Two Quick Ways to Greenify Holiday Giving

December 3, 2008

If you’re like many Americans, you’re feeling the economic pinch this holiday.  Greenifying your gift-giving may help you feel a little richer in personal green. 

Have you thought about recycling gifts?  Yeah, sure, you’ve heard about re-gifting: rewrapping a gift you received but don’t care for in order to give it to someone it may be better suited for.  Re-gifting was made popular (and got laughs) on Seinfeld, the old NBC sitcom.

But maybe this year, you’ll consider buying items at second-hand stores.  Americans have been considered “under-consumers” for years, in that they didn’t use an item completely.  They threw things away or took them to second-hand stores well before their usefulness was finished.  Maybe it’s time you considered shopping in those stores.

Some things you can’t purchase at such a store.  You’ll not please the kids wanting a WII with an old VCR.  But if you’re looking for a back-up vcr for your business’ in-house security system, you will pay a lot less by purchasing a cast-off second-hand player in working order.  

Often these items are cast off early.  In some cases, stores have been known to clear inventory to charitable organizations.  If you can wait until after Christmas, many stores and households clear excess items that aren’t fully used.  (Some people never learn to Greenify.  It’s not in their nature.)  

At the very least, consider something made of recycled goods, like this Radio Flyer made of recycled plastic or a lovely star paperweight made of recycled blue glass. (They have them shaped like dolphins, too but that didn’t seem nearly as festive!)

You can teach your children a lesson about greenification by taking them shopping at a second-hand store, like Goodwill or the Salvation Army.  They’ll learn to appreciate the cost of goods, the fun of giving, and the value of a dollar while they shop.  It’s also a great time to talk about the value of conserving natural resources.

Even if the kids aren’t getting or giving second-hand gifts, give yourself or your spouse or someone else the gift of a recycled, second-hand item and feel the joy of helping Greenify the planet and the second gift of a lower budget.


Christmas Greenification: It Starts with a Tree

November 26, 2008

Christmas is when our culture seems to forget about honoring the earth and neglects to Greenify.  We hit our annual high for consumption.  We decorate bigger and brighter every year, we send cards that kill forest after forest, and we consume prodigious quantities of food and drink.  This holiday season, Americans will put millions of miles and thousands of kilowatts into lighting holiday trees, homes and businesses.  But there are ways to Greenify your Christmas at home and at work. 

One of the biggest symbols of the holiday is the tree.  Brightly decorated with lights, tinsel, and ornaments, can this symbol be made more green?  Yes.  First off, choose a real tree.  An artificial tree is primarily a petroleum product.  A real fir or spruce is exactly that: a real tree. It brings scent and cheer to what might otherwise be a dreary corner of the room. And at the end of the holidays, it can be taken to the county recycling effort and turned into mulch. 

What about the decorations?  How about buying LED lights?  They look the same as convention incandescent bulbs, but last longer and use 80 to 90 percent less energy.  They’re also safer since they barely warm up.  Also invest in timers to continue the savings by dimming the lights, inside and out, when everyone goes to bed. You’ll find plenty of uses for those, turning off lamps, after the season is over.

As for decorations, many people use the same decorations year after year, and that’s an excellent way to conserve.  If you’d like to have new decorations, edible decorations can be freshly made and shared with customers who come by the business (or friends at home) during the holiday season.  Or you might consider a “theme tree” and make doggie treat decorations using any of the dozens of recipes for doggie treats available on the internet.

Christmas can be a great time to Greenify and keep the spirit of the holidays alive.


Greenify the Holidays with the Spirit of Giving

November 25, 2008

Let’s Greenify your holidays a few steps more.  What can you do to conserve without putting a damper on the joy of the holidays?
 
‘Tis the season to hit the malls.  When you go shopping, take your own shopping bags.  Yes, you may well be stopped going into the stores, as you carry a shopping bag, but you’ll help save on the millions of shopping bags that many stores have printed for Christmas shoppers.  And if you’re afraid of being stopped for shoplifting, take along paper or binder clips to fasten the receipts to the outside of your bag.

