Loca-Procurement

October 28, 2009

So by now you've heard of the "locavore movement."  You may even be using a locavore approach in your own food shopping and dining habits.  Locavores are people who try to eat foods in season and shop for their fruits and vegetables within a limited distance.  One popular approach is to dine only on foods produced within 100 miles as much as possible.  But how about putting your business on a "100 Mile Diet?"  How about if you tried green procurement?
 
Green procurement would be seeking out goods and services that are less environmentally damaging.  A good portion of a product's "greenness" can often be based on proximity.  And here's good news: goods and services that are produced locally are going to be less environmentally damaging than goods and services produced from afar, as less energy is expended getting them to the consumer.  Many times the savings in terms of shipping a product or hiring in a service can be passed along to purchasers.

Even if all you do is purchase your office supplies from a supplier in the local town, rather than driving to another town to purchase them, consider the carbon emissions eliminated by limiting the distance involved.  You'll almost certainly save money on gas and possibly on the investment of your own valuable time as a business person.  If you tally up the mileage, gas, and general wear and tear on your business vehicle, the savings could be considerable.  They certainly could be sizable for our environment.
 
Some things will not be purchasable in terms of the production aspect.  Few enough companies produce pens or paper; but in the service aspect, the local movement may open wide.  And we can supplement green procurement with reusing and recycling.  The savings in terms of carbon emissions and actual dollars may benefit both sides of the equation, if we:
•  make the office more paperless by printing only when necessary
•  use double-sided printing whenever possible
•  invoice electronically rather than sending invoices through the mail
•  use refillable pens rather than "throwaways"
•  reuse old file folders

We've got a long way to go and lots of little ways that will help us get there, if we Greenify together. 


Green Versus Lean

October 22, 2009

Should Greenification supercede the economy? It's a vital question that a lot of people are pondering these days. Which is more important: economic survival or environmental sensitivities?

"When I came into office there was this kind of belief that you can only protect the environment or the economy, you have to choose between one or the other," California Governor, Arnold Schwarznegger said at an event staged to accept $26.5 million in federal clean air grants. He dismissed the argument bluntly: "We don't have to accept that."

The environment often has been a luxury item for California voters. Though "going green" was always a concern, it seemed to rank higher in interest when economic times were good.

But that view may be changing, as indicated by a July poll from the Public Policy Institute of California. Sixty-six percent of Californians, for example, supported the global warming bill signed by Schwarzenegger. That is still technically "landslide" territory, but it is down from 73% support in 2008. Institute president Mark Baldassare blames some of the slippage on the economic downturn, but he also says some is clearly the result of partisanship: Democrats are greener at 78% support ahead of Republicans at 43%.

That mirrors national polls. Last year, 73% of the more than 1,000 Americans surveyed said they favored an expansion of offshore drilling for oil and natural gas in protected U.S. waters, even though many environmental advocacy groups have deemed offshore drilling as hazardous to the environment.

But environmental activists argue that choice may not have to be made.

"It's a false dichotomy," said Carroll Muffett, deputy campaigns director at Greenpeace. "In truth, what is truly good for the environment is what is truly good for the economy, because a shift to better energy solutions would create jobs."

That's on a large scale. On a small business scale, we are idealists here at Green Business Alliance, but we also need to be realistic. For the average small business, survival in a difficult economy has to come first. There are some out there who are facing such choices and although we hope that's not you, if it is, we understand. We hope you'll continue to do the things you can and look for more ways to greenify through the recovery period that we all know is ahead.


The Business of Green Marketing

October 21, 2009

So now that your business is green and has been marketing itself that way for awhile, what's ahead? It seems like everybody these days is trying to market themselves as the environmentally conscious, greener, alternative solution with a lower carbon footprint. And that's a good thing. Aren't we glad that we're all doing these things and that society is coming to care (and care all the way deep down in its pockets) about protecting our planet, preventing environmental damage and cleaning up past damage as best we can? Yes, indeed, but what's next?

Here are a few predictions offered by Jacquelyn Ottman, president and founder of J. Ottman Consulting. These predictions were made in a recent article for Advertising Age. They may give you some insight into where things stand and where to look next in your approach to Greenifying.

1. Ottman predicts now that the "green hype" (and some of it is purely hype) has hit a high, there will be a slowdown and maybe even an end to the use of meaningless green marketing terms. This would be helpful. We are seeing that there is a lack of supervision and a need for better definitions of some terms. We need standards to be set in order for business and the consuming public to truly understand what these terms mean. She also predicted there would be a slowdown in the creation of eco-marketed house brands.

