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.


Tips to Greenify Thanksgiving

November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving! At the Green Business Alliance, we hope you have a wonderful holiday season this year, with a lot to be thankful for as you sit down to the big meal.

We want you to enjoy the holiday with all your loved ones gathered around. And we hope you are enjoying it as greenly as you can. What do we mean by that?

Well, we leave it to you to decide what the main course should be. It's an interesting decision in the grocery store these days. Our pilgrim forebearers didn't have to decide between "broadbreasted whites" (a bird bred exclusively and very successfully for its broad breasts), free range turkeys (the broadbreasted ones have a hard time standing up on their little legs with all the meat on those breasts), heritage birds and of course, tofurkys. They only had wild game. And they were grateful.

But such things are an individiual and often, familial decision.

A few Greenification decisions that you can make:

Organize your shopping list in order to make as few trips as possible to the grocery stores. I'm sure you'll agree that at this time of the year, more than any other, fewer trips equals a happier shopper.

Use the good china. Yes, holiday dinners with friends or family are exactly the reason for having those grand plates and beautiful silverware. Not even children deserve paper plates on Thanksgiving. (Imagine trying to eat a drumstick off of a paper plate? It's heresy!) Save the paper plates for when you truly need them: sending leftovers home with guests.

Need table decorations? We recommend pumpkins, squashes and maybe a few nuts. These are all things that can be eaten later. A table centerpiece built around butternut squash is an edible arrangement I'd look forward to... roasted with leftovers.

Cooking your own turkey? Organize what is being cooked so that several dishes can be in the oven during various times. Small amounts of energy saved in cooking the meal will help underwrite its cost.

And finally, when the meal is done, compost all the scraps. Put the table scraps into the container out back and by spring, you may have something very valuable.

We hope your Thanksgiving is a wonderful meaningful time for you and your family and friends to gather together and be grateful for what we have. We hope you'll be thankful for a great year of successfully conserving, shrinking your carbon footprint and making efforts to Greenify many aspects of your life.


Brownfields 2009: Greenifying in a Big Way!

November 23, 2009

A week ago, I was writing from New Orleans where I had been invited to work with ICMA-TV as their reporter, covering events at Brownfields 2009. This was a whole convention full of people engaged in greenifying from the top on down!

Brownfields, as the name implies, refers to the government programs to encourage developers to go in, take over problem areas, redevelop economically blighted and often environmentally troubled areas within a community. The convention is sponsorred by the United States Environmental Protection Agency along with ICMA which is the International City and County Managers Association. ICMA invites its members to come and meet with leaders in environmental remediation and cleanup, redevelopment and government funding. The result is often clean, sustainable community projects that get underway because all parties met under one roof.

(In fact, I came to view Brownfields 2009 as a sort of "jobs fair" for contractors, developers and city/county managers looking to put people to work and restore blighted areas to tax-paying profitability.)

One of the things that we did with IMCA's convention coverage was ask a question of convention-goers every day. The Question of the Day that I found most interesting was very simple and direct: "Can we afford to redevelop during the current economic downturn?" The answer that I heard was a resounding "YES!"

So many of the areas being offered for redevelopment are environmentally damaged. In fact, I noted several of them were past locations of dry cleaning establishment. (I made a mental note: find an organic dry cleaner or start wearing all cotton clothing. Always.) It turns out that a lot of dry cleaners use a lot of extremely harmful chemicals. This probably isn't a surprise to anyone reading this blog at this website, is it?

But they leave a lot of messes behind when they go out of business. The clean-up is expensive, but having the land lie unproductive, poisoned and often in disrepair can cost the cities and counties more. They want to have the situation remedied.

So the community leaders that I talked with all answered yes to the Question of the Day, knowing that a property that has toxic chemicals and is non-revenue producing for the tax base can be turned around, providing jobs and income for those who do the work, returned investment for developers who have a vision for the area and a complete shift in image and enjoyment for both the people living in the community as well as those who visit.

