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?


Top 10 Green Universities

September 2, 2009

It's back to school time around the country - not only for secondary schools but also for colleges and universities. If you have been wondering about which schools are doing their part to reduce their environmental impact on our planet, you should read Lori Bongiorno's - Top 10 greenest universities.

To view the entire story please visit green.yahoo.com.


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.


Bottled Water Fizzles

August 18, 2009

Is your bottled water habit a bit, well, flat? You aren't alone. Budget-conscious consumers are weaning themselves off the bottle because of the recession. It's hard to think of another bit of recession fall-out so beneficial to our planet because we know what this means to our environment: Greenification.

Nestle, the country's largest seller of bottled water, has reported that profits for the first half of 2009 dropped 2.7 percent. This is the first decline in the company's numbers in six years and analysts have pinpointed the source as water.

Market researchers say it's an obvious place to cut. For thousands of years, people have drank water and they've done it without bottles involved. They've put their heads down to streams, locked lips on backyard hoses, and enjoyed pouring glasses straight from the kitchen tap. The bottling of water is an extremely recent phenomenon that has been dangerous for both people and the environment.

The danger for people is that bottled water doesn't contain fluoride, inserted for growing children's teeth. The danger for the environment came on the other end as 86% of plastic water bottles went in the trash, instead of into recycling efforts. They stuffed landfills to overflowing with lightning speed.

"I thought we'd never be able to impact sales of bottled water, and all of a sudden it's really gained momentum," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of advocacy group Food & Water Watch. "I think we're making real progress."

You remember the glory days of bottled H20, right? Sales of bottled water gushed 59 percent to $5.1 billion between 2003 to 2008, making it one of the fastest growing beverages. About 70 percent of consumers currently say they drink bottled water.

But the recession stemmed the tide. Nestle sells a variety of brands, such as Poland Spring, Deer Park, S. Pellegrino and Perrier. It was the only sector in Nestle's food and beverage group to post a decline in global sales during the first half of the year, down 2.9 percent because of weakness in the United States and Western Europe. Coca Cola is also seeing a softening, again in the bottled water sector of its business.

According to Jeff Cioletti, editor in chief of trade publication Beverage World, per capita consumption dropped from 29 gallons to 28.5. Cioletti said he doesn't believe the well will spring forth again anytime soon.

"There were sort of a lot of headwinds," he said.

That's right. Not just the economic downturn, but a campaign by environmentalists to get consumers to turn on the tap.

Government offices are now campaigning to cut off the bottled water and return to the tap. And some grocers are determined to at least stop selling imported bottled water after considering the carbon footprint that goes into producing, transporting and selling it.

According to Food & Water Watch, more than 17 million barrels of oil -- enough to fuel 1 million cars for a year-- are needed to produce the plastic water bottles sold in the United States annually.

So here's an idea whose time has come: since everyone's cutting back at home, this is the perfect time to kick your business' bottled water habit. Buy a distiller. Water: on tap to help you Greenify.


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.


A Greener Inner Life

June 22, 2009

Have you given thought to your life today? Of course you have, but have you given yourself the time to think about yourself, your life and your place in the Universe and greater scheme of things today? We may not agree on exactly what the answer to those questions would be, but we can agree that thoughtfully pursuing our lives and taking time out to calmly consider will improve our lives and the lives of those around us.

I'm talking about meditation. Meditation is a mental discipline by which you attempt to get beyond the "here and now" to a deeper state of awareness and relaxation. It is one of the oldest and simplest forms of stress relief and can help us "Greenify" our inner life. In addition to being about improving our environment and reducing our carbon footprint, we also want to improve our own sense of joy and happiness in this life. Meditation can help with that.

There are many forms of meditation. Some people simply start their day by waking up slowly, lying in bed and thinking about what's ahead for their day. Other people take meditation classes that often involve special words or positioning of their bodies that they believe enhance their ability to focus. Whatever it is, it's helpful and healthful in providing direction for the day ahead.

Personally, I like to meditate on how I can improve areas of my life and the way I function in society to be a more positive influence. I like to think about all the wonderful things that I'm grateful to have in my life and look forward to my day ahead. (I am one of those "lying in bed with eyes closed" type meditators.)

