New Year’s Greenification: One Step at a Time

December 22, 2009

It’s that time again.  2009 will soon be behind us.  2010 is right at our door.  It’s time to make a few new resolutions.  I’d like to offer you a few.

Resolve to not buy anything new for a week.  Just one week.  You might be able to do that sometime this winter.  Or maybe you’ll keep that resolution in the spring.  But do it sometime.  And once you’ve made it a week without purchasing something new (other than food), you might make it a couple of weeks.

Resolve to recycle every week.   And look for ways to increase the amount that you are recycling.  Do it every week.  If you can get to the point where the amount your employees put into the recycling bin exceeds the amount in the trash bin, you are doing great!  But definitely, recycling can and should be something that you do, do with relish and hope to exell at doing.

Resolve to freecycle.  Did you know there are now listservs and websites for freecycling in most major urban areas and many small locations, too?  You want to be part of these!  In fact, if you can get a freecycling message board going on your company website, think how many more visitors to your website you might draw.  That’s an optimal idea for a small business!  Think of the community you’ll build among your customers!

Resolve to be a locavore, if only for a few weeks this summer.  Grow a garden in your backyard, on your balcony, in a few herb pots in the window, but wherever you can.  Grow a few plants and add to the oxygenating lifecycle of our planet.  And of course, harvest and eat your vegetables and herbs.

But even if it turns out that you have a “black thumb” and can’t grow anything, you can still try your hand at eating local, seasonally produced foods.  And you’re likely to get better quality, fresher tasting vegetables at the same time. 

Resolve to check the air pressure on your company fleet and personal car’s tires regularly.  You should check at least once per month to get better gas mileage, better handling and better wear on those tires.  Find out what pressure your tires should be at and start a regular habit of checking their inflation.  You’ll arrive safer that way, too.

You don’t have to do these things every day, but if you do them on a regular, scheduled basis, you will lead a more Greenified, economical and higher quality life.  And you might lead your employees and customers to do the same in 2010.

We wish you all a very Green New Year and look forward to blogging with you in 2010! 


A Quieter, Greener Christmas

December 17, 2009

I want to have a quieter, but still Greenified Christmas this year.  And I’m going to tell you what I’m going to do.  It’s economical, environmentally sound and perhaps one of the more thoughtful gifts I’ve given in years.

I’m going to go to a big warehouse store and buy a couple of packs of energy saving light bulbs.  And I’m going to take them to my parents’ house and replace every old-fashioned fluorescent light bulb in their house with an energy-saving, money-saving CFL bulb.

My parents are older, so they see better with a lot of lighting.  CFL are often brighter than the older bulbs they replace.  But my folks also don’t buy a lot of new things.  I’ve told them that the new energy-efficient bulbs are cost effective, but it’s hard to convince them that it’s actually less wasteful to throw away (or even recycle) a perfectly good light bulb and replace it with a new one.  Or to throw away a couple dozen perfectly good light bulbs.

Did you know that the average U.S. household has 45 light bulbs?   Since you save about $30 or more in electricity costs over each bulb's lifetime, that means replacing that number of 75-watt incandescent bulbs with CFLs would save $180 per year.

And if every American home replaced just one light bulb with an Energy Star qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars.

My parents have about that many, so it won’t be a cost-effective gift for me.  But when I think about all the money they will save, I believe it’s gift that will keep giving throughout the entire year.  And I know it’s one I’ll feel great about giving, too.

It’s a great way to Greenify and give a truly thoughtful gift this season.  I invite you to share the simple gift of light, from an energy efficient bulb, with someone you care about this season.  Happy Holidays!


Greenified Gifts in Style!

December 6, 2009

Now that it is December, I thought we would do some more Greenified gift shopping.  I want to show you how truly easy it is to do that this year.  In fact, it’s easier than ever.

I received a catalogue from a major department store in the mail recently. In it, the retailer featured a number of exciting gift items that I wondered if I might find produced more greenly elsewhere.  I want to show you what I found. 

This year, it seems the e-tailers have figured out that what we want is high quality, well-made and environmentally sustainable goods for gift-giving.   This store seems to specialize in just such green clothing and goods.

They feature a lovely gift guide, and I particularly liked this shawl, made of sustainable bamboo.

Earlier this year, I invested in bamboo sheets:

And look at this blanket, made of bamboo blended with polyester for durability.

