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.”


Happy Saint Patrick's Day (Green Day)!!

March 17, 2009

We at Green Business Alliance wish you the happiest and greenest of Saint Patty's day. Enjoy your Green Day and all of the fun festivities that come with this special holiday!!


Plastic Bag Competition in Colorado Mountain Towns

February 25, 2009

Have you seen the latest news from Colorado? It's not having to do with the last snowfall. It has to do with going green! The headlines... Aspen vs. Telluride plastic bag competition expands - dozens of mountain towns compete to eliminate grocery bags. It seems that a small competition between two famous ski towns has, pardon the pun, "snow-balled, this year! They are all trying to replace plastic bags with reusable bags. What started off with Aspen and Telluride, now includes 26 mountain towns.

Here is Katie Reddings' article taken from the Aspen Times on February 23, 2009.

ASPEN — Last year’s contest between Aspen and Telluride to see which town could replace more plastic bags with reusable ones has grown to include 26 mountain towns.

Nathan Ratledge, of Aspen’s Community Office of Resource Efficiency (CORE), co-organizer of last year’s contest, said most of the towns sought out inclusion after hearing about last year’s contest.

“Everyone has kind of [joined] of their own volition,” he said.

The contest will run for six months, from March 1 to Sept. 1. In each town, grocery stores will tally the number of reusable bags used. At the end of the contest, the community that uses the most reusable bags per capita will receive a $5,000 grant from Alpine Bank to install a solar panel system at a local public school.

This year’s contest was organized by David Allen at Telluride’s New Community Coalition, with help from CORE and the Colorado Association of Ski Towns.

To publicize the contest, the Colorado Association of Ski Towns will spend $5,000 producing a television spot to be made available to all participating towns.

Also starting March 1, Aspen High School’s Earth Club will begin stocking several local hotels with reusable bags they have designed themselves, Ratledge said. The bags will be provided to guests for use on their shopping trips. Guests will have the option of leaving the bag for other guests, or they can purchase it.

Last summer, Aspen and Telluride held a plastic bag contest between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The two towns eliminated the use of an estimated 140,359 single-use shopping bags between May and September — or 284 bags per store per day. Telluride beat Aspen soundly, using more than twice as many reusable bags per capita during the contest.

This year’s contest includes the Colorado towns of Telluride, Aspen, Mountain Village, Snowmass Village, Basalt, Breckenridge, Silverthorne, Dillon, Frisco, Steamboat Springs, Grand Lake, Granby, Winter Park, Fraser, Estes Park, Crested Butte, Vail, Avon, Eagle, Gypsum, and Mount Crested Butte. Idaho participants include Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey. Also participating are Jackson Hole, Wyo. and Park City, Utah.


New Ways to Greenify for Old Items: Upcycling

February 12, 2009

Upcycling is the newest way to Greenify our lives and businesses.  And here at the Green Business Alliance, we’re hoping it will catch on.  What is upcycling? 

You may have been to art galleries in the past where artists were taking found items (which can also be described as junkyard trash) and turning them into new and useful things.  It’s kind of like that, with less focus on looks and more on purpose.  Wikipedia defines “upcycling as turning waste items into new, usable items.”  And it generally involves a certain level of creative ingenuity.

Lots of folks these days are upcycling things and making small businesses out of it.  There are websites (http://www.etsy.com/) that focus on selling such repurposed materials, carefully and cleverly recycled into marketable products that then get further use by new owners.  Imagine seeing an old pair of jeans “upcycled” into an expensive designer handbag.  It’s been done.

Our grandparents did this to a certain extent.  They used old newspapers and magazines to light fireplaces and firepits.  These days, we know not to do that because those magazines can contain inks that become toxic when burned.  But there is still a lot to learn here.

As a child, every parent in my hometown made a springtime trip to the elementary school to round up some small milk cartons.  Those cartons were then “upcycled” to use for starting vegetable seedlings for the family garden.  Sometimes, you can spot those who grew up in a small town, huh?

But if we look for those small ways to reuse a resource, then perhaps we’ll utilize the materials more fully.  A little upcycling could also be known as “Greenification” at the most basic level: using something more completely before we put it out to be recycled again.


Red or Pink? Our Heart Beats for Green!

February 9, 2009

Have you thought about what you’re getting your sweetheart for Valentines’ Day, coming up at the end of this week?  Since it seems like every year, they come out with a new survey showing that the overwhelming majority of us wait until the actual Valentines’ Day to get a love token for our beloved, we assume that there is still time for you to consider a green Valentines’ Day gift. 

Chocolates and other candies are a very popular gift.  This year, there are environmentally friendly, sustainable chocolates, if that’s what you’re offering to impress your sweetheart. 

Here’s what you want to consider:

  • Choose “fair trade-certified.”  This means that the farmers who grew the cacao beans earned a fair wage, their workers were treated well, and some profits go back into the community. Check out http://www.transfairusa.org/ for details.
  • Look for boxes that are made with recycled paper.  To be honest, sometimes these boxes are handmade and very beautiful and unique.  Try to avoid plastic inserts or coating as well.  They aren’t “sweet” on the environment.
  • Choose chocolates made from local ingredients. Not perhaps the chocolate itself.  The cacao beans are generally grown in Central and South America.  But the ingredients in the fillings, like dairy products, fruits, and nuts can all be locally sourced.  That saves on fuel and supports local farmers.

And you can always look around for a local chocolatier.  There are many small boutique chocolate makers (think “Mom” in a flowery apron) springing up all over the country.  Buying local is always greener than buying big name or imported items.  And maybe your sweetheart, like some of us, is more impressed by a heart that beats for green than a heart that beats for overseas and often overpriced imported chocolates.


