College Cafeteria Food: All You Can Carry

September 28, 2009

As the classes begin on campuses around the country, some students are Greenifying without even knowing it.  In campus dining halls, the latest trend is to eliminate cafeteria trays.

You remember lunchroom trays.  They’re usually made of hard plastic in some nondescript color that resembles latte, toothpaste, or a red apple.  You can pile on a plate or two, plus a couple of side dishes, salad, a bread plate, dessert, a beverage and a glass of water with room leftover for flatware.  They are the stuff that the “freshman 10 pounds” is built upon.  They are also wasteful of resources.

The trays allow meals selections to be stacked up, to be sure, but it also is made entirely of plastic, generally is not recycled, and uses up valuable resources in cleaning and storing the trays.  So why not get rid of them?  Why not have “our finest students” learn to carry their food back and forth to the table?

It seems that a good number of the nation’s higher education institutions are in agreement.  Aramark Higher Education estimates that 60% of the 600 campuses it serves are trayless; Sodexo Inc., which works at a similar number of schools says 40% of its clients are making the change.

There have been a few complaints.  Northern Michigan University students grumbled so steadily about the prospect of having to carry their food that the plan was scuttled. 

Lots of schools have “all you can eat” meal plans for students.  The tray-less schools generally continue those plans, but the students occasionally have to make a second trip.  That alone has apparently saved some cafeteria in terms of waste and cost.  The University of California at Santa Cruz last year saved $100,000 in lower board costs. 

Another excellent result: in a country with more than 60% of its population struggling with being overweight, lower consumption is to be encouraged.  

Then there’s the cost of cleaning and sanitizing them.  Surely the cost of a commercial dishwasher filled several dozen times daily with cafeteria trays, compiled over the weeks and months of a school semester could be money better spent on holding tuition costs down.

With both sides benefitting, plus an environmental dividend, can there be any doubt of why Greenifying one cafeteria tray-load at a time is the right thing to do?


Winterize at Home and Work – Part 2

September 22, 2009

We’re continuing with a list of tips on winterizing at home and office.  It’s that time of year, when the season changes, the temperatures fall, and if we focus a little effort, we can save energy, shrink our carbon footprint and lower costs in the coming months. 

6) Check Foundations

• Clear all debris and edible vegetation from the foundation.
• Seal up entry points to keep small animals from crawling under the house.
• Seal foundation cracks. Mice can slip through space as small as a dime.  (If you’d like to try it on your own, I found a “how to” link...click here)
• Inspect sill plates for dry rot or pest infestation.

7) Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

• Change smoke detector batteries when daylight savings ends.
• Install a carbon monoxide detector near your furnace and / or water heater.
• Test both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
• Buy a fire extinguisher or replace any extinguisher older than 10 years.

8) Prevent Plumbing Freezes

• Drain all garden hoses.  Put them out of reach of the elements. 
• Insulate exposed plumbing pipes.
• Locate your water main in the event you need to shut it off in an emergency.
• Drain air conditioner pipes and, if your AC has a water shut-off valve, turn it off.
• If you go on vacation, leave the heat on, set at least 55 degrees.

9) Prepare Landscaping & Outdoor Surfaces

• Trim trees if branches hang too close to the house or electrical wires.
• Seal driveways, brick patios and wood decks.
• Move sensitive potted plants indoors or to a sheltered area.

10) Prepare an Emergency Kit

• Find the phone numbers for your utility companies and tape them near your phone or inside the phone book.
• Buy indoor candles and matches / lighter for use during a power shortage.
• Keep your freezer as full as possible. If the power goes out, food will stay frozen much longer in a full freezer.  Add bottles of water, if necessary.  A full fridge and freezer also use less electricity to operate.
• Store extra bottled water and non-perishable food supplies (including pet food, if you have a pet), blankets and a first-aid kit in a dry and easy-to-access location.
• Prepare an evacuation plan in the event of an emergency.


Winterize and Greenify – Part 1

September 21, 2009

If the cooler temperatures haven’t hit where you live, they cannot be far off.  It’s time to winterize at home and work. I thought we could use a few reminders.  Here are the first five (of ten) winterizing tips:

1) Furnace Inspection

· Call a HVAC professional to inspect your furnace and clean ducts.  Let a professional do this for maximum energy efficiency.
· Stock up on furnace filters and change them monthly.
· Consider switching out your thermostat for a programmable thermostat.  This is easily done and can save impressive amounts of energy and money. 
· If your home is heated by a hot-water radiator, bleed the valves by opening them slightly and when water appears, close them.  If the heater was installed before 2004, you may want to install an insulating jacket on the heater for greater savings.
· Remove all flammable material from the area surrounding your furnace.

