Get Ready for Summer

May 20, 2009

Are you Greenifying in advance of summer?  Time to get ready for the heat waves before they hit!  And it needn’t be expensive.  In fact, it should save you some cash over time.

First off, how old is that A/C unit?  Running your air conditioner this summer can be one of your business’ biggest expenses.  But there are ways to increase energy efficiency and lower your energy bills.  How old is your air-conditioning unit?  Is it energy efficient?  Federal minimum efficiency standards for room air conditioners were revised in October, 2000.  That means if it may need to be replaced. 

Also, do you have a programmable thermostat?  These are relatively inexpensive and easy to install devices that allow you to program both air conditioning and heat to comfort levels when you and customers are in the office, but turn them down for energy efficiency when business hours are over. 

Check for whether caulking needs updating.  You’d be surprised how much expensive cold air can leak out of small cracks and crevices.  You’ll be even more surprised how much energy a $4 tube of caulk can save.

Go old school.  If you have curtains or blinds, shut them when the sun is shining through your windows.   Blocking the sunshine out will keep out a measure of the heat and allow for savings.

When people say, "it's not the heat, it's the humidity," they are right. If you have a dehumidifier, turn it on when the temperature rises. Getting rid of the humidity will help make business feel more comfortable. 

Also, get a fan.  Sometimes, all you really need is some movement in the air.   An overhead fan is the most thorough way to circulate air, but you may want portable fans to allow you to focus the movement.  And where possible, open the front and back door.  Circulating the air all the way through can help alleviate humidity and feeling of closeness.

The heat is coming.  Take a few moments now to make sure you can stay as comfortable and green as possible.


Pat Yourself on the Sack!

May 7, 2009

How often do we hand out an “atta boy” around here?  That’s an old-school phrase for a pat on the back or a “job well done!” type of compliment. I want to bring your attention to something changing at the most basic of levels: the common human experience of the grocery store.  Are you noticing (like I am) that every time you step into the grocery store, you see more and more people pulling out their reusable grocery sacks? 

Although I haven’t seen figures yet, it seems I am constantly surrounded by people who are bringing their own usable sacks.  And I’m liking what I see.

Manufacturers are also offering more options.  Instead of just a more durable plastic sack, there are now options that don’t involve plastic.  They are made of fabric and here are a few that I’ve seen with increasing frequency:

•  String bags.  This bag is extremely lightweight, yet able to carry an immense amount of groceries.  Its ability to stretch is almost unparalleled.  Just when you think you’re done, you find one more item that has to go in.   And it does.
•  Lightweight nylon bags.  The cool thing about this alternative is that it fits in with the current system for bagging groceries at the check-out counter. It is a more durable but still lightweight material compared to the plastic bag. But again it lacks structure when loading.
•  Heavyweight nylon bags.  These are made to last a lifetime. Tote bags are often made of this heavy nylon. It resembles a traditional paper grocery bag with some added handles; it stands nicely on its own for easy packing. However with that durability and quality of materials comes a not-so-compact package. It folds similarly to a paper grocery bag.
•  Environmental friendly people want to be associated and seen with natural fabric bags. Available in soft and natural hues, some bags ooze class and concern. Multicolored patchwork bags, printed bags, embroidered and embossed bags are everyone's favorite.

I’m guessing that soon we will find ourselves customizing our own bags and adding a little of “this or that” to distinguish them from other people’s bags.  Individualism is encouraged, but think of the possibilities for your business as you put walking advertisement of your friendship with the earth into the hands of customers who will then carry them everywhere. 

We’re already seeing more of these and it’s wonderful to behold.  It means that Greenification is going forward.  And maybe someday, those disposable, life-sucking plastic bags will be gone. 


Spring Forward to Greenify!

May 5, 2009

We're finally feeling the Spring temperatures in most areas of the United States, which means it’s time to get out and enjoy the warm air and sun on our faces.  How can you do that and gather the gang for some Greenification?  How about a little community project? 