2. More electronics companies will create take-back programs, thereby reducing the use of toxic chemicals in order to market themselves as green. In some cases, this may backfire. A recent "60 Minutes" segment covered the illegal and unethical actions of one "take back" program claiming to handle the toxic chemicals but which illegally exported and dumped them in a foreign country. The company involved in that program is now being prosecuted.

3. More green products will be marketed in order to satisfy retailer demands for reduced packaging and better energy efficiency. Consumers will be thrilled to see an end to hard plastic clamshell packaging. Standard green marketing claims will take a back seat to pitches based on such things as higher performance levels, aesthetics and cost effectiveness.

4. Green products sales will soar behind the major brand acquisitions (Remember Clorox buying Burt’s Bees and Colgate snapping up Tom’s of Maine), which will help increase sales of green stand-alones like Method and Seventh Generation.

If these predictions are accurate, 2009 will continue to be the "Year of the Green Business" but in new and different ways that we hope will help your business profit.


Greenify on a Personal Level

October 4, 2009

Want to do something small, important, and unseen to Greenify?  Change the tissue in your bathroom at home to a brand made of recycled materials.  

American bathroom tissue, okay, yes, toilet paper is a key issue in environmental circles right now.  The reason?  Brand name manufacturers of paper products, in their never-ending attempts to get us to buy their specific product, took it to the next level: three-ply tissue.

And it sold.  24 million packages of Quilted Northern Ultra Plush in the last year alone.  That’s a lot of tissue.  That’s a lot of trees.

The super plush toilet paper we love so much in the United States is made by chopping down old growth trees, grinding them up, spewing them through processing plants and stamping the stuff out into little squares that are rolled up onto long tubes of cardboard then sliced into the inches-long roll of multi-ply tissue that we’re all familiar with.  

Let me point out that Europeans use recycled paper to wipe.  Are they so much tougher than we are? Can they take it, but we need to be so much more pampered at such a higher price?  More to the point, can we afford to be this wasteful?  Bathroom tissue (rolled toilet paper and facial tissues combined) constitute 5% of the U.S. forest products industry.  Paper and cardboard use 26% and newspapers another 3%.  But is this a 5% we need to blatantly waste?

It turns out that 75% of bathroom tissue in commercial restrooms is made of recycled materials.  But when it comes to home use, American consumers believe softer is better.   We use the recycled products during work hours, but go home believing that “fluffy and soft is better.”   But “better” is also a lot harder on the environment.   

Here’s the bright spot on the horizon.  Kimberly-Clark has agreed to Greenify its practices.  By 2011, 40% of materials used in making their products will be recycled or from sustainable forests.  It’s not perfect, but it’s a sizable step in the right direction.

So the next time you’re in a forest enjoying the view, listening to the birds sing, and pondering the age of that beautiful pine or cottonwood or any other tree next to you, consider whether: would you rather look at that tree or use it in the bathroom?

 Trees, by Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.


Back to School? You’ll Need New Friends!

September 9, 2009

Millions of American school children head back to the classroom this week.  Their parents have bought them new clothes and supplies, helped sharpen the pencils and load the backpacks, and given them advice on making new friends.  But have we thought about making new friends of our own lately?  Have we thought about making green friends?

It’s always great to have new friends.  And sometimes, it’s best to go out of your way to find friends with similar interests and intents, such as Greenification.  It’s easy to go green with a group.  But how do you make great green friends?

In Washington, D.C., there are numerous green social groups such as “Green Drinks,”  “Tree Hugger Happy Hour,” and “DC EcoWomen.”  All are for environmentally-minded after-hours get-togethers.  

There are clubs for getting together outdoors, such as “The Wanderbirds,” “Capital Hiking Club,” and “Potomac Pedalers.”

And my personal favorite, volunteer groups like the “Chesapeake Climate Action Network,” “Fairfax ReLeaf,” and the “Potomac Conservancy.” 

Additionally, there are meeting groups posted online at websites such as www.meetup.com, which hosts dozens of get-togethers with information about where and when posted for all members to see.

That’s just one area.  But it could be your area, if you started a group.  It doesn’t take much.  Print 5-10 flyers (sorry to go “old school” on you!) and post them in the most conspicuous places in your community.  You won’t need many because you’re just going for starting within your community. 

Also, check out any web bulleting boards, such as craigslist or your local community center for places to post about your interest.  You’ll find others who share your interest and may have some tips and information for making your Greenification experience better. 

So get out there and get started.  You may start something much bigger than you expect.  Because these days, doesn’t it seem that all things green are growing?


