment. If you made and provided these bags, you're a part of that good feeling.

Now step in and get ahead of the pack by considering putting out some reusable water bottles.  You can find a manufacturer or use one of these:

http://www.kleankanteen.com/

http://mysigg.com/

You can also get reusable plastic water bottles that are environmentally friendly and have no unhealthy side effects:

http://www.nalgenechoice.com/index.html

Ordering these bottles is a slightly more expensive option for putting your logo out there, but doing it now will put you a step ahead of the pack with your efforts to Greenify.  And it's a great way to continue to feel good about the way you're advertising your green business status. 


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. 


Recycling Gallon Jugs

May 25, 2010

Has there every been anything as easily recycled as a gallon jug?  Seriously, think of all the different ways you know to recycle a plastic gallon jug.

When I was a kid, we didn't get milk in gallons.  My parents were health conscious and they bought powdered milk in square cardboard boxes.  The plastic gallon containers were, therefore, somewhat rare and sought after at their farm in the western United States.

If a plastic gallon jug did somehow manage to arrive at my parents' house, it circled the farm two or three times before leaving the property for the landfill in the back of my Dad's old truck.  Here's a few of the things that we used them for then and now.

Outdoors:
Refilled with more water to carry in a vehicle
Cut-off tops put over newly planted seedlings to offer “mini-greenhouse”
Cut-off bottoms used to carry water to those new seedlings
Bottoms used to line hanging planters to keep water in

Indoors:
Jugs recycled to hold fruit punch for kids going on picnics
Jugs used to hold portion of laundry detergent for convenience
Jugs used to hold rice, beans or other dry foods that need protection from pantry pests
Cut off the top and use it to hold kitchen implements, sewing accessories, craft supplies, crayons, etc.
Cut a hole in the bottom and make into a bird house
Cut hole in the side and tuck in skein of yarn, pull the end of the skein through the pour spout

I'm sure you have more ideas on this at your house, so please fill us all in on the comment section below.  If we all combine our efforts to Greenify, we'll get many more uses from our household plastics before they go off to be recycled into new goods.


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. 


Earth Day 2010

April 28, 2010

Earth Day is past.  It's now over and done for another year.  We all drank in the sunshine, good feelings and honors to the planet.  And while our normal message for any day of the year is “Less is More,” on Earth Day this year, it seemed more was more.

More cities and towns celebrating Earth Day all over the world.  More people turning out for the celebrations marking 40 years of greenification and cleaning up the planet and trying to turn our consumption patterns around. 

Other things I noticed more of this year: more corporate representation as Earth Day mentions skyrocketed on the Internet.  It seemed like every advertisement I saw for a national product on the web this past month has mentioned “earth-friendly” and “sustainability.”  I saw food products being advertised in recyclable containers; household goods bragging about fewer chemicals and less harm to the environment; and lots of ideas for lowering energy consumption. 

The reason for this is clearly because corporate entities are starting to realize that given a choice of “earth-friendly” and “generic brand X which might be cheaper,” many customers are willing to pay more to show their concern for the planet.

Maybe it's just the arrival of springtime temperatures and attitudes, but it seemed like a whole crop of new colors of reusable shopping bags bloomed onto the scene just in time for Earth Day.  I only know because every time I saw one that I really liked, I'd ask the person using it where they got it.

“A store at the Mall.”

“Target.”

“A museum gift shop online.”  These are all good answers, but the “online” brings a special smile to my face.  Online shopping also a little greener than ever before. 

There were also more schools than ever participating in this year's Earth Day, which means we're bringing up a strong generation of people who are going to be more concerned than ever about the world that we all share. 

The big celebration honoring our planet is over for another year.  But if you think about it, every day is Earth Day here on the third rock from the sun.  We need to remember that in order to make the most of the world around us. 


Change A Font, Save A (Carbon) Footprint!

April 21, 2010

So what is the number one expense related to a business' use of its printer?  I'll give you a hint: it's not the paper. 

Most offices have at least one printer and if yours is like mine, it gets a lot of use.  Once you buy the thing and get it up to speed, your accountant depreciates it and your employees abuse it.  But what is the number one expense related to it?

I'll give you a hint: it's not the paper.  At $5 a ream or less, depending on your willingness to buy in bulk, paper (a wonderful thing to recycle, by the way!) is inexpensive.  No, it's not the paper.  It's the ink.

Many printer ink cartridges, while recyclable in handy mailer envelopes that come with the purchase of  a new cartridge, are sorta pricey.  They cost upwards of $35 each and when you consider that your staff, in spite of being told not to use printers for personal matters, are probably printing everything from church picnic fliers to their senior research paper, you need to think carefully.  Is it possible you can cut costs and Greenify?