It was a pleasure attending Brownfields 2009. It is that very sort of thinking that make green businesses and social entrepreneurs exciting to be around and write about.

If you would like to know more, you can visit the IMCA-TV website to see what's going on:

http://www.icmatv.com/

And you can check out the Brownfields website where they buzz about their redevelopment projects 'round the clock:

http://www.brownfieldsconference.org/en/index.aspx


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.

 

 

 

 

 

 


ICMA: Brownfields 2009

November 16, 2009

This week, your blogger here with the Green Business Alliance is on location in New Orleans, attending the Brownfields 2009 Conference which is sponsored by the International City/County Managers Association.

Brownfields is what the U.S. government calls its efforts to revive and renew environmentally damaged (and usually economically challenged) areas and efforts.  In other words, they take a “brown” and deadened location and try to restore it to green, vital life again.

Brownfields 2009 is being held in New Orleans because where else to better what the U.S. government has been able to do with a damaged municipality than in New Orleans, post-Hurricane Katrina. 

In 2005, the Hurricane roared through, destroying levees that allowed water to rush in and inundate numerous parishes with floodwaters from six to sixteen feet in depth for up to three weeks.  When the waters receded, the damage left behind totaled into the billions of dollars.

City officials told me today that 80% of the city was damaged.  But they are rebuilding and so where better for the Brownfields Convention to be located this year.

Today, I went to Andrew H. Wilson Elementary School in the Broadmoor area.  The school has been serving New Orleans children since 1907, except for the last five years. 

Broadmoor itself includes about 2500 homes, all of which were devastated by floodwaters.  The city intended to raze all of them and make a “green space.”  But the residents wouldn’t give up on their neighborhood.  They refused to let it go.

They organized their own revitalization plan with the idea that they were coming back, but would be better than ever.  They’ve remediated all contamination at Wilson Elementary, cleaned up and rebuilt using sustainable practices and are scheduled to reopen in January 2010. 

The Brownfields 2009 Conference is underway now, which means in another week or so, your local city and county managers will be back in their communities, with more ideas and enthusiasm than ever for helping your business Greenify.  I hope you’ll take advantage of everything they’re learning here in New Orleans this week. 


Sustainable Farming: What Can Our Gardens Grow?

November 13, 2009

It’s the time of the year when we reflect back on the summer.  If we planted gardens, we harvest vegetables.   We put those fruits and vegetables away to be savored in the winter.  We hope they’ll sustain us.

Sustainable farming is the catchphrase for food production methods that are focused on environmental stewardship, farm profitability and prosperous farm communities.  I thought it might be nice to consider sustainable farmers just for a moment in this blog; they operate a “business” that can be very green indeed.

Our nation has been the food basket of the world for some decades because of advanced practices in agricultural production.  We led the way in developing beefier cows, faster producing hogs and chickens that laid eggs ‘round the clock.  This first “green revolution” paved the way for decades of success in this country.

The cream in our crop seemed a little heavier than farmers in other lands could produce, it seemed at various times.  But the cost has been tremendous.  Doctors and geneticists ponder the hormones in milk that our children drink.  The run-off of animal wastes from hog and poultry farms has seeped into water tables around these operations.  And the small farmers themselves have been mostly driven out of business in favor of larger corporate farms that take over and leave communities without a new generation to assume their responsibilities. 

In introducing sustainable practices, we may have a chance to rewrite the book for agriculture’s place in our nation and across cultures, as sustainable farming could benefit cultures who still use antiquated, outdated farming techniques.  Adding even a slight percentage of productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa could mean saving lives.  Done correctly, it could mean saving soil.

"That's great because these people need to eat. At the same time I'd like to hear wow, we improved the soil so that down the road they're going to be better off," says John Reganold, Regents Professor of Soil Science at Washington State University.

