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.


How Green is Your Portfolio?

April 6, 2009

We’re not usually “all about the investments” here at Green Business Alliance.  We want to help you Greenify the planet and invest in your life here on it.  But we have a little investment advice for you today.  Some people think we may be about to hit the “Golden Age” of green business.

Why? Look to the leadership in Washington.  The Obama Administration’s increased support of environmental issues backed up by regulatory changes that are already taking shape along with strong green elements in the proposed stimulus make it appear as though the way is clear, lush, and yes, GREEN. 

But that’s also the assessment of results from the latest survey of American investors at Allianz Global Investors, which shows Americans see a "Golden Age" on the way for enviro-investing.

Here are some of the investors’ survey findings: 

• 91 percent believe that resolving environmental problems will be a major issue for years
• 69 percent consider it important to look at investing in companies that capitalize on addressing those problems.
• 78 percent say environmental technology has the potential to be the "next great American industry,"

The survey found that 97% of those questioned think exploring alternative fuel sources remains important despite gas prices going down. 
The poll showed investors are already looking for firms that seek to address environmental issues.  They are looking for ways to pour in dollars to businesses in a more environmentally friendly business climate.

We think it will be a great year to Greenify your business, your life, and maybe even your portfolio. 


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 Water Watch!

April 2, 2009

By now, most of us have switched out the old fashioned fluorescent bulbs in favor of those new, high efficiency light bulbs.  They’re in our offices.  They’re in our homes.  Those bulbs will return the money invested in a mere matter of months and they’re part of our plan to Greenify our businesses in a very cost effective way during this recession, right? 

How about if you take a similar step… in the bathroom?   A similar policy, applied to bathroom faucets will see a return in dollars even faster. 

"The flow rate on most bathroom faucets is 2.2 gallons per minute” says Tommy Linstroth, director of sustainability for Melavar, a sustainable real-estate develop,pment company based in Savannah, GA.  “That’s the same amount of water you use to take a shower. It's a ridiculous and unnecessary overuse."

Melavar is now replacing all of its bathroom faucet aerators -- which control water flow – with versions that flow at a rate of 0.5 gallon per minute, although you can get aerators in a variety of flow rates.  The average aerator will cost $2 to $3 and it gets screwed right on to the faucet, making them as easy to change as a light bulb.

Or, think of it the way Linstroth did. 

"For $3 per faucet, we curtailed our water use by 50 to 75 percent. If every employee washes their hands three times a day, that's a substantial amount of water savings over a year," he says. "This is a no-brainer."

How much money can your company save and how much greener can your company become with just a twist of your wrist?   Think about that the next time your water bill arrives! 


Toweling Off in the Green

March 30, 2009

If you’re a small business owner, trying to do your best to greenify, what’s the right choice for bathroom towels?

Hand towels made of paper always seem like they could be messy, expensive, and require lots of our precious trees in their manufacture.  But many people prefer paper towels because they like to be able to use the towel to open the door and let themselves out without touching the handle. 

At the same time, electricity uses natural resources in its production as well, and it seems to dry people’s skin out, which many people don’t like.  These days, hand dryers do have sensors, so they shut down when they are no longer needed.  But which is the right choice to Greenify?

It may depend on your choice of paper towels and how you handle the refuse. If recycled towels are available, that’s always best.  And if the used towels can be recycled, then that makes things even better.  The carbon footprint of your restroom decreases even more.

But in some areas, it may be difficult to get recycled towels or have the means to recycle the used paper out and away from landfills.  In that case, the right choice may be electric hand dryers.

It’s best to check your own situation and keep in mind how much use your restroom gets during the day.

Sigh.  Some of us remember when all hand towels were recycled.  They were cloth and came on a roller that had to be serviced by a person traveling a route.  Those days are mostly gone, but sometimes it’s fun to remember. 

Just remember to Greenify as best you can and we’ll all think back on these days with a smile. 


Buzz Building for Green Businesses

March 26, 2009

Are you noticing more talk about green business?  More advertisements by large, international companies about "sustainable energy sources," new listings at business conferences for added "green business opportunity panels," and even President Barack Obama on the “Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, talking about electric cars going over 150 miles as Leno smiled and added that he already owns a car that runs on hydrogen, which is "an entirely different technology."
 
These increases in "buzz" about Greenification are a healthy sign for our world.  Our planet is in a state of emergency: we are consuming and polluting at a rate 25% faster than the planet can sustain.  That fact has to change or we and our children are doomed.  We may no longer be able to “buy cheaper from Asian producers” because of the cost in terms of carbon. 
 
In the coming months, we're going to be encouraged to support business within our borders.  And as part of that, I suggest we also look for green businesses that are local and sustainable, too. 

Buying local equals buying greener.  Have you ever thought about the effort needed to get a product made in a small town in rural Georgia to market in Portland, Oregon, for instance?  The product has to be packaged for sale, re-packed for shipping, then put on a truck or train (or both) and then unloaded from that container into a warehouse, re-loaded for shipping to a store before being placed on a shelf.  Isn't there a greener way? 
 
Look around for local producers of products that you buy from remote producers.  Prices are changing because of the recession and things that were once out of consideration may now be priced more attractively.  That would also make a case for them being a lot more planet-friendly.  
 