I also wanted to look for greener dinnerware.  Paper plates benefit no one.  They don’t hold up well with food, nor are they ecologically sound.  So how about some bamboo dinnerware for the holiday party?  I found it here at bambu.

If all you can afford is the bamboo socks, here they are.

These types of gift items all help Greenify, are very exciting and may already be on the wish list of someone you know.

(Hum the last verse of “Jolly Old Saint Nick” as you read this next part:)

“As for me, my little self is ecologically wise.  I prefer the things I’ve bought previously; they’re paid for and in just my size!” 


Greenify Your Gift List

December 2, 2009

It is the week after Thanksgiving.  If you’re like a good number of Americans, you hit the malls (or some other shopping location) this weekend to grab up some Black Friday bargains in order to get started on your holiday gift shopping. 

I thought today we’d move from Black Friday to Greenified Monday in holiday gifting.  I want to point out our lovely gift shop here at the Green Business Alliance.  Have you taken a look at it?

I was looking at the three items there a little earlier.  I believe we’ve got something for every green-minded shopper, even with the economic downturn. 

For starters, there’s the Green Business Alliance wristband with its simple, elegant Greenify Message.

If I were buying those for the family, stocking stuffers could be had for $1.99 ea. for quantities running from 5 to 50.   Prices drop drastically in larger orders.

An excellent idea is to include one with your holiday card (printed on recycled paper, please!) as a great way to notify business acquaintances that you are a Green Business Alliance member. 

If you are ready to spend a little more on holiday good wishes, move up to the Green Business Alliance totebag, for $9.99.

The bag itself is made with a recycled material base. It’s durably constructed and usable for anything from grocery shopping to carrying books to return to the library.  And isn’t green one of your favorite colors these days?

This final item is the one that I like the best.  (That was a hint!)  The short-sleeved t-shirt is made from 100% organic cotton and yarns. These t-shirts are pre-shrunk with a soft comfortable feel to them.  At an economy-minded $21.99, you should probably treat yourself first. 

These are all great gift ideas that spread the Greenification message at the same time.  We hope you’ll consider them as well as other Greenified gifts this holiday season.  We’ll be discussing some of those in the coming weeks.


Brownfields 2009: Greenifying in a Big Way!

November 23, 2009

A week ago, I was writing from New Orleans where I had been invited to work with ICMA-TV as their reporter, covering events at Brownfields 2009. This was a whole convention full of people engaged in greenifying from the top on down!

Brownfields, as the name implies, refers to the government programs to encourage developers to go in, take over problem areas, redevelop economically blighted and often environmentally troubled areas within a community. The convention is sponsorred by the United States Environmental Protection Agency along with ICMA which is the International City and County Managers Association. ICMA invites its members to come and meet with leaders in environmental remediation and cleanup, redevelopment and government funding. The result is often clean, sustainable community projects that get underway because all parties met under one roof.

(In fact, I came to view Brownfields 2009 as a sort of "jobs fair" for contractors, developers and city/county managers looking to put people to work and restore blighted areas to tax-paying profitability.)

One of the things that we did with IMCA's convention coverage was ask a question of convention-goers every day. The Question of the Day that I found most interesting was very simple and direct: "Can we afford to redevelop during the current economic downturn?" The answer that I heard was a resounding "YES!"

So many of the areas being offered for redevelopment are environmentally damaged. In fact, I noted several of them were past locations of dry cleaning establishment. (I made a mental note: find an organic dry cleaner or start wearing all cotton clothing. Always.) It turns out that a lot of dry cleaners use a lot of extremely harmful chemicals. This probably isn't a surprise to anyone reading this blog at this website, is it?

But they leave a lot of messes behind when they go out of business. The clean-up is expensive, but having the land lie unproductive, poisoned and often in disrepair can cost the cities and counties more. They want to have the situation remedied.

So the community leaders that I talked with all answered yes to the Question of the Day, knowing that a property that has toxic chemicals and is non-revenue producing for the tax base can be turned around, providing jobs and income for those who do the work, returned investment for developers who have a vision for the area and a complete shift in image and enjoyment for both the people living in the community as well as those who visit.

It was a pleasure attending Brownfields 2009. It is that very sort of thinking that make green businesses and social entrepreneurs exciting to be around and write about.