Sustainability isn’t the easiest thing to produce in an arid clime.   You have to choose your crops wisely, work with the land’s inherent limitations and then try to get the crop to market before its lost.  All of these battles are fought against the steep incline of tradition and farmers who say “That’s the way my Daddy did it.” 

But we can do better.  Rotating crops, introducing legume and other forages such as peanuts and alfalfa into production where such crops are unknown and teaching people about stewardship of their land is important and valuable.


Batteries: The Recycling Process

November 6, 2009

Have you thought lately about batteries?  Those little portable cells of energy you often use?  The global battery market is about $50 billion US, of which roughly $5.5 billion is allocated to rechargeable (secondary) batteries.   US demand now exceeds $14 billion dollars annually, in both the primary (one-time use) and secondary (rechargeable) batteries.  And what happens to those toxic lead-acid batteries when you are done using them?  Here’s a rundown of what happens at the recycler:

On arrival, batteries are broken apart in a hammer mill, which is a machine that hammers the battery into pieces. The broken plastic pieces are then placed into a vat, where the lead and heavy materials fall to the bottom and the plastic floats.  Then the polypropylene pieces are scooped away and the liquids are drawn off, leaving the lead and heavy metals. Each of the materials goes into a different recycling “stream”.

Lead grids, lead oxide, and other lead parts are cleaned and heated within smelting furnaces. The molten melted lead is then poured into ingot molds. After a few minutes, the impurities float to the top of the still molten lead in the ingot molds. These impurities are scraped away and the ingots are left to cool. When the ingots are cool, they’re removed from the molds and sent to battery manufacturers, where they’re re-melted and used in the production of new batteries.

Old battery acid can be handled in two ways: 1) The acid is neutralized with an industrial compound similar to household baking soda. Neutralization turns the acid into water. The water is then treated, cleaned, tested in a waste water treatment plant to be sure it meets clean water standards. 2) The acid is processed and converted to sodium sulfate, an odorless white powder that’s used in laundry detergent, glass, and textile manufacturing.

Of course all of this only works if we recycle batteries.  We’ve got a 99% success rate in recycling batteries, but most of that comes from car and industrial batteries.  Make sure you help with the remaining 1% and help Greenification go all the way.


Greenifying by the Numbers

November 3, 2009

Have you looked in the waste bins at your business lately?  I'm hoping you have and they were empty, except for an odd assortment of mixed media containers, cast-off food items, the occasional piece of styrofoam and odd bits.  We are doing better at recycling in the United States, so let's look at a few numbers. 

1: the number of times that most of the more than 25 billion cartons manufactured in the U.S. are used. 
We could use a lot of work on this area, but we are improving.  The largest category of recycled paper goods was newspapers, which totaled 89% of paper recycling, followed by corrugated cardboard at 72%.

55 percent: the amount of water saved by producing recycled paper as compared to virgin paper.  Recycled paper also takes 60-70 percent less energy to produce than paper from virgin pulp. 
Since many areas of the United States are in permanent drought situations, (including CA, AZ, NV and parts of UT), we need to concern ourselves with recycling paper in order to conserve water. 
Some paper can't be reprocessed because of being soiled by food, etc.

120: the number of tons of steel saved if every UK office worker used one less staple a day.
I added this staple purely for its jaw-dropping effect.  It’s a stunner, don’t you agree?

8 billion: the number of gallons of gas saved if every commuter car in the U.S. carried just one more person. 
We need to carpool in places where we hadn’t thought of it before.  Malls at Christmas?  School parties and holiday gatherings?

In short, with paper products, we're doing pretty well.  Nearly half of the paper used in the USA is now being recycled into new paper products. That's more than glass, metal, plastic and "miscellaneous" combined.
 
Don’t put your home grass clippings out for the landfill.  Both grass clippings and food waste can be easily composted and shouldn't ordinarily be sent to the landfill.  And with the holidays soon coming, it’s a good time to check with your municipality about picking up tree trimmings and Christmas trees and turn them into mulch for parks and landscaped street medians. This has an added benefit of saving irrigation water.
 
