Greenify Your Dinner Plate

May 6, 2010

I love to eat sustainably.  I don't always achieve it, but I love to do it when I can.  I thought I might share a few of my thoughts about sustainable, green, locavore eating. 

First off, it's hard to do.  I'm not really interested in eating only cabbage, winter squash, increasingly mealy apples and root vegetables during winter, so I don't succeed in this area.  I love a big pile of fresh spring greens for dinner, topped off by something just interesting enough to keep my taste buds going.

But this year, I'm going to do the CSA thing.  We've talked about this before: Community Supported Agriculture.  It's where you buy a share of the produce from a farm, paying perhaps a little more than you might at a grocery store, but helping support local farmers, cut food transportation costs and of course, getting access to a ton of great local produce.  That said, I can't quite buy into the full season crop.  Here's why: I live by myself and I can't eat $800 worth of fresh produce that fast. 

I have figured out how I can do my part.  I found a local farm that produces organic produce and fruits for CSA share-buyers, but also allows people (such as myself) to come out and work on the farm, then take home part of the crop.  I actually like this idea a lot more than just “go pick up the vegetables from the CSA” (although that's pretty great!) because it allows me to enjoy the feeling of participating in actually growing the vegetables.  I could also just buy them when I want, but wouldn't that be boring?

For the last several summers, I have also grown a few herbs in some pots.  I like a big, round, terracotta pot.  I prefer it be “self-watering” just in case I have to run out of town at the last minute.  I like to grow pots of basil, chives (more like a mini-forest!), rosemary and mint. 

And this year, I'm also looking into a new crop in my urban mini-farm adventures.  I'm considering growing some mushrooms.  There are kits sold online for several different varieties.  I wanted to try growing some Shitakes and some Chantarelles.   Some of the spores take over a year to get thoroughly into the wood.  But the more I thought about it, the more fun it seemed.  Rather like a return to my third grade science class.

“Fungi, anyone?”

I'm even considering whether I could grow them for a few local restaurants, as a side business. Sort of the “greenification” of spores. 

Ahhh!  It's all too delicious.  Maybe you'll try growing your own edibles this summer, too.


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. 


April 22: Earth Day 2010!

March 16, 2010

It's our favorite time of year at the Green Business Alliance. I'm sure you know why.

Spring is on the way and in the spring, our young-at-heart thoughts turn to Earth Day! And this year, it's the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

As glad as we are that the world has enjoyed forty years of marking the importance of taking care of our world, it seems the planet needs our care and attention more than ever. Climate change is likely to be the biggest challenge of our lifetime.

Earth Day 2010 is a focus point: a moment for some to begin turning their minds and hearts to trying to help clean up and care for the planet. For others, it's a time of renewing the commitment to work together to make sure that our planet is cleaner, that we live a more sustainable life and attempt to help others to do the same. Earth Day 2010 is our annual day to think and act more greener than ever before.

What can we do differently and better this year than last? Where are the small changes that we can make? What are the more long-term, engrossing and community projects we can take on? Are there change we can make at work? What about at home? Is there some small contribution you can make or a leadership role among many that you can take?

For those who have been focused on efforts to Greenify for some time, it may be harder to find new ways to commit to a more planet-conscious approach to life. The road ahead to improve is likely to be found in little tweaks and bits of taking down one's carbon footprint.

If you're just starting to go green, well, you're just in time! There's always room for more and a world of ideas, big and small, for greenifying. We like them all and we like to talk about them here at the Green Business Alliance. So stick around, because Earth Day 2010 is just around the corner and we'll have more information and ideas here at www.GreenBusinessAlliance.com for on how you can get yourself and your business involved.


10 Days of Shut Down: What We Can Learn from Snowmaggedon

February 18, 2010

I have mentioned that I live in Washington, DC. Unless you've been living under a rock, you are probably aware that Washington has recently endured a record setting series of snowstorms, dumping 40 inches of the white stuff on Dulles Airport in the last week and a half. An additional one to four inches are expected this week and no one here is looking forward to it.

But there are lessons here to be learned.

For the last ten days, my car has been parked on a side street adjacent to Pennsylvania Avenue. I drop by to look at the snow surrounding it every few days. I keep hoping that the snow will melt off and I'll be able to get in and drive it away with only a minor effort. But in the meantime, you know, I'm not really suffering.

Let me admit up front that I stocked my pantry well before the storm hit. But other than that, I haven't given it a second thought. I don't need to drive around that much, and beyond a trip to various stores that aren't quite as convenient with my car, I'm doing just fine. If I gave it some consideration, I could park my car and quite happily drive only every other week or so.

If all of Washington gave similar efforts, our Beltway wouldn't be so legendary for its traffic problems.

A lot of people have been telecommuting, too. Road crews took days to clear out the first round of snow before the second round hammered down. To be honest, I'm being quite generous when I say “clear out.” (There are still dangerous amounts of ice and piles of snow on the street, blocking views and obstructing traffic.) I've actually envied a lot of those telecommuters; they seem to have the best situation of all.

