Eat Sustainably on Earth Day 2009

March 2, 2009

Earth Day 2009, coming up on April 22nd.  Have you thought about your own personal celebration?  Let’s talk about a small, personal way to celebrate it that you can do for a day, a week, or the rest of your life: sustainable food.

You know what that is because we’ve talked about it before.  Sustainable food is food that is grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers and it’s grown locally, as much as possible.

It’s healthy for you and healthier for our environment because frankly, trucking food thousands of miles so that we can all enjoy South American grapes in March is, well, wasteful of natural resources.

It can be tough for some to suddenly switch to sustainable eating.  Mothers with finicky small children want their kids to have the benefits of fresh fruit year-round, in order to become accustomed to a “well-balanced diet.”  And others may have health problems that require them to eat specific foods.

But on Earth Day 2009, if we all pack a lunch instead of going out for fast food, we’ll be healthier.  If we carry that lunch in a reusable insulated bag, maybe the one we keep in the car to bring home groceries instead of using those (indestructible “disposable” plastic bags) to tote it in.  Maybe use some reusable storage containers (we prefer glass, but as long as you’re reusing, we don’t judge!) and bring in something from the local farmers’ market?  You can get fruits, vegetables, breads, cheeses and sometimes meats and fish there, depending on your location.  But check to see what the products’ origins are. 

Greenify your Earth Day celebration with a taste of what the Earth and those who farm it close to you produce.  Celebrate with the abundance of sustainable food.  And if you can celebrate with sustainable food once, maybe you’ll find a way to eat that way more frequently in the future beyond Earth Day 2009.


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.


Greenifying At Your Desk

February 24, 2009

This blog doesn't endorse TV programs or products, but did you see the Academy Awards Sunday night?  Right in the middle of it all was a commercial (or two) for Apple
Computer's new laptop.  It's got a 17 inch screen, gorgeous resolution, is ultra-lightweight and all those other usual super "Apple" technological improvements that we've done to love and expect.
 
But this commercial bragged about something else.  It bragged about the battery.  It seems this battery can be charged to last as much as eight full hours on one plug-in.  And it can be recharged about 1000 times.  The advertisement pointed out that's three times the battery life that one normally gets for the ever-popular laptops that seem to be powering our businesses and lives these days.
 
Now, we're not suggesting that you run right out and buy an Apple 17-inch laptop.  That would be very expensive (Nobody said they were cheap; they start at over $2000 each) and also defeat that wonderful Greenifying aspect of the computer, namely fewer laptops and batteries in our landfills.  No, keep using the one you have until the very end of its life.

It's just nice to see that companies are starting to get it. They get that there's an alternative, Greenifying laptop computer choice out on the market right now.  And chances are, by the time that you are ready to replace or upgrade what you are working with now, all the other computer companies will be offering similar long-lasting chargeables with extra-long battery life, too.  And the prices will probably come down, as well.
 
It's good to see companies offering ways to Greenify businesses.  It's great to see that they understand that being “environmentally sound” is a marketable, advertise-able benefit that will bring in sales.  And it'll be even better when everybody gets in the Greenification game on that aspect of doing business.


Earth Day 2009!

February 19, 2009

Earth Day 2009 is on the very green horizon.  What?  You haven’t even started to plan?  That’s okay because so many others have sprung into action and are ready to help out.

As I looked around the internet for various activities, I went to one of my modern, go-to-cyberplaces to find activites: Facebook.

The best thing about Facebook is that it’s free.  Now that I’ve said that, I want to point out that it can also be incredibly local.  You can start a page on Facebook in just a few minutes and find all kinds of activities for Earth Day. 

If you haven’t done this, you should.  I typed in “Earth Day 2009” and got 228 results. (Probably by the time you read this, there will be more!)  If I add “Los Angeles,” I narrow the field to the activities that might interest me most.  Or if you added New York, Washington, Chicago, Houston or any other location.

What?  You live in a small town and there’s nothing posted?  That’s great!  That means you can start a page for Earth Day in your town and use it to post activities for everyone to see. You can also post your own efforts to Greenify at home and at work.  Swap tips on how to conserve natural resources.  And maybe even start a carpool club. 

All kinds of opportunities to observe Earth Day are out there.  And Facebook isn’t going to be the only place to find them.  Earth Day is what you make it.  Consider that when you’re turning out the light as you leave the room and hanging a new clothes line across your backyard. That’s all it takes to Greenify going into Earth day 2009.


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.


Backyard Greenification is On the Line!

February 2, 2009

As you’re working on Greenifying your home and business, do you think about it as you toss another load of clothes from the washer into the dryer?  You might have to go to the hardware store and special order them, but clothespins and the clothesline used to be the most basic and utilitarian components of a backyard.

When Americans finally got a chicken in every pot and a washer and dryer in every home, clotheslines began to represent poverty. A laundry line in the backyard was the norm in the 1970’s, but in the last 20 years became “just something that the lower classes did.”  Communities outlawed them for the negative connotation that they offered to passersby. 

In doing so, it’s almost impossible to calculate how much energy has been used to dry clothes.  And most of those clothes could have been just easily and far more energy efficiently dried on a clothesline.  Did you know that dryers are by far the most wasteful appliance in the house, gobbling up 6% of your electric bill?

Now, a group calling itself “Project Laundry List” is successfully lobbying state governments to allow you to dry your duds any way you wish. So far, Florida, Utah, and Colorado have all supported "right-to-dry" laws. Change is in the wind, along with a lot more sheets, socks and underwear.