Greenify a Holiday Reading List

December 10, 2008

It’s that time of year when a well-chosen corporate gift can say a lot to a client or friend.  It can set the tone for a relationship, or set an example for a lifetime.   Here’s a list of  some of the best, most well-regarded books that focus on Greenification. 

Walden
Henry David Thoreau

The original ode to the environment.  This is more than a literary staple of English classes across the United States.  It is Thoreau's most famous work and chronicles his two-year retreat to the woods, celebrates the simple life.

Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit
Al Gore

Gore’s book, written well before An Inconvenient Truth set the public consciousness spinning on global warming, the former Vice President was beginning to stake out his position on the environment.  In Earth in the Balance, he argues, "We must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization."

The Omnivore's Dilemma
Michael Pollan

This is the gift for the cook on your list.  Pollan follows the journey of four meals from farm to table: the corn-addicted path of McDonald's take-out, a home-cooked dinner of Whole Foods organics, a sustainably grown supper "off the grid" and a modern hunter-gatherer's meal.  A veritable feast of the senses for environmentally sensitive.

Silent Spring
Rachel Carson

Viewed widely as the book that gave birth to the modern environmental movement, Carson exposes the hazards of pesticides and other pollution, sounding both a warning and a call to action.

Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water
Marc Reisner

This book offers a look at the history of water management, as well as mismanagement in the Western United States.  Reisner's compelling chronicle work brought well-deserved attention to the pressing need for wise water use policy.

Collapse
Jared Diamond

This nonfiction piece offers modern-day lessons from locations as far and diverse as Rwanda and Japan while Diamond's haunting narrative explores doomed civilizations to make the case that ecological catastrophe can be averted if we make the right choices.

The Lorax
Dr. Seuss

For the child in all of us, Dr. Seuss spins an unforgettable story of a world once lush with truffula trees.  Told in his beloved rhyming style, the Lorax is written to charm youthful minds and hearts while at the same time introducing complex environmental ideas.

Send a tin of cookies and give them something to munch on; send a book and give them something to Greenify on for years to come.

 


Greenify Your Garland

December 7, 2008

Is the holiday tree up at your home or office?  It’s what most of us consider to be the epitome of the holiday season: a Christmas tree filled with bright lights, colorful ornaments and encircled around by garland. 

We’ve talked about the tree.  It could be artificial and save on cutting down trees and annual expense or a real tree (considered by many to be a renewable resource) that is either living or recycled into mulch by many county recycling authorities. 

And we’ve talked about the lights.  The new LCD lights are available which cost considerably more, but last a lot longer and will save money over the life of the bulbs because they use only a tiny percentage of the electricity used by the incandescent bulbs.

But what about garland?  As a child, I loved to put pieces of tinsel on the family tree, one by one by one. The tree shone with a silvery sheen.  As an adult, I realize that such tinsel makes the tree more difficult to recycle because the shiny aluminum bits don’t break down.  They are not recyclable, reusable, or renewable.  They just use up resources, look pretty, and are off to the dump.

Let’s consider other forms of garland.  Even an aluminum garland is reusable.  But let’s consider other options.

These days, there are numerous options for an environmentally sensitive consumer.  There are amazing ornate garlands made of hand-blown glass by artisans.  There are beautiful, unique beaded pieces as well. 

But for a truly green-thumbed Greenification enthusiast, there are decorations made the old-fashioned way: by hand.  Imagine the beauty of a tree decorated in a garland of its own fruits.  Collect pinecones and string them together using fishing line.  Add a touch of glitter spray and you’re done.  Leave it natural and use the pinecones to start home fires burning after the holidays.  Or how about a return to childhood roots by making a garland of popcorn and cranberries?  The squirrels outside your backdoor will appreciate you greatly after tree season is past.

It’s a great time of year to Greenify, even in the smallest ways.  And Greenification is as close as your front room, waiting to brighten your holidays from one season to the next. 


Greener Holiday Party Ideas

December 5, 2008

If you’re going to make the rounds of holiday parties or give one yourself, plan now to Greenify.

Going to holiday parties, you want to make sure to carpool, right?  This makes it easier to save gas, save wear and tear on the car, and potentially save lives.  The latter because this is the time of year when we all enjoy seeing our friends and business associates and sharing holiday foods and drinks together.  Carpooling makes it much easier to designate a driver so that everyone makes it home alive.  It’s better for the environment and all of us in it because we all feel better when there are fewer drunk drivers on the road.

If you are the one throwing the holiday party, consider going “old school.”  Even if you are trying to cut costs and downsizing the party from country club to office commissary, forget about the past years of plastic cups and throw-away paper table coverings. 

Buy a fabric tablecloth.  Festive holiday clothes of all sizes can be had at discount stores for prices close to the same as those of the throw-away paper ones, but with far less of a carbon footprint. 

The same goes for plates, cups, and silverware.  You can rent or borrow the same, depending on the size of your party.  You may be able to cut costs if you know a church that rents their hall or their linens, flatware, or other houseware items.  These groups often have the items in bulk and may also be looking for ways to make extra money. 

You could even purchase them at a discount store and give them away (for pickup later, after they’ve been washed) as a door prize. Choose well and they’ll be appreciated.  Such things have been done before by our parents’ generation.  And this time, there’s the added benefit of Greenification. 

If you have to wash a few dishes, is that really so bad?  A holiday party downsized per cost but upsized with glassware, silverware, and linens isn’t going to feel as sparsely provided. 

And your company’s carbon footprint shrinks a little more all the way into the New Year. 


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