We have to find a balance between the social and natural systems in a world where people on one land-mass consume resources at 5 or ten times the rate of people in other regions.   We need to Greenify as one world in order to save our one world.  


Green Is the Color of Your Business’ Bottomline!

March 16, 2009

Green is the color of your business’ bottomline… or it ought to be.   Did you know that two-thirds of Americans believe that going green at your business is good business strategy?   More and more frequently, consumers are starting to believe that the environment, ethics, and social stewardship bring increased brand value.

You can see it in the way they spend money: over the past 5 years, the sales of organic and all-natural products have increased 18 to 25 percent, year over year.  And you think about how much more frequently you see consumers in grocery stores with their own reusable grocery bags.  Those bags are popping up everywhere!

Studies also show that 30% of American consumers are willing to pay a premium (up to 20%) on clean, green products over non-sustainable, carbon-sucking alternatives.  The number grows every year. 

If your business is green (or going green), are you alerting customers to that in your marketing?   It’s considered a “growth area” for the advertising and marketing industry, and these days, every little bit helps.  You can post an emblem on your website, add it to your sales slips, put up a sign in the window and again at the check out counter. 

Supporting a green business is important to all of us.  It’s important to consumers.  It’s important to the planet.  It’s important to you and your employees because doing the right thing feels good.  And when adopting environmentally sensitive practices (making efforts to Greenify), or going green feels so right, there will be more businesses and more consuming joining in the effort as we go along.


Used Business Equipment: Go Green

March 11, 2009

 If your business is like most American businesses, you’ve got lots of technology backing it up: computers, fax machines, printers, and other office equipment.  But when those systems fail, maybe it’s time to make those electronics, if you’ll pardon my literary license, ride off greenly into the sunset. 

At the recent Greener Gadgets Conference sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association, keynote speaker Saul Griffith, founder of Low Cost Eyeglasses and Squid Labs said that we “must embrace a culture of maintenance and repair since the throw away option is no longer available.”

Electronics such as computers, telephones, televisions and the like are responsible for both cluttering up our landfills and releasing toxic chemicals into the environment as they slowly breakdown.  How about when it’s time for used electronics and spent computer-related items to go, we send them off in a greener direction. 

For instance:
Cell phones: most cell phone manufacturers have recycle programs.  You can send them back to their makers who will either refurbish and resell them, or use them for spare parts.  You can also donate them to various charities or sell them for a little extra change online.  (If you do this, make sure that you remove all of your data.  We’ve all heard the nightmare stories, haven’t we?)

iPods: return old iPods to the manufacturer.  Apple will refurbish and recycle them or sell them for spare parts.

Computers and printers: return them to manufacturer when you buy the new one.  Many stores have a “trade in” as part of a sales deal to entice you in.  You can also turn them over to schools, charitable groups, libraries or churches. (Just have to make sure to get all the personal information out of the computer before you release it.)

Printer cartridges: *always* get recycled.  Even the small home-use ones are routinely sold with mailing envelopes for recycling.

TV’s: Millions of TV’s will be set out on the curb this year.  The “digital conversion” that has now been delayed to June has inspired many people to get new HDTV’s. Sometimes stores will remove the old set when they bring the new one.  Also because of the HDTV phenomenon, cash value for old tv sets is neglible.  Try freecycle.com. Or again, try the charitable groups and churches. 

You can see your business’ used equipment “go green” this year, with just a little extra effort on your part.


Make It Your Business to Green Your (Air) Space

March 9, 2009

When you arrived at your place of business this morning, did you breathe deep and hope that the air was clean… and green?  What if instead of buying an expensive (and energy consuming) air purification system, you could add plants and get some of the same healthful effects?  You remember from sixth grade science class about how humans breathe oxygen and release carbon dioxide, while plants need carbon dioxide and release oxygen?  If plants are constantly renewing our air, wouldn’t it be great if adding a few living plants could help clean the air at work?

Some scientists say that adding common houseplants can help clean the air at a business or at home.  That’s because many plants function as natural air filters, cleaning contaminants out of indoor air and improving the quality of what you are breathing.

The scientists say that their studies have found that some common plants are effective at removing toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, benzene and other natural pollutants from air, particularly helpful in enclosed areas.  These studies were first reported by NASA over two decades ago. 

Dr. Bill Wolverton, one of the NASA scientists who was involved in the original studies recommends plants like Peace Lily, Areca Palm, Lady Palm, Ficus Alii, and Golden Pathos, because they are easy to take care of and among the most effective at naturally removing pollutants.

And there’s more.  University of Georgia researchers searching for floral purifiers suggest Purple Waffle Plant, English Ivy, Purple Heart, Foxtail Fern, and the Wax Plant. 

When it comes to indoor air purification, can there ever be too much?  The air inside our homes and businesses can be heavily polluted.  Chemicals used to clean offices and businesses can be very harsh; and traffic passing on nearby roads pushes toxic exhaust into our homes as well. 

That's not great news when you consider that we spend about 90 percent of our time indoors.  Maybe it’s time to add a few lush green accents to benefit to our lungs and our businesses. Greenify today for better business!


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