Back to School - Greenly

August 27, 2009

It's "back to school" time for millions of school children again.  You know what that means: shopping for new clothes, shoes, supplies, and maybe even getting the bikes out of the garage and tuned up for another year's worth of early morning rides to the schoolyard. 

Let's think about this from a business' point of view.  Since we know that American consumers will pay more for environmentally friendly products, how can we maximize this?  Well, I hope this effort would have started months ago, but let's go over the last minute things that can be done.

If you're in the school and office supplies business, it's time to pull out the brightly colored pens and pencils.  It's time to position the bright-colored backpacks (and in some cases, wheeled carts) in the front window. 

It might also be helpful to offer sales on recycled office products as school supplies.  Since most kids these days have to turn in their homework done on computers, how about offering a "schoolyear's worth of recycled paper" at a discount?  If you sell the paper in bulk, the buyers will also be making fewer trips in to the store, wasting less fuel and at the same time, you'll have gotten all their business.  A definite "win-win" situation for both parties. 

Also, it's a good time to position the reusable lunchboxes towards the front of the store.  Remember how much fun it was to use a "Happy Days" lunchbox or one emblazoned with "Wonder Woman" on the sides?  It can be that much fun again, but this time instead of using one, you might be packing it for the school day ahead.  Choose wisely, and your kids will munch happily on their midday meals all the way through the year. 

Speaking of reusable, have you seen those new metal water bottles?  They come in stainless steel or colors and sizes that could keep a kid hydrated through years of recess and dodgeball games.  Put those along a school supplies aisle and see if they run out the door as well.

Back to school days are fun and exciting for kids.  If you can share their excitement and build on it within the business, you may see Greenification take pulling in some Greenification of a different sort.


The Big Apple: Red or Green?

August 13, 2009

Have you thought about whether it’s time to Greenify your logo?   Apparently, someone is giving it someone in New York’s City Hall is giving it some thought.   The city’s leaders are asking should the Big Apple’s Official Apple be green?  I think the answer is stunningly simple.

New York City has been referred to as “The Big Apple” since the 1920’s when a sportswriter at the New York Morning Telegraph first popularized the nickname. It was in reference to the city’s horse tracks, referred to as ‘The Big Apple’ at the time. Since then, hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of t-shirts, refrigerator magnets, baseball caps and other logo items have been sold, depicting a red “Big Apple.”

But with studies showing that consumers are willing to pay more for things sold with an environmental pitch, the time is ripe for one of the most recognizable logos in the world to go green.   The city had a recent campaign promoting its environmental efforts that used a green apple logo, but hasn’t made the full change itself.  Maybe it’s time to do that now.

It truly does seem obvious, doesn’t it?  In the last year, we’ve seen the emphasis on all things green growing like a, well, like a weed.   We’ve seen the numbers of reusable grocery bags growing.  Reusable water bottles in metal and glass are coming to the market as consumers try to stop the glut of plastics in our environment.  And the government is buying back clunkers to get them off our streets in an effort to diminish our carbon footprint.

On a personal note, I’ve noticed myself becoming more focused on Greenifying my life.  In the past year, I’ve bought green sneakers, green eyeglasses, a green purse, a green t-shirt (twice!) and green dinner plates.  Looking around my house, you’d think something is up.  But I think it’s a new level of consciousness creeping out into my spending habits.  And by the way, I bought a good number of those things at second-hand stores.   It was fun!

The backers of this particular effort to get The Big Apple to go green are growers of a particular type of apple, known as the Newtown Pippin, which is a mottled green and often lopsided.  In other words, it’s said to be great eating, excellent in homemade pies and usually organically grown. 

We are going green in this culture.  And maybe it’s time the city of New York, which leads in so many ways, picked up the ball and pitches.  Or offers us all a Big, Beautiful Green Apple.


Growing Your Business Online

August 11, 2009

Now that your business is Greenified, let’s talk about growing its reputation online.  That’s part of your plan, right?   You hoped to market the business online, saving a few trees, the chemicals involved in printing up materials, and the energy involved in getting those items to your customers all along.

So let’s talk about how to do that.  First, get a website.  If you can’t afford to have it done professionally, you can start a blog for free.  Put up the blog and post links to it with comments on other similar blogs around the internet.  Hook it up with an RSS feed.  Do you know what that is?  RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, which allows people to see what you are talking about on a text or email feed.  You can also start a Twitter account and use that to communicate with your customers.  Think about it: being able to instantly notify your customers or followers that you are having a sale or special on a particular item, letting them know what you’re offering.