If you would like to know more, you can visit the IMCA-TV website to see what's going on:

http://www.icmatv.com/

And you can check out the Brownfields website where they buzz about their redevelopment projects 'round the clock:

http://www.brownfieldsconference.org/en/index.aspx


Greenify Your Fight Against H1N1

November 19, 2009

As the influenza season goes on, let’s talk for just a moment about fighting spread of H1N1 “swine” flu or any other influenza virus in greener way. 

First off, viruses are spread through contact and being around someone who has the illness.  In this particular case, the virus can be spread by being inhaled after someone sneezes or coughs.  Or it can be picked up if the infected person has touched surfaces or items that others then pick up, touch and interact with.

The key thing here is very simple: wash your hands.  Clean surfaces with soap and hot water and disinfectant.  Antibacterial chemicals sound great, but in fact, scientists are concerned that overuse of them could lead to the formation of “super germs.”  And really, as much as we’d all like to think we can scrub up every germ in our surroundings, the surroundings, ie the furniture, computer keyboard, telephone and doorknobs don’t get sick. 

The best, most effective way to avoid the flu will be to wash your hands with hot, soapy water as frequently as possible after coming in contact with those who have the illness or those whose health status is unknown.  Wash.  Wash frequently.  And wash with soap.

We’ve all been hearing so much about the vaccines against these viruses.  There are shortages of some and surpluses of others.  Some need multiple shots or nasal sprays, while others only need one exposure.  Because of the specific groups that are recommended for immunization, you’ll want to read the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s latest updates for vaccine availability as well as who is most at risk and what advice can be offered, at this web address:  http://www.cdc.gov/H1N1FLU/

If you do get sick, the CDC recommends you cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.  If you can’t grab a tissue, cough into your sleeve or arm.  And stay home as much as possible. 

For most of us, the flu season will pass without greater threat.  But to prevent germs and viruses from becoming any worse, you’ll want to follow the CDC’s latest updates at the website above.

 

 

 

 

 

 


ICMA: Brownfields 2009

November 16, 2009

This week, your blogger here with the Green Business Alliance is on location in New Orleans, attending the Brownfields 2009 Conference which is sponsored by the International City/County Managers Association.

Brownfields is what the U.S. government calls its efforts to revive and renew environmentally damaged (and usually economically challenged) areas and efforts.  In other words, they take a “brown” and deadened location and try to restore it to green, vital life again.

Brownfields 2009 is being held in New Orleans because where else to better what the U.S. government has been able to do with a damaged municipality than in New Orleans, post-Hurricane Katrina. 

In 2005, the Hurricane roared through, destroying levees that allowed water to rush in and inundate numerous parishes with floodwaters from six to sixteen feet in depth for up to three weeks.  When the waters receded, the damage left behind totaled into the billions of dollars.

City officials told me today that 80% of the city was damaged.  But they are rebuilding and so where better for the Brownfields Convention to be located this year.

Today, I went to Andrew H. Wilson Elementary School in the Broadmoor area.  The school has been serving New Orleans children since 1907, except for the last five years. 

Broadmoor itself includes about 2500 homes, all of which were devastated by floodwaters.  The city intended to raze all of them and make a “green space.”  But the residents wouldn’t give up on their neighborhood.  They refused to let it go.

They organized their own revitalization plan with the idea that they were coming back, but would be better than ever.  They’ve remediated all contamination at Wilson Elementary, cleaned up and rebuilt using sustainable practices and are scheduled to reopen in January 2010. 

The Brownfields 2009 Conference is underway now, which means in another week or so, your local city and county managers will be back in their communities, with more ideas and enthusiasm than ever for helping your business Greenify.  I hope you’ll take advantage of everything they’re learning here in New Orleans this week. 


Your Business’ Paper Policy

November 9, 2009

Have you thought about the paper policy at your business?  Most businesses use a lot of paper.  They write down their dealings with other people, with their employees, their plans for the future, their actions in the past and even their hopes and dreams for the future.  Doing business is a paper-intensive activity.  And paper is resource-intensive stuff.

Let’s think this through.  The benefits of a smart paper policy (ie, recycling paper and using both sides before ultimately recycling it through to its next life) are as follows:

• Saves your business money.  A typical business uses 350 pounds of paper per person, per year.  If you think about that, it’s expensive stuff, but the pure expense of getting rid of all that paper, too, is not insignificant.
• Gives you an edge over competitors.  You’re saving money which you can apply elsewhere, but also, as we have certainly seen this year, a tidy marketing edge which your advertising and sales departments can certainly use.
• Boosts morale.  Yes, employees like concerned, environmentally friendly bosses, too.  They want to help.  Get them involved.
• Shows your investors that you’re smarter than the average duck.   Do it!
• Lessens your risk of environmental liabilities.  If you show initiative in this area, you’re more likely to avert environmental issues because you’re on your guard for them.
• Help build market demand for high quality, lower priced recycled products, ultimately cutting your costs.