We’re doing better.  We have a long way to go and plenty of time to pursue our goals.  But there is no better time to start to Greenify than today.


Loca-Procurement

October 28, 2009

So by now you've heard of the "locavore movement."  You may even be using a locavore approach in your own food shopping and dining habits.  Locavores are people who try to eat foods in season and shop for their fruits and vegetables within a limited distance.  One popular approach is to dine only on foods produced within 100 miles as much as possible.  But how about putting your business on a "100 Mile Diet?"  How about if you tried green procurement?
 
Green procurement would be seeking out goods and services that are less environmentally damaging.  A good portion of a product's "greenness" can often be based on proximity.  And here's good news: goods and services that are produced locally are going to be less environmentally damaging than goods and services produced from afar, as less energy is expended getting them to the consumer.  Many times the savings in terms of shipping a product or hiring in a service can be passed along to purchasers.

Even if all you do is purchase your office supplies from a supplier in the local town, rather than driving to another town to purchase them, consider the carbon emissions eliminated by limiting the distance involved.  You'll almost certainly save money on gas and possibly on the investment of your own valuable time as a business person.  If you tally up the mileage, gas, and general wear and tear on your business vehicle, the savings could be considerable.  They certainly could be sizable for our environment.
 
Some things will not be purchasable in terms of the production aspect.  Few enough companies produce pens or paper; but in the service aspect, the local movement may open wide.  And we can supplement green procurement with reusing and recycling.  The savings in terms of carbon emissions and actual dollars may benefit both sides of the equation, if we:
•  make the office more paperless by printing only when necessary
•  use double-sided printing whenever possible
•  invoice electronically rather than sending invoices through the mail
•  use refillable pens rather than "throwaways"
•  reuse old file folders

We've got a long way to go and lots of little ways that will help us get there, if we Greenify together. 


Greenify on a Personal Level

October 4, 2009

Want to do something small, important, and unseen to Greenify?  Change the tissue in your bathroom at home to a brand made of recycled materials.  

American bathroom tissue, okay, yes, toilet paper is a key issue in environmental circles right now.  The reason?  Brand name manufacturers of paper products, in their never-ending attempts to get us to buy their specific product, took it to the next level: three-ply tissue.

And it sold.  24 million packages of Quilted Northern Ultra Plush in the last year alone.  That’s a lot of tissue.  That’s a lot of trees.

The super plush toilet paper we love so much in the United States is made by chopping down old growth trees, grinding them up, spewing them through processing plants and stamping the stuff out into little squares that are rolled up onto long tubes of cardboard then sliced into the inches-long roll of multi-ply tissue that we’re all familiar with.  

Let me point out that Europeans use recycled paper to wipe.  Are they so much tougher than we are? Can they take it, but we need to be so much more pampered at such a higher price?  More to the point, can we afford to be this wasteful?  Bathroom tissue (rolled toilet paper and facial tissues combined) constitute 5% of the U.S. forest products industry.  Paper and cardboard use 26% and newspapers another 3%.  But is this a 5% we need to blatantly waste?

It turns out that 75% of bathroom tissue in commercial restrooms is made of recycled materials.  But when it comes to home use, American consumers believe softer is better.   We use the recycled products during work hours, but go home believing that “fluffy and soft is better.”   But “better” is also a lot harder on the environment.   

Here’s the bright spot on the horizon.  Kimberly-Clark has agreed to Greenify its practices.  By 2011, 40% of materials used in making their products will be recycled or from sustainable forests.  It’s not perfect, but it’s a sizable step in the right direction.

So the next time you’re in a forest enjoying the view, listening to the birds sing, and pondering the age of that beautiful pine or cottonwood or any other tree next to you, consider whether: would you rather look at that tree or use it in the bathroom?

 Trees, by Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.


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