Area children have one more day off. Schools are closed for the holiday, but opening on Tuesday. One last thing that is greener about this community (in this case, I mean green as in tax dollars) response in school districts: officials in two area jurisdictions have issued appeals, asking residents to help their school systems in their efforts to reopen.

In Fairfax County, officials called for volunteers to clear paths so classes can resume Tuesday after being closed Monday for Presidents' Day. "Your community needs you," Braddock District Supervisor John C. Cook was quoted as saying in the Washington Post as he issued a call for shovels and those with the backbone to properly use them. Arlington County also issued a similar call and reminded property owners to clear their sidewalks.

I think most residents would have done almost anything to clear the walkways, but it is always better to use human strength, rather than strong chemicals.

Washingtonians learned a lot about themselves and dealing with Mother Nature these last few weeks. Undoubtedly, nature always has something to teach us, including about Greenifying.


Greenifying In A White-Out World

February 15, 2010

I am considering what I can do to Greenify this week from a very confined corner of the world: Washington, DC.  In case you didn't see the news this past week, the nation's capital was directly in the path of a huge winter storm.  It struck with the force that hasn't been seen in more than 50 years. 
 
It started at mid-morning on Friday with tiny and widely scattered flakes.  By mid-afternoon, there were several inches on the ground.  And before it was done snowing around 6pm on Saturday, there were more than 20 inches of snow on the ground.  Washington, DC is getting a dose of "how to conserve resources" this week.

The city is shut down.  The federal government is mostly closed, except for "essential personnel."  I had to go in (I'm not very important, yet somehow, I was considered "essential") to work and because I knew things might get difficult, I went to work on Friday night with an overnight case and pillow. 
 
In spite of regular treatment with plows, sand and chemicals, the streets were soon blocked by snow and impassable.  Only the main thoroughfares of town got plowed immediately (and even they had to be plowed repeatedly).   The buses shut down.  Metro, the famed federal rail service also closed wherever the rails were exposed aboveground.  Trash pickup and recycling services also are out of commission.  So what's to do?

For many people, it was still a day of work by telecommuting.  Thousands of federal and other workers went to work in their pajama pants and sweaters.  They "ordered out" from their own refrigerator.  They got their work done without wasting the time, gas or other resources of commuting. (Commuting in Washington, by the way, can add an extra ninety minutes on each end of the day.)  Studies have shown that many people are happier, more relaxed and more productive when they telecommute.  And employers like it better, too, because they don't have to provide office space. 
 
Tomorrow, a lot of Washingtonians will be doing the same.  Maybe you should consider it, too.  Talk to your employees about telecommuting.  Talk to your boss about telecommuting.  Consider whether the work that is being done in your office could legitimately and more reasonably be done at home for one or more days per week.  You may be quite happy with the results.
 
As for me, my car is just off Pennsylvania Avenue, under about 2.5 feet of snow.  I'm not going to dig it out.  I'm going to let nature take its course.  Which means tomorrow, I may have to "telecommute" to the gym.  That's my new name for my pilates workout DVD. 


Greenifying: One Soda at a Time

February 4, 2010

Have a Coke and smile. You are Greenifying. As we have often discussed here at the Green Business Alliance, going green is a good thing for the environment and for business. And one of America's biggest names in business apparently realizes that. That's right, the world's biggest maker of beverages, Coca Cola, has begun using new bottles made partially of plant-based materials, making them biodegradable. The new bottles are only 30% made of plant-based materials, but Coca Cola sees it as a step in the evolution of packaging.

As we all know, plant materials like corn and sugar cane are renewable resources. The U.S. currently uses over 200,000 barrels of oil per day in production of plastic. The old Coke bottles that we've all grown accustomed to required 17 million barrels of petroleum per year to produce. The new bottles will decrease that amount and with it, Coke's carbon footprint in packaging falls an estimated 12 to 18 percent.

The move is part of a new nation-wide movement away from petroleum-based products. The motivations behind it are three-fold: concern about the price of oil and our dangerous dependence on it, safety concerns about chemicals in plastics production and of course, our growing worries about the amount of plastics we are putting into the environment. Instead, the newer plastics are dependent on corn, wheat, sugar beets, sweet potatos and rice to make an alternative to plastics called polyactic acid, or PLA.

Other companies that have already starting using such bottles include Newman's Own (which has been one of the companies at the forefront of the green movement), Wild Oats, WalMart and yes, Coca Cola's nemesis in the beverage market, Pepsico. And if you're drinking soda, you might as well have a few chips. Sunchips are also in a new bag which is made of 33 percent polyactic acid, with plans to increase that amount to 90 percent.