You’ve seen those signs along the side of the freeway: "Adopted by Acme Business Supply."  Ever wonder what that "adoption" entails?  Usually, it means contacting your state or local municipality to formally sponsor taking care of the side of the highway, clearing it of litter and debris.  It could be your business’ name instead of “Acme Business Supply” on the roadside sign.

That’s right: you sponsor the section of the highway.  In most states, you aren’t expected to get out there to clean and maintain that section yourself.  They do it for you as part of the sponsorship fee.  But maybe you’d like that opportunity?

I was walking through my neighborhood this past weekend when I saw a discarded takeout container.  It surprised me, because I was in the “gated” section where such littering usually doesn’t happen.  I picked up the container because it was so out of place that I felt a little leaving it there.  I walked it over to another neighbor’s recycling bin where I tucked it safely inside.

You can do that anytime, anyplace, you know.  If you see a cup or plate out of place, you can just pick it up and carry it to a waste receptacle.  Nobody has to tell you that it’s not a pretty sight.  You can just properly dispose of it when you spot such littering. 

Of course, if you’d like to pay to sponsor the greenification of a section of roadway, that’s great, too.   But maybe grab a picnic lunch and the office gang some weekend and go find a street you can clean on your own.  Since it’s greenification not glorification that’s the goal, it’s all good in our thinking.  And maybe it’ll make the Spring flowers smell a little sweeter, too.

 

 


Eat Your Vegetables - After You Grow Them!

May 1, 2009

Can we talk about vegetables today?  Many of us are putting in gardens this year.  We may or may not have grown our own vegetables and fruits in the past, but this year, by golly, is the year that Mrs. Obama said the President will be out with his basket and spade, and so we are determined to green up our back and side yards, add some herbs on a window ledge, or maybe even just do some jars of sprouts for salads. 
 
But what happens when you go out to check those little sprouts and see dark little crawly things hanging all over the tender leaves that you worked so hard to bring out of the ground?  You're going to eat these things, so you don't want to use something chemical-y, right?  But how green are those pesticides they sell for home garden use?
 
Most insecticides, both synthetic and natural, interfere with insects' nerve transmissions. DDT, lindane and Ortho cause insect neurons to fire randomly, causing spasms and death.  Sounds tasty, doesn't it?  Well, not really.

They're less harmful to mammals, but in the environment they break down into toxic chemicals that can last for decades, move into ground water, and poison all sorts of animals.

But having never grown chives that did not suffer the ravages of bugs that sucked the lifeblood out of them, leaving them yellow and dead, I personally am neither sympathetic to insects nor desirous of consuming nerve poisons, even in minute amounts.

Many of the newer green pesticides have a unique mode of action that targets insects to block a key neurotransmitter receptor site.

"The neurotransmitter in insects is called octopamine; it is basically the insects' version of adrenaline," explains Gary Stamer of Chemtec Pest Control, based in Saddle Brook, N.J. "The botanicals block the octopamine, resulting in a shutdown of the insect's nervous system. Since only insects have this receptor, there is no harm to mammals, birds or fish."

But how can consumers be certain how green their "natural" pesticide is? Check with the Integrated Pest Management Institute of North America, which awards its Green Shield Certification (GSC) to services that use non-chemical approaches to pest control, and use approved pesticides only when necessary.

You can grow a garden, Greenify just a little and enjoy your own vegetables safely this summer, without poisoning yourself or the environment around you. 


Bring Your Lunch to Greenify and Save Money

April 30, 2009

Want to Greenify, save money and improve your health at the same time?  I have three words for you: bring your lunch.
 
Bringing your lunch to work can save you the time and mental disconnect/reconnect of having to go out for it.  It saves on money because a lunch you prepare at home from healthy, well-chosen ingredients can cost substantially less and at the same time, it can improve your health as you learn to make better nutritional choices.
 
To get started, you'll want to choose some reusable, "green" supplies to let you safety and conveniently bring and store food from home.  This may seem counter-intuitive on cost savings because you'll want to invest in the best tools to get started, but choose wisely and you'll be ahead of the game.
 