And just so you are aware, here are some clothes-conscious facts. Hanging your clothes on a line to dry is better for them. Colors linger longer, giving your clothes a longer life. The fabric holds up longer--dryer lint, after all, is nothing but a thin layer that has been sheared from your clothes. The high heat of a dryer can also play havoc with the size of your clothes, so that something with a perfect fit comes out misshapen or, worse, six sizes smaller.

So this year’s big push to Greenify might see you looking in grandma’s closet.  Keep searching, because grandma never throws out anything, including her clothespins.


How Green Is My Orange?

January 22, 2009

Have you ever wondered how green your morning glass of orange juice is? Tropicana, owned by PepsiCo, is taking steps to find out and Green the Orange.

Click here to read the story in its entirety from today's New York Times.


At Home with Greenification

January 8, 2009

This blog is being written at the computer of a favorite niece at her home in a small rural town.  My niece and her husband are a struggling young couple with two small children and a desire for her to be able to stay home and raise well-balanced, productive and contributing adults.  I just asked them if they had any plans to Greenify this year?

“Well, we just bought CFL light bulbs and switched those out on all our lamps and fixtures,” said Niece.  Her husband added that he's still focusing his attention on his electric car that he's been alternately building and burning out the engine.  (He's quite handy, and truly the consummate recycler with finding ways to change and reuse different items.)

They aren't a wealthy pair.  He was laid off late last year and fortunately, has since found other employment for some of his graphic arts and animation talent and skills.  But he's still poking around for the “perfect job.”

But they want to keep the beautiful area (adjacent to several national parks) unspoiled and reduce their carbon footprint.  I overheard them discussing the roof they recently had replaced, saying that the old one apparently sealed in the heat much better than its replacement.  The old roof was effectively gathering heat and warming the rest of the house. In order to be energy efficient, it seems they may need to consider adding more insulation.

They are also fortunate that they don't need to drink bottled water.  The area where they live is in a remote and arid part of a western state.  Water bubbles up from natural aquifers, tasting sweet and pure. By drinking it and giving it to their children, they are getting a few natural minerals and the little bit of fluoride (beneficial to their children's teeth) provided by the tiny community in which they live.

It's a good life they have, here in this remote area where neighbors often don't lock doors at night and crime is almost unheard of.   But they are doing what little bits they can to Greenify: light bulbs that consume less energy, an electric car (sometimes!), energy efficiency in heating and air-conditioning, and fresh, good tasting, healthy water from their taps.  It's the little things that make life and Greenification worth doing, don't you agree?


A little Greenification to Get Started

January 7, 2009

2009 may be a tough year to Greenify.  If it's tough for you, as it may be for many businesses during this recessionary economy, consider taking smaller steps towards reducing your carbon footprint.  Using recycled paper is one such area.    

Recycled paper is the end product of paper recycling. The production of recycled paper has significant environmental advantages over virgin (nonrecycled) paper production, including less impact on forest resources, less air pollution, less water pollution, less water consumption, less energy consumption, and less solid waste.  

Recycled paper is produced in most varieties that virgin paper is produced, with quality generally equal to virgin paper. 

But here's the problem: prices for recycled printing and writing papers are generally slightly higher than for virgin printing and writing papers, because of a much smaller economy of scale for recycled paper production. Recycled papers still comprise less than 10 percent of the printing and writing manufacturing and market.

That cost margin can hit a small business like a ton of bricks, weighing down on profits that already may be slipping in the last several months.  What can be done?  Some businesses may want to take smaller steps this year.  And that's an excellent place to begin

If every business would buy and use recycled paper for even a few days or one week per month, the savings in carbon output would help Greenify our planet.  We have to begin somewhere and while a small step may seem insignificant to some, it is not unimportant to the whole of our environment.  You can afford to Greenify, even if only for one day or week.  And our world can't afford not to start someplace.


Less Is More and Much Greener!

January 4, 2009

As we talk about how to best Greenify in the business-place this year, here’s what is likely to be a popular idea: less is more.  Less is greener.  Less generally costs less.  And less may be one of the most commonly heard themes of the coming year.

Most businesses are suffering in the current economic slump.  And perhaps this year, we will learn to equate consuming less with good things. 

Most of us would never think to suggest to our customers that they consume less.  It goes against all our ways of thinking to suggest that we market ourselves to those who use our business by helping them find ways to use less, decrease their carbon footprint, and help Greenify the planet.  But this may be the year to do that.

With the economies around the world in a slump, customers and consumers will be looking for ways to lower their costs.  They’ll search out ways to cut and if you can help them find ways to fall in line with the concept of “sustainable consumption,” as a cost-effective means of taking care of Mother Earth, you may come out ahead.

"By choosing carefully, you can have a positive impact on the environment without significantly compromising your way of life," Joel Makower wrote in his new book, “Strategies for the Green Economy.”

Sustainable consumption is complex and more global than just environmental concerns.  It has to do with the growing appetite in China, India, and other developing countries for cars, appliances, fashions, fast food, and many of the other things accessible to the consumption class.  So how to best discuss with people just getting access to what others take for granted the fact that it may be time to cut back? 

It won't be easy. For better or worse, we live in a commercial world and consumer society. You can see it at work in the webs of commerce whose existence depends on consumers' endless appetite for more, and in the political leaders who promote unsustainable levels of economic growth, often at the expense of ecological and human needs. You can see it at work in our culture of debt and the sad need to “keep up with the Joneses.”

But this is the year to start to get over that need, in favor of marching forward with an economy of style more suited to our current economics and the need to Greenify our lives and our businesses accordingly.


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