Keep in mind, consumers still need to recycle the packaging itself. PLA is wonderful stuff, but tossed along the side of the road, those bottles and wrappers will likely still be there in a few years. And it's not perfect: products shelf-life isn't quite as long using the PLA packaging. But the manufacterers are working on that as well.

But isn't it amazing to see how important and vital to their industry (and marketing!) greenifying is? They consider it a key part of their strategy. It's the direction they want to go and they want others to see them heading that direction as well.

The new bottles were unveiled at the recent Copenhagen Climate Summit. Drink up! And if the soda you're drinking tastes greener, maybe that's because it is.


Grocery Store Greenifying

January 26, 2010

How was your last trip to the grocery store? Did you remember to take your own reusable grocery bags? I keep mine in the trunk of my car and I must admit that last year, I didn't always remember to bring them into the stores with me. But I definitely remember now, because with the start of 2010, the city where I live is charging a fee to use those plastic "disposable" grocery sacks. Nothing like a five cents per bag fee to jog the memory about bringing your own bags.

Bringing my own grocery bags along is something I like to do. I have probably about 7 or 8 of them in varied colors, sizes and styles. Some are made of a flimsy (but remarkably strong) polyester that seems to be the same stuff that is used to make disposable hospital gowns. A few are sturdier black or dark green nylon and rather stiff. (I'm betting these will be around for years.) One is made of burlap and trimmed in red and so stylish that I sometimes wonder if I should drag it along to work.

I've discovered that if I use them and then put them next to my keys, I can remember to return them to the trunk the next time I go out. Even if I forget to take them into the store, that doesn't really matter, does it? I can take the groceries to my car and load them from the cart into the bags in the trunk. Anything to keep that five cents in my pocket a little longer.

I say this because I think that's how a lot of us feel right now. The economy seems to be recovering, but jobs are not and businesses, while surviving, seem to be running a little sluggishly. It's a good time to look at what you can do, easily and inexpensively to remind customers that you're still in business. Have you put your name on some inexpensive reusable tote bags at your business?

Even if you are not in the grocery business, it's still a good idea. The bags are inexpensively made, mass-produced and growing numbers of people are using them, which means that plastering your business name and logo across them and selling them at cost is a great way to greenly advertise. Think of all the uses: groceries, books, school notebooks, kids projects and anything else that could be dragged along, while advertising your name.

But also think of the good you are doing the environment. Those so-called "disposable" grocery bags are a major source of pollution. Over 500 billion of them are produced and used world-wide every year. Most of the bags are not biodegradable, end up overstuffing landfills or worse, flying around in the wind or floating in the water and choking fish, waterfowl and sometimes even the algae.

The strange thing about them is, they started out as an answer to paper bags. Manufacturing the plastic bags compares favorably with producing paper bags. They consume 40 percent less energy, generate 80 percent less solid waste, produce 70 percent fewer atmospheric emissions, and release up to 94 percent fewer waterborne wastes, according to the Society of the Plastics Industry.

But now we know the better answer is to make stronger reusable bags that will stand up to months of use and reuse. Advertising on the bags gets one more use out of them for yourself. It makes them just a little bit greener, don't you think? If you want to Greenify your grocery experience with the help of Green Business Alliance, click here to view our reusable bags for purchase.


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.


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.

 

 

 

 

 

 


A Greener Halloween Ahead!

October 26, 2009

With Halloween coming up this weekend, we thought we’d take a sneak peek at some of the various green, sustainable ideas around the cyberworld for the annual Day of the Dead. 

All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween as it has come to be known, has been celebrated for hundreds, if not thousands of years.  It was a pagan harvest celebration that turned spooky, and in recent years has become rather commercial.  Jumbo-sized bags of candy are given away to children wearing plastic masks that obscure their faces and visual fields, making the holiday a little troublesome for parents.   So what’s out there that might be a little greener?

This sustainable design site offers ideas, some of which it claims are last minute:
(I’m particularly fond of the “Where the Wild Things Are” head and footgear for little people.)

Click here to view this site which offers ideas for costumes made of recyclable materials: The bat costume (#5) is a great use for old, broken-down umbrellas you never threw out.

Want to make the scene among the SERIOUSLY GREEN?  Click here for an idea on that.

Sending the kids out for tricks or treats?  Give them a reusable bag for their loot, which oddly enough, the Jane Goodall Institute is offering for sale here:
Begs the question “what do chimps know about tricks or treats?” doesn’t it?

If you are hosting or attending a neighborhood party, then you will want to make your own special holiday treats, but otherwise, we all know to stick to the commercially prepared items, because no one wants to worry about tampered with items.  Or see a child upset when parents remove something in question. 

And the day after, don’t forget to remind the kids that candy wrappers go in litter receptacles.  And that jack ‘o lantern will make great compost to be used on your lawn next summer.  So tuck it in the bin behind the house after you’ve enjoyed it for a day or two.  You’ll thank yourself next spring when you have Greenified this orange and black holiday.  And a Happy, Greener Halloween to you and yours!


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