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.

 

 


How Green Is Your Clean?

May 4, 2009

Let's talk about personal hygiene a little here.  Are you cleaning your house at the expense of the environment?  You know you can actually introduce more toxins in while you're trying to rid your house of dirt and germs, but there doesn't have to be a trade off.   You can have a clean house and greenify at the same time.

These days, there are a myriad of products advertising their green cleaning abilities.  Many of these products are non-toxic, biodegradable, and made from renewable resources (not petroleum). But if designer labels aren’t for you, home-mixed cleaners can get the job done and then some.  In fact, distilled white vinegar or baking soda (not necessarily used together) can clean almost anything.  The stringent, grease-cutting of the vinegar or the neutral (but abrasive) power of the baking soda work to fight most household messes.  Mix a little warm water with either (or use that vinegar by itself for the toughest greasiest problems) and you'll have a good all-purpose cleaning agent.

These types of cleaners are especially important in cleaning your fridge.  You want to clean the plastic insulation seals on your refrigerator doors on a fairly regular basis in order to prolong their life and to make sure that they function optimally.  Cleaning them with vinegar insures that any oily food residue is thoroughly removed.  And using plain white vinegar insures that you're not introducing any toxins into the refrigerator where your food is being kept.  Wiping down the rest of the refrigerator's interior with a baking soda solution helps remove any stuck on bits of food and at the same time has a deodorizing effect on the fridge. 

Other non-toxic ingredients you can use to clean your home include glycerin, hydrogen peroxide, vegetable-oil-based soap sometimes referred to as castile soap (Castile soap is found in most health food stores. Dr. Bronner's is a popular brand.) and small amounts of Borax.  

There are a myriad of recipes and ways to use these ingredients found online.  The key thing needed is a commitment that you want to clean your home in a way that is safe for you and the environment. 


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. 


Now that Earth Day Is Over... What Are You Doing?

April 28, 2009

Now that Earth Day is over again for this year, how do we go forward with our resolve to be more protective of our planet and its valuable natural resources?
We've celebrated the planet, now it's time to get serious and Greenify in a meaningful way.
 
Here are some ideas that I had:
 
*Car pool at least one day per week.  This saves on fuel and parking spaces at work.  If you're the boss, lead the way and encourage employees to do it.  Maybe you can start by offering to pick up an employee or two on the way to work at least once a week.
 
*Turn off lights when you leave the room.  Every time.
 
*Use recyclable paper as often as possible.  Yes, it does cost a little more, but it also saves our planet a lot.
 
*Dial down on heat and up on air conditioning.  68 degrees in the winter and 72 degrees in the summer (if not more) can make a huge difference in the company energy bill, too.
 
*Intall timers on restroom lights.  It's a safe bet no one wants to stay in there very long anyway, right? 
 
*Eat lunch at your desk.  Saves money and fuel.
 
*Add plants for decoration and pollution control.  If you have landscaping outdoors, remember to put the watering cycles on timers, too, and water only at night.Conservation is key. 
 
*Encourage others in their to Greenify, as well.  Can we underestimate the power of a good compliment to a fellow businessperson?  If they're weighing the importance of their greenification efforts, it's always good to hear encouraging words.  Plus, it does help make and keep friends.
 
Earth Day only comes once per year, but the goal is to celebrate the importance of our Earth every day and try to keep it a clean, more healthful place to live.


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.  


A Personal Commitment to Greenify: A Life Less Plastic

April 10, 2009

Have you thought about committed you are to a Greener life?  I was reading about various groups and individuals who are trying to make a difference when I spotted one person who is really tackling the idea for herself.  Jeanne Haegele is a 29 year old marketing coordinator in Chicago.  She writes a blog called “Life Less Plastic.”  The blog name tells all, so I emailed her a few questions and this fascinating woman offered these answers:

GBA: Where did you get the idea for your plastic-less blog?

JH: The project was set in motion when a friend of mine in the medical field explained that plastic may have negative health effects.  I started to research about plastic online.  I read that certain plastics may have serious potential for harmful effects and also found that plastic use is having very serious effects on the environment, mostly because plastic really isn't being recycled. After learning this, I became convinced that I wanted to give up plastic.

As I learned more about plastic and how to avoid it, the project became more about the environment.  Americans use 30 million tons of plastic each year, according to the EPA's statistics from 2007.  Very little of that is recycled, mostly because recycling plastic really isn't an economically viable thing to do. 