Yes, there are reasons to develop a sound paper policy.  Not to mention the backaches you’ll save, dragging those bags of used trash and paper out to the dumpster.  Every good reason to Greenify starts at the root level, doesn’t it?


Batteries: The Recycling Process

November 6, 2009

Have you thought lately about batteries?  Those little portable cells of energy you often use?  The global battery market is about $50 billion US, of which roughly $5.5 billion is allocated to rechargeable (secondary) batteries.   US demand now exceeds $14 billion dollars annually, in both the primary (one-time use) and secondary (rechargeable) batteries.  And what happens to those toxic lead-acid batteries when you are done using them?  Here’s a rundown of what happens at the recycler:

On arrival, batteries are broken apart in a hammer mill, which is a machine that hammers the battery into pieces. The broken plastic pieces are then placed into a vat, where the lead and heavy materials fall to the bottom and the plastic floats.  Then the polypropylene pieces are scooped away and the liquids are drawn off, leaving the lead and heavy metals. Each of the materials goes into a different recycling “stream”.

Lead grids, lead oxide, and other lead parts are cleaned and heated within smelting furnaces. The molten melted lead is then poured into ingot molds. After a few minutes, the impurities float to the top of the still molten lead in the ingot molds. These impurities are scraped away and the ingots are left to cool. When the ingots are cool, they’re removed from the molds and sent to battery manufacturers, where they’re re-melted and used in the production of new batteries.

Old battery acid can be handled in two ways: 1) The acid is neutralized with an industrial compound similar to household baking soda. Neutralization turns the acid into water. The water is then treated, cleaned, tested in a waste water treatment plant to be sure it meets clean water standards. 2) The acid is processed and converted to sodium sulfate, an odorless white powder that’s used in laundry detergent, glass, and textile manufacturing.

Of course all of this only works if we recycle batteries.  We’ve got a 99% success rate in recycling batteries, but most of that comes from car and industrial batteries.  Make sure you help with the remaining 1% and help Greenification go all the way.


Greenifying by the Numbers

November 3, 2009

Have you looked in the waste bins at your business lately?  I'm hoping you have and they were empty, except for an odd assortment of mixed media containers, cast-off food items, the occasional piece of styrofoam and odd bits.  We are doing better at recycling in the United States, so let's look at a few numbers. 

1: the number of times that most of the more than 25 billion cartons manufactured in the U.S. are used. 
We could use a lot of work on this area, but we are improving.  The largest category of recycled paper goods was newspapers, which totaled 89% of paper recycling, followed by corrugated cardboard at 72%.

55 percent: the amount of water saved by producing recycled paper as compared to virgin paper.  Recycled paper also takes 60-70 percent less energy to produce than paper from virgin pulp. 
Since many areas of the United States are in permanent drought situations, (including CA, AZ, NV and parts of UT), we need to concern ourselves with recycling paper in order to conserve water. 
Some paper can't be reprocessed because of being soiled by food, etc.

120: the number of tons of steel saved if every UK office worker used one less staple a day.
I added this staple purely for its jaw-dropping effect.  It’s a stunner, don’t you agree?

8 billion: the number of gallons of gas saved if every commuter car in the U.S. carried just one more person. 
We need to carpool in places where we hadn’t thought of it before.  Malls at Christmas?  School parties and holiday gatherings?

In short, with paper products, we're doing pretty well.  Nearly half of the paper used in the USA is now being recycled into new paper products. That's more than glass, metal, plastic and "miscellaneous" combined.
 
Don’t put your home grass clippings out for the landfill.  Both grass clippings and food waste can be easily composted and shouldn't ordinarily be sent to the landfill.  And with the holidays soon coming, it’s a good time to check with your municipality about picking up tree trimmings and Christmas trees and turn them into mulch for parks and landscaped street medians. This has an added benefit of saving irrigation water.
 
We’re doing better.  We have a long way to go and plenty of time to pursue our goals.  But there is no better time to start to Greenify than today.


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