Once you get the gifts home, what’s next?  How about wrapping presents in posters, decorated grocery store bags, or pages from glossy fashion magazines?  Put a small present in a beautiful scarf and make the wrapping part of the gift given.  If you truly love brightly colored holiday wraps, purchase recycled wrapping papers online from websites like fishlipspaperdesigns.com and paporganics.com, which also may sell biodegradable ribbons.  Did you know that Americans use more than 38,000 miles of ribbon during the final months of the year?

"You don't have to sacrifice the celebration for sustainability," says Zem Joaquin, founder of ecofabulous.com and eco-editor of House & Garden. Her advice: be "eco-wise."

Another tip: consider going paper-free on holiday cards.  Direct friends to your family blog or create a free multiphoto card or an online slideshow on photobucket.com. You can add holiday music, snowflakes and bits of text, and then e-mail friends and family a link.  They may get a bigger kick out of your fun slideshow of the past year than they ever got out of pre-printed cards and posed single photos that almost always hit the curb the week after Christmas.

You don’t have to clamp down on holiday spirit to Greenify the season.  In fact, it may put you “in the holiday mood” earlier when you help conserve the environment.


Incandescent Bans: Why Wait to Greenify?

November 19, 2008

The end is near.  But that means that that Europe may begin to go green a little sooner.   

EU energy ministers have recently agreed to ban incandescent filament light bulbs across all 27 member states beginning in 2010.   That’s in addition to Australia, Cuba and the Philippines where bans have previously been announced to begin in the same year. 

Here in the U.S.A, we are coming a little late to the party because our ban doesn’t start until 2014.

The Energy Independence and Security Act, passed by the U.S in June 2007, requires 25 percent greater efficiency for light bulbs starting in 2012.  This will effectively ban incandescents. The EU's decision comes days before it lifts duties on energy-efficient bulbs imported from China.

According to the conservationists if the EU switches off incandescent bulbs, it will cut energy consumption for lighting by 60% and CO2 emissions by 30 million tons (out of the 4 billion tons emitted by the EU every year.   That’s not a lot, but it is still progress.

And no one says you have to wait to start conserving energy now.   Replacing old-style “filament” light bulbs with energy saving compact fluorescent bulbs can save you energy and money starting the moment that you install them.      

And who knows? By 2014, maybe the lighting industry will have come up with something even better.


Have You Greenified for the Season?

November 12, 2008

Winter has now descended on the North American hemisphere, reminding us one last time to Greenify at work and at home. Heating and cooling account for about 56% of the energy use in a typical U.S. home, making it the largest energy expense for most of us.   Cutting your energy use will help Greenify and at the same time, could save you some money, which is always a welcome idea.  Here are some easy ideas on where to look to improve Greenification and save money:

While the temperatures outside are low, remember to open the draperies and shakes on south-facing windows during the first half of the day to allow the sun’s light to enter and warm structures.  Close the blinds and drapes at night to keep the heat in.

Reset your thermostat.   By lowering the thermostat even just a few degrees can save money.  If you drop it from 72 to 65 degrees for eight hours a day, you can cut the heating bill by 10%.   Get a sweater, and you might just find yourself enjoying greater savings on your power consumption than ever before.

Next check caulking and weatherstrip around doors and windows that might leak air.  Remember those old-fashioned “draft dodgers” that grandma used to make by sewing a tube of fabric and then filling it with beans and placing it along the bottom of the door?  It might be time to get those sewing skills polished up again. 

And don’t forget to check and replace the furnace filters regularly.  By checking filters, insulation and caulking, you can stop the loss of energy from your home, lower your power bills, and help Greenify in a way that will pay off with immediate and long-term benefits.