There are numerous websites offering eco-friendly lunchboxes, bags, and utensils.  This one at Pristine Planet features some interesting choices.
 
Also Go Green Lunch Boxes has some designs that are powerfully perky.
 
Some of these containers are going to have plastic, which isn't preferred by me, but may be liked by you.  As long as you reuse it, it's still an improvement over throw-away styrofoam containers, in my humble, lunch-eater's opinion.
 
But for my money, nothing beats a tiffin tin.   
 
I think I bought mine in a container store about ten years ago.  I've been using it to store little bits of this-n-that in the kitchen where it works quite wonderfully.  But, the only downside of this type of container is that of course, you can't stuff if in the microwave to heat your lunch.  But for durability, reusability and general stylishness, it can't be beat.  Toss in some cool reusable utensils made of sustainable bamboo easily picked up at Target, Crate N Barrel or just about any other department store and you're home free.
 
Bringing your lunch to work can't be beat either.  I'm going to jump off on what goes inside, but try to keep it close to home and organic.  If leftover meatloaf is what you have, well, you are the lucky one!  I hope you're eating it on whole grain bread with some really good mustard.   I'm betting that this year, bringing lunch to work is the Greenifying, economizing, nutritionalizing retro-trend of the year. 


Use What You Have, Consume Fewer Resources

April 16, 2009

When I was a child, my father liked to refer to any of his four children as “The Great Consumer” whenever we wasted things.  You know how kids are: we piled our plates high, but ate less than half of the food we took.  We constantly wanted more toys or clothes.  And we left the lights on as we went from room to room. 

These days, we’re all trying to crack down on expenses.  You might start by looking in your own refrigerator.  Wasted food is clogging up our landfills.  According to the EPA, 31.7 million tons of food scraps were sent to landfills in 2007. That’s a lot of dry toast and bad meatloaf.  Those 63 billion pounds of food sitting in landfills are creating methane gases in their decay, which is destroying our ozone layer and cause global warming.

Some folks are getting really creative with it.  The online community is full of talk of people getting all their food out of dumpsters.  They are “rescuing” vegetables, baked goods, and other items from refuse containers and using it in their diets.  And they’re feeling good about it. 

Other groups are taking in leftover baked goods from commercial bakeries and produce that has passed its prime and making meals for the homeless and lower income families.  These food items are often very high quality, but since many Americans don’t like the label “day old,” these items are discarded and picked up by groups such as Forgotten Harvest as well as local and regional kitchens around the country.

What can you do?  Focus on what you’re eating.  Take leftovers to work for lunch.  Make just what you need and eat what you make.  You’ll be happier, less wasteful, and have a smaller carbon footprint.  You also won’t have a father calling you “The Great Consumer” anymore.  


Ready for Earth Day 2009

April 14, 2009

Earth Day 2009 is now about one week away and what is your business doing about it? Have you made any plans to Greenify?

Are you staying open that day or shutting down to take your employees and family to events in a nearby park or civic square?  Have you put up posters for those events and maybe written a tagline on your company’s cash register receipts, advertising what’s going on and where on Earth Day?

National Geographic wants your ideas.  They’re working with Sun Chips to provide a cash prize to whoever comes up with the best Green idea, starting on Earth Day, April 22, 2009 and going until June 8, 2009.  All you do is click here for rules on how to enter your best green idea.  You could win $20,000 to implement your idea.

But what if your idea is small? Is it something you could do now, without any financing or fanfare?  You could spend Earth Day 2009 implementing it yourself.  How about if you use the day to plant a garden?  You’ll have fun in the sun and reap the benefits in months to come.  You’ll help Greenify by reducing the amount of chemicals used in producing vegetables and fuel used in shipping them.  You might even enjoy working out in your garden all summer. 

Other things to do include bicycling to work.  Carpooling, if the distance is too long.  Turning the lights off and opening the blinds just for one day.  Turn your computer off when you go to lunch.  Better yet, plan to bring your lunch and enjoy an earth-friendly potluck picnic with your employees or coworkers in the park.