2) Prepare the Fireplace

· Cap or screen the top of the chimney to keep out rodents and birds.
· If the chimney hasn't been cleaned for a while, call a chimney sweep to remove soot and creosote.
· Inspect the fireplace damper for proper opening and closing.
· Buy firewood or chop wood. Store it in a dry place away from the exterior of your home.

3) Check the Exterior, Doors and Windows

· Inspect exterior for cracks and exposed entry points around pipes; seal them.
· Caulk windows and use weatherstripping around doors.
· Replace any cracked or broken windows, prime and paint exposed wood. 
· If your home has a basement, consider adding protective shields over window wells. 
· Switch out summer screens with glass replacements from storage. If you have storm windows, install them.

4) Inspect Roof, Gutters & Downspouts

· If your winters include temperatures below 32 degrees, adding extra insulation to the attic will prevent warm air from creeping to your roof and causing ice dams.
· Check flashing to ensure water cannot enter the home.
· Replace worn roof shingles or tiles.
· Clean out the gutters and use a hose to spray water down the downspouts to clear away debris.
· Install leaf guards on the gutters and extensions on the downspouts to direct water away from the house.

5) Service Weather-Specific Equipment

· Service or tune-up snow blowers.
· Sharpen ice choppers and buy bags of ice-melt / sand. 
· Replace worn rakes and snow shovels.
· Clean, dry and store summer gardening equipment.
· Drain gas from lawnmowers.

We’ll be back with more tips for winterizing soon.  Until then, enjoy the remnants of nature’s green efforts outside for as long as possible.  (to be continued)


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?


The High Carbon Cost of Kids

August 31, 2009

Want to cut your carbon footprint? Don't have any kids. No, of course we're not serious. If nobody had any children, life would come to a stop and who knows when the next Albert Einstein, Ralph Waldo Emerson or Anne Frank will be born? But I thought we'd take a look at a few of the effects of having a child around the world. A new study from Oregon State University outlines the high carbon cost of having children.
 
The average American woman who has a baby generates a carbon footprint seven times that of a similar age and sized Chinese woman who has a child. Why? Well, the obvious idea is that the average American woman gives birth in a hospital, surrounded by half a dozen doctors, nurses, aides and other support staff, while the average Chinese woman has her child in humbler circumstances, perhaps with a midwife or a family member by her side.

But the reality is that the estimate is based on how many children the American woman is likely to have: at least two. And each of those children are also likely to have offspring. And so on. And so on.

Even if our American parent does his/her best to Greenify by driving a smaller car, carpooling, recycles, and replaces all her appliances with energy efficient models, when she has two children, the researchers found, her carbon legacy eventually rises to nearly 40 times what she had saved by those actions.

"In discussions about climate change, we tend to focus on the carbon emissions of an individual over his or her lifetime," said Paul Murtaugh, a professor of statistics at O.S.U., in a statement accompanying the study’s release. "Those are important issues and it’s essential that they should be considered. But an added challenge facing us is continuing population growth and increasing global consumption of resources."

When you consider how many stuffed bears and tigers each child needs and the usage of disposable diapers and infant formula as opposed to breast feeding (which is unquestionably the better option for both environment, mother and child but far more frequently done in foreign countries than in the United States) the numbers climb even more.

There are some things we can change. We can put in energy efficient lightbulbs. We can drink tap water and carpool and buy papertowels made from recycled paper. We can learn to plan our meals and budget our trips in the car and go back to renting movies that we'll only watch a couple of times anyway. And we should, right?

But we're going to keep having children, aren't we? Because otherwise, who are we Greenifying for?


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.


Greenifying from Coast to Coast

July 6, 2009

I have been shopping for home goods lately, and am greatly impressed by the moves that have been made in the “green housewares” market.  I am in the process of setting up a new home, far from where I used to live.  At times, I wonder what would shrink my carbon footprint most: to move my housewares (currently in storage on one coast) to the other coast where I have moved myself; or to simply donate them to the local mission and start anew at my latest residence.

So here I am: going from store to store, looking at things that I have previously purchased and now see new and much more sustainably manufactured.

Cutting boards are made of bamboo; so are bookcases.  I love the look of bamboo, but even more do I love the sustainability. Bamboo is a wood that grows straight up and increases in size at an astronomical rate. It has a clean look about it that I am reassured by research on the internet is absolutely accurate: it is cleanly grown and produced, sustainable, and an ecologically sound choice.

I’ve also seen lamps that are now being sold with the new CFL light bulbs already in them.  Compact fluorescent light bulbs produce so much light using so little energy that it’s a delight to see them in stores.