Those are the technical basics, but let’s also look at what’s being said about your business and you. Do a vanity search of your business name and see what comes up. Are you easy to find? What is the first impression?

Is your business reviewed in online forums or blogs?  Set up some electronic alerts.  You can pay a service to do this, or do it simply by setting up a Google account and asking it to send you alerts every time something is said about you or y our business online.

“Know who the influencers are,” said Pete Blackshaw, executive vice president of Nielsen Online Digital Strategic Service and an expert on consumer-generated media. “There are going to be some megaphones that matter more than others.”

Online reviews are a gold mine of business intelligence. There are metrics to analyze to get a better sense of your customer demographics.  You’ll find those on any website you buy or included in the blog set up that you use. 

With a little bit of your time and some sweat equity, you can easily put yourself out there.  And don’t forget to remind your customers online that you are a green business.  It’s the hottest selling ticket there is to customer’s hearts and wallets.


Tips on Greenifying for Individual Employees, Part 2

August 3, 2009

More tips now on how to Greenify as an individual at the office.
 
1. E-Marketing to the Rescue

Have you checked out what a powerful marketing e-marketing could be?  The internet is a powerful driver of sales and leads - right down to the zip code level. Best of all, a lot of online marketing tools are cheap or free.  For instance, uh, we’ve found that blogs can get a message across pretty well, and they are very inexpensive to create and maintain.

2. Get a Green PC

There are some PC’s out there that consume 10% of the power  of a normal desktop.  These new PC’s are also inexpensive.  Add that to the energy savings and you’ll see the benefit from every angle.  And turn off even the “energy efficient” PC’s at the end of the day.  Every day.

3. Stay Informed

There are excellent resources to learn more ways to improve your green efforts that are specific to your industry. We’d like to help you learn more, so stay tuned in to the Green Business Alliance and we’ll help.   But don’t be afraid to look around the Internet.  “You can never have too much help in Greenifying.” 

4. Replace Less Efficient with New Energy Efficient

I guess this has become a main theme of mine.  I’ve always been an “economy minded” person, but now I see that energy economy has to win out.  Everything from new bulbs to appliances that are energy efficient can help.

5. Shop at other Green Businesses

They’re easier to spot than ever before because green marketing is the hottest trend out there. We’re all in this together, so it makes sense to seek out the locally produced food, products produced using recycled materials and any other Greenified product out there. 

We all want to Greenify.  If your business is working on shrinking its carbon footprint, you may be overlooking your employees.  Offer them these tips and see if they also want to Greenify not only in the office but also at home.  Chances are they’ll say yes.


Tips on Greenifying for Individual Employees, Part 1

July 28, 2009

We usually talk about how to Greenify a business and how to help green businesses succeed here at the Green Business Alliance blog.  But today, I thought we’d take a slightly different approach.

These are tips for how to Greenify work on the job at almost any job.  Shall we get started?

1. Telecommute and Work at Home (or in a fun place!)

Think about it: would you rather be in a cubicle wearing a tie?  Or in your kitchen with a laptop, wearing your pajamas with a cup of your favorite morning beverage?  Home business owners and other telecommuters save approximately 4,439 million gallons of gas per year.  If businesses allowed employees to work at home just one day a week, carbon footprints would go down and so would the impact on your back pocket. 

2. Stop Using Paper

You don’t like buying it and dragging it home, and you don’t like having to take it to the curb.  Stop using paper.  Keeping electronic records not only makes things easier for you, but it is GREAT for our forests. Get an eFax account and stop collecting that extra trash, even if it is for the recycler.

3. Play del.icio.us Tag

Remember Post-It notes?   I used to print out things I wanted to save, but not anymore. Now I use bookmark it in my Favorites file at home or tag it with del.icio.us, which allows me to carry my bookmarks from computer to computer without ever needing to dig for a Post-It note.

4. Stop Attending Meetings

Why bother leaving the building (home or office) when there are so many easy ways to conference online?   Skype offers free calls AND free conferencing.  If you need visuals, try a service like GoToMeeting , which provides online meeting and collaboration software.

5. Reduce Snail Mail

More and more companies now offer an electronic billing and other notifications. Request that all communications be sent via email rather than snail mail to reduce the paper sent to your business. And take advantage of email filtering to automatically send incoming messages to their proper folders to head off overstuffing your email box.

Individuals can Greenify, too, both at the office and at home.  And the best thing, you don’t have to be the boss or wait for a memo to get started.  We’ll have more of these tips later in the week, so be sure to check back.


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