I bring this up because in my life, "Greenify" means a cleaner, greener planet and I've come to equate it with many other positive aspects of life, too. So maybe you should give meditation a try. You might find it "Greenifies" your mind, too.


Summertime Equals Bike Time

June 15, 2009

It is summer time. Time to Greenify the old fashioned way. Time to get out the bike, check the tires and take it… everywhere.  Ride it to the office. Use it on short runs to the grocery store.  Instead of driving to the gym for your workout, maybe just ride it to the gym and back for exercise.

A bicycle is one of the best forms of exercise for a healthy lifestyle.  It doesn’t jar your joints.  You can ride it as fast or as slow, getting a good workout or working off a few frustrations depending on what you want.

It’s also a great way to get around. Gas prices are soaring upwards again.  Isn’t it stunning how they seem to do that immediately after an election?  They are soaring upwards and show no sign of coming down.  There’s no shortage of gas.  There’s no reason for the hike. The prices are going up because oil companies, producers and refiners simply like making huge profits. 

With the recession that most of us are focused on weighing so heavily on our pocketbooks, it may be time to find a better solution than cars.  You like to shop for groceries on a daily basis?  Just change clothes after work and get on the bike.  You’ll have plenty of time on the ride to the store to figure out what’s for dinner.  And you’ll have a few cents more to throw in the kitty for the food budget.

We can Greenify, save money, save on stress, and shrink our carbon footprint, all while working with things that we have.  Go “old school” and you’ll find yourself doing as your grandparents did: smiling all the way to the bank on your bike.


Greenifying Your Palate

June 10, 2009

I want to tell you what I did this weekend: I want to the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting and Food Expo in Anaheim, California.  And it was an experience in greenification from the inside out!
 
The Institute of Food Technologists meets every year, bringing together thousands of food technologists, researchers, nutritionists, food industry representatives, and journalists to discuss what the current food trends and scientific discoveries about food, nutrition, additives and flavorings for the coming weeks and months will be.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that this year’s convention shows the food industry is getting greener by the year. 

The food technology industry has apparently realized the value of the green market.  Their offerings were focused on sustainable foods, organics, pro-biotics, pre-biotics, and functional foods.  They are adding nutrients and healthy aspects to foods that most of us never considered healthy before.

There were companies talking about greenifying their food producing and processing.  There were additives made from whole grains and other natural components.  There were entire sections devoted to sustainability in foods.

Much of the focus was on natural non-caloric sweeteners.  Instead of making highly processed, sophisticated chemicals to sweeten our food, it would appear that we are due for an onslaught of natural, but non-nutritive (zero calorie) sweeteners. 

Food colorings are going “all natural,” as well.  Colorings are being produced from natural dyes found in other foods like cabbage and berries, instead of chemicals and additives.  These colors are beautiful and safe for both consumers and the environment.

We’re entering a period where we have more technology, science, processes, and chemicals available than ever before, but in looking around the food technologists’ convention, I could see that the industries are responding to public demand for natural, sustainable, greenly produced foods.

The food industry is going green, in answer to what the public wants.  By the way, among the most popular “take-away” items from the IFT’s Food Expo were fabric shoulder bags.  In the past, the bags were mostly plastic and thrown away after the convention.  The bags I brought home will be recycled as grocery bags.


Cutting Noise Pollution thru Greenification

June 9, 2009

Have you heard what’s out there lately?  I mean literally.  Have you listened to the level of noise right outside your home or business?

Noise pollution is one of the most painful forms of pollution on a personal level.  It’s insidious, building slowly and as a result, there’s more of it out there than ever before.

The biggest creators of noise are often some of the most high-carbon-pollution creating industries, too.  In particular, such pollution comes from transportation systems, motor vehicle noise, and aircraft and rail noise.  Poor urban planning also blasts heavy sound abuse in our ears, since side-by-side industrial and residential buildings can introduce noise pollution into our home lives.

Other heavy-offenders are sources like car alarms, office equipment, factory machinery, construction work, groundskeeping equipment, barking dogs, appliances, power tools, overhead lighting hum, audio entertainment systems, loudspeakers and well, just plain noisy people.