Green Business Alliance's Guest Blog on Farmers' Almanac

June 30, 2008

Easy Ways to "Greenify" Your Home 

Green Business Alliance’s Executive Director, Hilary Kusel, offers some helpful suggestions on how to Greenify your home for this special guest blog.
While reading Peter Geiger’s blog post on “Living Life Better,” I noted with interest that the 2009 Edition of the Farmers’ Almanac will contain tips on how to be green as well as how to conserve energy and water. Farmers’ Almanac has always had a focus on the environment, even before it was the ‘in’ thing. There is no doubt that living the green life has never been as hip as it is today. Along the lines of living green, here are a few helpful tips on how to Greenify your home. Some of the suggestions may seem subtle and even simple to implement, however they will make a positive impact on the environment and your place of residence.

Unplug appliances that are not frequently used. Many electronic devices and appliances, such as cell phones, computers, microwaves, dryers, televisions and more, consume energy even when turned off? While you sleep, when you go away, while in your house, and even when you are not, these appliances are using small amounts of electricity and costing you money. This phenomenon is known as phantom electricity. It can actually cost you a significant amount of money each year.

How can a device or appliance that is turned off use electricity? While “not on,” each device or appliance uses small amounts of energy in order to be ready to instantly work when it is switched back to the “on” mode.

To avoid phantom electricity usage, think about items that are plugged in to an outlet that you do not use frequently. Unplug them after each use. For devices or appliances that are used more regularly, consider plugging them into a power strip which when switched to the ‘off’ mode is actually not consuming electricity. The simple act of unplugging frequently can save you some money while reducing electricity waste and helping our environment. Start a new habit…unplug!


Plant trees and shrubs near your home. This can be fun for the entire family and great for the earth. Not only will the trees and plants provide shade and wind protection, but they can also save you money on your heating and air conditioning bills.

When you are deciding which types of trees to add to your landscaping, consider using native plants which have been growing in your area for hundreds of years. As a result, the native plants are adapted to the soil and climate in your area. They will likely flourish with less care (i.e. less water and fertilizer).

Filter your water rather than purchasing bottled water. The recommended water intake per person per day is about 60 ounces (between six and seven glasses). Water is a healthy and necessary daily drink to keep our bodies hydrated. However, the type of water we drink and the item from which we sip our water makes a huge difference.

The great part about making the decision to Greenify is that it is good for the environment, good for you and can be fun and educational for the entire family.

For more information on how to Greenify your home or business, please visit Green Business Alliance at www.greenbusinessalliance.com


Greenify Your Cleaning

May 30, 2008

It is a little ironic that those cleaning products which are supposed to help us spruce up the office or home can actually be responsible for poor indoor air quality and even asthma attacks. Cleaning products are not required in the US to list all their ingredients, so one could be cleaning with a veritable chemical soup containing butyl cellosolve, ammonia, chlorine, sodium hydroxide (lye), alkylphenol ethoxylates, and more. Any of these can cause lung irritation and some will contaminate water supplies, deplete the ozone and cause endocrine disruption. Harsh repercussions when all you wanted was a clean floor or sparkling windows.

Consider Greenifying by stocking your office with eco-friendly cleaning products. Seventh Generation may be one of the best known brands on the market, but others exist such as Shaklees, Mrs Meyers Clean Brand, Method Home, Ecover, and Edible Nature. Trader Joe’s, Target and Whole Foods all carry in-house brand natural cleaners. If your office uses a cleaning service, ask them to use your products. They may balk at first, but perhaps you will convert them to a greener way of life when they discover the breathing is easier in your office.

If you clean your office yourself, you can create your own very environmentally friendly cleaning products using white vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, borax and olive oil. A 1:1 mixture of water and vinegar (or even straight vinegar) in a spray bottle will kill bacteria, germs and mold. A cup of olive oil and a ½ cup of lemon juice makes a good furniture polish. Mix the two in a spray bottle, shake well and spray a little on a polishing cloth; polish evenly over the furniture, buffing to a light shine. Baking soda can be used in place of an abrasive cleaner. It will also remove odors. Sprinkle a little on the carpet before vacuuming in place of carpet freshener. To clean glass or mirrors, mix up 1 cup of isopropyl alcohol, 1 cup water and a tablespoon of vinegar. It evaporates quickly and will leave your glass streak free. Greenify to Clean!