I’m also going to need a new printer on this side of the country.  I want to purchase a small one, since I truly hope to move my old (still very serviceable) printer/scanner/fax/copier to this side of the country and continue using it.  I hope to be able to use that machine for a full 10 years before I even consider replacing it.  It’s halfway there now and I appreciate it more every day I am without it, so I will consider buying a smaller printer, utilizing a print shop for other services, and giving the smaller printer to a relative when the larger, older one arrives.

I’m fascinated by all the aspects of a green household that I’m finding in stores.  It seems my choices are greater than ever.  I hope you’re spotting (and plotting!) the ways to Greenify your own household. If you’ve got a tip, please email it to us (info@greenbusinessalliance.com) so that we can all share the knowledge and grow greener together.


The Tale of a Greener Fish

June 26, 2009

Remember a few years back when we were all told we had to stop eating Orange Roughy or we might just run out. Permanently. You remember that, right? We all pitched in and started eating farmed salmon and catfish and a few other things to take the pressure off of fishermen and fishmongers to meet our demand.

Now a website is going to offer advice on which fish has a lower "carbon footprint," or perhaps more accurately, less swishy tail.

If someone asked you which fish of two fish, for instance a yellowfin tuna or a barramundi has a smaller carbon footprint could you tell them? Probably not. And neither could most professional chefs or restaurateurs. It's a hard question to answer, but now a Washington, DC based seafood distributor will unveil a rating system to helps chef compare the environmental impacts of various types of edible fish.

The "Carbon Fishprint" rating system is based on how much energy use and any other carbon-footprint factors were involved in producing the fish and getting it on the table.

Think about the possibilities: you are getting ready to go out for a nice, healthy fish dinner, and when you get there, your chef has chosen two or three fresh "catch of the day" fish selections specially selected for their sustainability and prepared to the highest standards possible. Wouldn't you feel better about eating that?

This is of course, just one more example of green marketing and what the color green can draw in. The studies have shown that environmental friendliness is a selling point that consumers are attracted to and that they are willing to pay a higher, premium price for goods that are organic, use less energy, are sustainably produced and otherwise more environmentally friendly.

By the way, the barramundi has the lower "Carbon Fishprint," rated at just 15, while the yellowfish has a "Carbon Fishprint," more than double at 40. You may want to order the yellowfin at your favor sushi bar a little more sparingly. You can visit ProFish's "Carbon Fishprint" on their website.


Need New Light Bulbs? Get CFLs!

June 18, 2009

When you arrived at work this morning and flipped on the light, which kind of bulb as it?  A lovely, energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulb or “CFL?”  Or was it one of those round, older, energy-sucking incandescent light bulbs?

I hope it was one of the newer ones for your sake as well as for the rest of us. I was reading online this weekend when I saw the most amazing and horrifying statistic: only 20 percent of light bulbs being purchased are the new style that save as much as 75% less energy and last ten times longer than the old style bulbs.

Wow, I thought, who is buying those energy-thieving bulbs?  Who is cheating themselves and writing a carbon-creating check that our earth can not continue to pay?  I don’t know.  I just can’t imagine.

Energy saving compact fluorescent light bulbs will pay for themselves within one year of their purchase, according to most experts.  They do cost a little more, but the savings realized both for the buyer and in terms of lessening the carbon footprint caused by all of us is so great that we can no longer afford not to buy them.

For the last 6 to 12 months as this recession has unfolded, I have thought perhaps the bulbs weren’t being used as often as possible because of hard economic times.  I mean, if you’re having a hard time making this month’s payroll, you can’t expect to “reap the financial reward” of a light bulb paying for itself in a year if your company goes under in that time.  So I understand not replacing old, still operating bulbs for many companies. 

And its hard for me to suggest getting rid of something before its time.  Before it’s fully used up or broken.  I hate the wastefulness of doing that.  But it’s time to get rid of those old light bulbs.  Maybe for some struggling businesses, that switch should wait. 

Homeowners, though, are another story.  I was at the home of some financially strapped friends last week.  They have lost their home and are suffering through bankruptcy at the moment.  But every one of their light bulbs is a CFL bulb.  They are cutting their costs as quickly as possible. They are working on it.

So if you can possibly afford to replace those old incandescent bulbs, get on it.  Go get those bulbs.  They will pay for themselves.  Because 20% is just not enough.  We need to start flipping that number around, so that 80% of light bulbs sold are CFL and 20% are incandescent bulbs.  And then 15%.  And then 10%.  And then… we’ll find that CFL bulbs have shown the way to Greenification.


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.


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