Maybe.  Maybe it's as simple as changing your font. 

A Dutch company, Printer.com, tested and discovered that different fonts require different amounts of ink and over the course of time, the amount of ink used, cartridges consumed, cash used and carbon footprint burned through to keep an office printer going could vary quite substantially.

The best fonts to use to ensure maximum print output for your cartridges are:

1) Century Gothic
2) Times New Roman
3) Calibri
4) Veradan
5) Arial
6) MSS Sans Serif
7) Trebuchet MS
8) Tahoma
9) Franklin Gothic Medium

The findings showed that a someone using a home printer would use one less one cartridge per year, with the pocketed savings of about $20.  But you'll also save on your carbon footprint. 

Using fewer cartridges means you're printing less and printing more carefully.  You're taking a step towards being more conscious of the earth and its resources.  And who knows?  Maybe your business correspondence will look better, too.  Some of those recommended fonts are not only greener, they're very stylish!


Earth Day Alive and Ahead!

April 20, 2010

You may be counting down the days to Earth Day, but I assure you, here at the Green Business Alliance, we are counting down the minutes.  We're also checking off our list:

Local area parade, picnic or other activity to attend?  CHECK!  
(Here's a googling tip: type in Earth Day, 2010 and your zipcode.  See what comes up!) Are you attending the festival or marching in it?  Don't let this parade pass you by.  Get on board and stay at the front of the line for greenifying, recycling, renewing our Earth!

Lunch out at loca-vore restaurant with clients or employees or both?  CHECK!
The food will be fresher, better tasting and have a smaller carbon footprint.  You can probably find a locally sourced restaurant by logging onto your local newspaper's website and searching for “restaurant reviews” and then specifying “locavore” or “locally produced.”  Or call a few of your favorite lunchtime haunts and ask. 

Extra large recyclables receptacle on order?  Do you really need this one?  (I had hoped you already had all the recycling containers you needed, but if you haven't got them, this is a good reminder.  It's long past time to be greener at the curb.

Field trip to visit Mother Nature?  CHECK THIS OUT!  It is National Park Week, April 17 to 25.  What that means is entrance to all 392 United States National Parks is free.  Fees are waived.  Go enjoy the Earth at its most basic, wild and beautiful.  You can learn more at this website: http://www.nps.gov/npweek/.   If you clean up after yourself, that's great, but if you pick up after other hikers, you are a hero to all!

Earth Day 2010 is the 40th celebration of the planet.  We need to Greenify.  If you haven't already, it's time to get on board.   Please join in the celebration this year and every year to come.


Paper, Plastic or... Reusable?

April 16, 2010

“Paper or plastic?” asked the grocery clerk.

Remember when that used to be the question? The simple choice of paper or plastic would be made at the checkout counter of grocery stores. The answer would be a statement of whether you were interested in greenifying. Or so we thought. It turned out that using plastic meant we were saving trees, but it also meant littering our planet with bags that never seemed to really break down and clogged everything from sewers to tree branches and more. They were ugly, hanging from underneath passing cars and strangling fish in our waterways.

I reflected on that this weekend when someone commented on my reusable fabric bag that I used to take a small appliance somewhere. It's a rich sapphire color with strong handles and a firm plastic bottom. I got it at a food industry convention and filled it on the convention floor with samples and information that it took me days to sort through and enjoy. But the bag keeps on giving.

I have other bags. Some are from particular grocery stores and advertise those businesses that I frequent. Some are padded with insulation to keep perishable items from, well, perishing. Some are made of low-carbon burlap and sorta “chic” in a granny-from-a-farm way. Others are very durable and I expect they can carry my purchases for years to come. But here's the thing: I like them all.

I like the endless variety and colors that I'm carrying my things around in. I like the bright colors, as well as the brown burlap. I like the durability and the semi-fragility of the bags. I like that I know exactly what to expect of each. They stack better than paper or plastic, soI like seeing a small stack of them in the back of my car.

The locality where I live started adding a charge for “paper or plastic” a few months back, and since then, I've seen bags like mine on the street. I'm so much happier to see bright colors and store names being carted around than plastic bags blowing in the wind. I'm sure you feel the same way.

So far, we've only cut usage of those bags by a fraction. Some people are willing to pay the surcharge for using plastic bags or they forgot their reusables or they somehow were unable to get a reusable bag for that trip to the store. But we'll forgive and look the other way, “just this once.”

It's nice to Greenify. Maybe give a reusable bag to a neighbor in observance of Earth Day? The planet you save may be your own.


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