In the past, it’s been hard to separate the noise from the people, so we suffered and wished for silence.  But these days, modern construction practices can restore the quiet indoors at least.

But how do we build barriers against the outdoor sound to cut as much as possible?  In our parents’ day, the answer was truly green: trees cut sound and they Greenify the plant.

These days, that’s still a viable solution, if you have the room and the support of your neighbors.  Trees beautify the planet, create oxygen, and provide natural homes for birds and other wildlife.   You can also purchase manmade materials for a sound wall, most often build of a renewable wood resource, or sometimes recycled plastic (certified “green!”) to absorb the sounds that pollute our planet. 

Either way, take time to consider noise pollution.  And find a green solution for yourself and those around you.


Is Your Sunscreen Green?

June 8, 2009

As you are trotting out the door for a weekend of fun, ask yourself this: have you given any thought to sunscreen?   For decades now, we’ve been concerned about the ozone layer and global warming.  But what about your skin?  Is the sunscreen you’re wearing making the problem better or worse?  As you protect yourself from the sun, what are you doing to the planet?

Most of us know that everything we use, whether we’re speaking of laundry soap or lipstick, at some point winds up in the environment, where some of it has the potential to wreak havoc.  And that includes sunscreen.

Think about it: you put it on your face and run out the door.  Whether it is sweated off or simply floats away in the pool, it’s often “gone” by the time you come home at the end of the day.  And since we know “magic sunscreen elves” didn’t remove it, it had to go somewhere. 

What’s in that sunscreen you rub on your shoulders?  Most UV-protection creams sold in the United States contain some combination of as many as 17 FDA-approved active ingredients. Two of those, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are minerals; the rest are carbon-based chemicals such as octinoxate, oxybenzone and octisalate, each of which might go by a number of different names.

With these classes of ingredients, there are concerns over the minerals, including the increased usage of new nano-formulations of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Though studies suggest that these tiny particles are better at blocking UV rays than are their larger counterparts, and though a number of studies have shown that they don't penetrate healthy skin, many skeptics say not enough research has been done to substantiate safety claims. Certain chemical ingredients, on the other hand, may penetrate the skin and act as endocrine disrupters, affecting users' hormones and reproductive functions.

Human health and planetary health aren't the same thing, but they are related: Any mineral or chemical that might be harmful to humans could damage wildlife and destabilize ecosystems. Though the studies aren't exhaustive, researchers have found chemical UV filters in lakes, oceans and rivers around the world, with the highest concentrations found near wastewater treatment plants.

The accumulation of both kinds of UV filters in the water is troubling to some toxicologists because of their potential to build up inside the cells of fish and other marine life. A series of studies conducted in Switzerland found two of these commonly used chemicals inside fish living in rivers and lakes, though the reports didn't indicate that the animals' overall health was suffering.

Fewer data are available on the major UV filters used in the United States. Researchers at the University of California at Riverside did test the effects of one common ingredient, oxybenzone, on two fish species. They found that it diminished reproductive abilities, but only at concentrations much higher than those observed in suspected areas of contamination in California and New York.

In the wake of this science -- and, it seems, out of a general sense that minerals are more "natural" than chemicals -- many green-minded folks are switching from chemical sunscreens to the zinc or titanium varieties. But those haven't been proved 100 percent safe for our ecosystems, either.

There's also the production of sunscreen to worry about. The mining and processing of minerals is resource-intensive and environmentally taxing. Creating titanium dioxide can result in large amounts of iron sulfate waste or smaller amounts of the more hazardous iron chloride waste. Manufacturing the nano-size versions may require plenty of extra energy plus more purifying solvent, which generates significant amounts of waste that may be hazardous, depending on the solvent used.

It's hard to tell exactly how the chemicals stack up in terms of production, because manufacturers aren’t required to release their exact formulations. (As an industry, though, metal mining releases more than twice the amount of toxic chemicals as the chemicals industry, according to the EPA.)

Of course, there are other ways to protect your skin at the beach, such as hats, umbrellas, and maximum coverage clothing.  All of which would help you go green and at the same time, stay pale.


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