Giving up plastic became increasingly important for me.  I wanted to protect myself from the chemicals in plastic, yes, but I also wanted to do something to protect the environmental damage created by plastic, a substance that never bio-degrades.

GBA: How successful do you feel have you been and what were the trickiest parts of your efforts to get plastic out of your life and be more environmentally conscious?

JH: After working out lots of strategies to avoid the plastic, I feel like I've been really successful at getting it out of my life.  I barely use any, and I'm really proud of that.  The trickiest part of this whole experiment was just figuring out how to avoid plastic in the first place.  I had to completely revise how I shop.  Instead of buying lots of pre-packaged goods, I now stick to fruits and vegetables and go to stores that sell food from bulk bins.

GBA: Do you feel like you are missing out on anything living without plastic?

JH: The one thing I really miss is cheese.  It's very difficult to find cheese that isn't wrapped in plastic so I don't eat too much of it anymore.

To catch up with Jeanne and get ideas on how to further Greenify your life by eliminating plastic, you can visit her blog.

(LINK: http://lifelessplastic.blogspot.com/ )


A Greener View: Energy Efficient Windows

April 9, 2009

As a home or business owner, this year may be one of the toughest years you’ve ever faced.  You’d like to do something more to Greenify, but how can you spend money that you may need to pay bills and keep the business afloat?
 
You might want to look outside your four walls and consider new windows.
Thanks to the stimulus bill, homeowners can now claim a tax credit of up to $1,500 for new, energy-efficient windows, doors, and skylights.  For businesses, it can be an asset to the business that will be quickly cost effective.  

This website, http://www.efficientwindows.org/ is sponsored by the government to provide information for homeowners who are trying to decide whether they can afford to make this commitment to energy savings this year, in this difficult economy. 
Who wouldn’t like to have fresh new windows to look out of or maybe a skylight overhead that brightens the day and allows you to fully enjoy a pounding rainstorm when it rumbles through? 

Whether we’re talking about adding double paned windows, tinted and treated glass, or skylights that eliminate the need for electrical lighting through a major portion of the day, these windows are increasingly valuable in the workplace and at home. 

The tax credit related to the current stimulus is to cover 30% of the cost of energy efficient windows, doors and skylights purchased and installed in 2009 to 2010.  The maximum amount covered, as previously mentioned, is $1500.  But even without the tax credit, these windows can save their owners hundreds of dollars every year in energy costs, whether it’s on heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer. 

The website’s factsheet contains information and estimates about the cost savings in multiple areas of the country for your convenience.   Another factsheet details how to qualify for the tax credit.

Spending the money and upgrading to new energy efficient windows may also help Greenify the economy, since the stimulus is designed to work better if we all spend a little extra.  Wouldn’t it be great if we spent the money to buy something that could help cut down our carbon footprint and benefit everyone in more ways than one? 


Earth Day 2009: The Green Generation

April 7, 2009

We’re getting closer to Earth Day, 2009.  Now just a few weeks away, are you wondering what more you can do to help your friends and neighbors Greenify and enjoy the day and its significance?

First off, you can start using reusable shopping bags every time.  Get used to having them, using them, and returning them to your car.  Buy sturdy ones.  They’ll last longer and be more earth-friendly.  If you have a business, print your name on them and give them away to the first 100 customers on Earth Day.

Set a good example.  March your recyclables out to the curb in the bright colored bin heaped high.  Experts estimate that Americans recycle somewhere between 32 and 57 percent of refuse.  But recyclables can and should be a higher percentage than the truly un-reusable “garbage” that is going to the landfill these days.  And any cost savings in landfill use is something that comes back to us financially and in terms of our carbon footprint that we’re all being so careful about these days.

Buy more organic and, where possible, homegrown vegetables.  Maybe this is the year that your neighborhood engages in a communal garden?  If there’s a vacant lot, find out who the owner is and ask about putting in a vegetable garden for everyone’s benefit.  The owner will probably ask for a few spare ears of corn and may appreciate the care being given to their land.  Otherwise, parcel out assignments like “tomatoes in one backyard, squash in another, beans in a third neighbor’s back corner.”  You’ll increase neighborliness, cut down pesticide consumption, and maybe even have fun.

Earth Day can and should be a great celebration of something that we all care about.  If you do nothing else, just remind people what a great planet we have to live on and that it does need our care and concern in stewardship of its resources, that’s an Earth Day worthy achievement.


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.


Green Business Alliance - Home Greenify For Better Business - Greenify Now