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The Latest Green Gadgets

May 27, 2008

Is it just me or does everyone like to check out all the new gadgets that the Green movement has been producing? I love my solar watch, not to mention solar radio/alarm clock. A friend of mine is waiting for her economic stimulus check to arrive in July, so that she can purchase a cordless electric lawnmower complete with a small solar panel to charge it.

Saazs has developed light emitting glass. Instead of a light bulb, the entire fixture radiates a warm light. The glass has been used in walls, tables and floors. You will have to go to Paris to see the showroom and then spend between E 4,300 and E 5,300 to actually get one of the lights. But, the lights will last for about 50,000 hours – or 20 years! And the Planilum technology used is very cool- 4 layers of a special glass, a rare gas and serigraphed phosphors.

The Solio has been around for a year or more, and is another gadget on my wish list. A little hand held solar charger, it can power up your cell phone, iPod, GPS, digital camera and more. One hour of free solar charging will give you twenty minutes of talk time. How great is that for those camping trips where you can’t afford to be out of touch with the office for long. And if your locale features more wind than sun, there is the HYmini, a handheld wind turbine.

Does your commute to work involve biking? Puma is now selling the “Stealth Visibility Bike”- a glow in the dark bicycle- improving your visibility on your way home after dark.

It is easier than ever to Greenify with some of these gadgets!


Giving Green Business Gifts

May 22, 2008

Do you ever purchase gifts for clients, associates or employees? Here’s another area where it is becoming easier than ever to Greenify. Green gifts will have a low environmental impact and support local economies in a fair manner.

If flowers are your go-to-gift, start looking for organic flowers and ideally, for locally grown organic flowers. By buying locally, you are assisting the local economy as well as avoiding all that CO2 from flying flowers in. Check out Local Harvest for flower growers near you. Organic Bouquets or California Organic Flowers are good defaults if local flowers are not available. Most cut flowers are grown in South America and Africa and are heavily doused with pesticides, including pesticides which are illegal to use in the US. The chemicals negatively impact the flower workers, the ground water, soil and the surrounding villages.

If you prefer to send a food gift, maybe Equal Exchange would appeal. You can send a gift of fairly traded coffee, tea or chocolate. The farmers who grow these products do so in sustainable manner and receive a fair wage for their work. Or what about finding a local baker who uses organic ingredients and buy a couple dozen cookies or cupcakes?

Ten Thousand Villages offers a wide assortment of gift ideas. Ten Thousand Villages purchases their items from artisans in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, using Fair Trade agreements.

If your company regularly hands out promotional gifts, much of that can be Greenified. In an earlier post I mentioned green office supplies- you can use the same concepts if you give away printed paper products, pens or other supplies.

Giving green may take a little more forethought than just calling up the florist and ordering flowers. But it is worth it to take that extra time, lessen the environmental impact and help to have a positive influence on someone’s life.


Greenify your lighting with CFLs

May 9, 2008

Compact Fluorescent Lights (aka CFL’s or CFB’s) seem to be on everyone’s top ten list of ways to conserve energy. Are they worth the hype?

Absolutely! CFL’s are a great way to Greenify your office and your home. CFL’s use 50-80% of the energy that incandescent bulbs use for the same number of lumens and last 7-15 times longer than an incandescent bulb. CFL’s are more expensive, but on the other than, they have gone down in price considerably over the last few years. Depending on how large a bulb you need, costs range from around $4.00 to just over $1.50 a bulb at the larger home improvement stores. Dimmable CFL’s have just recently hit the market as well.

There are a couple things to keep in mind when using Compact Fluorescent Lights. Like any fluorescent light, the bulb’s life is shortened if turned off and on frequently. If you have an area where you need light for only a few minutes at a time, use an incandescent bulb. CFL’s have a tiny bit of mercury in them, about as much as an average household thermometer. With that in mind, they need to be disposed of with hazardous waste, rather than with the trash. Should your CFL break, the EPA has suggested guidelines for site cleanup. CFL’s can be a little more effort than incandescent bulbs, but they are worth it.


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