Earth Day 2009 will be full of exciting endeavors that will only happen on that day. But by planning to do something small, you ensure that you can relive and enjoy an “everyday Earth Day” over and over again.


Green at the Grocer’s

April 3, 2009

Did you ever wonder about the food you eat?  Sure, it looks healthy, but could you green it up a notch and make it healthier for you and the earth?   Sustainable food is a movement across the country that seeks to Greenify the food industry, but could also improve your nutrition.

Fuel used to ship your food is the culprit in this scenario.  If you plan ahead now to grow your own tomatoes, a few herbs and some squash in a backyard garden, you’ll be saving yourself a few dollars, control the use of pesticides and fertilizer, and at the same time, cut down on customers for expensive shipped produce and food items.

Don’t have a green thumb?  We understand that. (Boy, do some of us understand that one!)  But how about if you buy your produce at a Farmer’s Market? 

These days, you have to check, because lots of “farmers” at markets these days are actually buying shipped products wholesale and showing up to sell them at markets.  They won’t usually be dishonest about where the vegetables were grown and under what conditions, but sometimes you do have to ask to get the truth.

And what will you get for your trouble?  Locally grown food, usually organic, healthy and safe for all members of your family to eat.  It’s better for you. It’s also better for your children.  Nutritionists say parents can help cut childhood obesity rates by shopping at the outer edges of the store: that’s the produce and fresh meat section. That means stepping away from canned, over-processed foods that have hidden sugars, fats, and other unhealthy additives.

So invest in a lunchbox.  Eating sustainable food may cost a little more and it may require more time and effort on your part.  But the dividends it pays in terms of health, cutting your carbon footprint, and committing to Greenification may grow as time goes on.


Earth Hour - Saturday, March 28th 2009 - Get Left in the Dark!

March 27, 2009

Earth Hour 2009 is exactly one day away. Mark your calendars, set an alarm for - Saturday, March 28th from 8:30 - 9:30 pm local time. World Wildlife Fund is asking individuals, businesses, governments and organizations around the world to turn off their lights for one hour – Earth Hour – to make a global statement of concern about climate change and to demonstrate commitment to finding solutions.

Click here to read more about Earth Hour and find local spots in your area that will be going dark. 

Get ready, get set, get in the dark.

 


Follow the Leader: Grow Your Own!

March 23, 2009

The Greening of the White House continues in Washington where Michelle Obama has now planted a garden on the White House'  South Lawn.  The First Lady is after more "fresh, unprocessed, locally grown" vegetables for her family, and if she has to raise them herself, she says she will.
 
This is one indication of the commitment to environmental issues apparent in the Obama administration. Mrs. Obama is a backer of what is called the "Slow Food Movement," begun by Alice Waters decades ago. 
 
It includes foods that have lower carbon footprints because they are locally grown, locally produced, and locally consumed.  They are grown organically, without chemical pesticides and fertilizers that can leach into the water table and in spite of doing good where intended, resurface elsewhere with harmful effects.  
 
We're all capable of doing this ourselves, and in a recessionary economy, maybe it's time to see about that green thumb you've been hiding in your pocket?  How about putting in a few tomato plants on along the side wall of your house?  Maybe see about some peas and beans to climb the rear fence?  A couple of rows of corn along there might not be a bad idea, too.
 
So your soil doesn't do well, you say?  Maybe it's time to get some natural fertilizer?  Start your own decomposition chamber in a back corner. You may want to build a container, because sometimes that can have an unneighborly side effect: smell.   You can also visit an area stable and procure some equine refuse matter (that's my nice way of saying horse manure).  Break up a pound or so into a gallon bucket of water, let it sit for a day.  Then pour that steeped "tea" over the plants and in the areas you intend to sew seeds.  You'll reap the rewards.

And as you're out there, toiling away, don't think you're the only one who is going to be working in their garden this summer.  The First Lady says the President will be commandeered into green garden duty, too.  As Mrs. Obama says, "whether he likes it or not.”


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