Green Business Alliance Blog

Green Business Alliance believes in utilizing the power of the Internet to educate on the importance of adopting environmentally sensitive business practices. Our blog is updated frequently with helpful tips for large and small companies and employees. We invite you to visit our blog regularly to gain valuable insights.

Bush’s Greenification Legacy

January 12, 2009

With just days left in his final term, President George Bush is making an effort to Greenify his legacy: he’s designating three remote Pacific Ocean regions as national monuments, thereby establishing the largest marine preserve ever created.

The new Mariana Trench, Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll Marine National Monuments encompass 195,280 square miles of high seas barred from fishing, mining and other uses. 

The Mariana Trench is famous as the world’s deepest canyon at 36,000 feet and the surrounding area will be the largest of the three protected regions at 95,222 square miles.  It’s a natural wonder that most of us will never see, but home to billions upon billions of living organisms.  A chain of 21 underwater volcanoes and vents ring this deepest of all ocean floors.

Endangered birds, sharks, and other marine wildlife live within all of these regions.  The seven-island Pacific Remote Islands monument covers 86,607 square miles while he Rose Atoll is much smaller at 13,451 square miles.  The smaller monument includes the world’s smallest coral atoll which is just 15 acres.  “These locations are truly among the last pristine areas in the marine environment on Earth,” says James Connaughton, head of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality.

The protected area eclipses the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument at 139,797 square miles, designated by President Bush in 2006, and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Reserve at 133,000 square miles.

“Taken together, this president has protected far more of the threatened and vital places in the sea than any other,” says Joshua Reichert of the Pew Environmental Group, which advocates for conservation of ocean areas.  But not everyone favors the plan.

We feel the monument is not based on science and is a feel-good attempt by the administration to leave some sort of legacy on the environment,” says Wayne Heikkila of the Western Fishboat Owners Association, in Redding, CA.

While no one is suggesting that this means the Republican President will go down in history as a “Leader for the Environment,” it seems clear that if more world leaders would attempt to “feel-good” the same way, we’d have more Greenification at an international level, more inspiration to act for the environment by business and individuals, and generally, a world that more of us would feel good about.


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.


Greener Computer Cooling for the Planet; for the Pocketbook

January 5, 2009

Could Greenifying the planet be as simple as using fresh air to cool your data center?  If that statement is true, it may also Greenify your company's bottom line. 

Ok, we're oversimplifying, but improving our environment is a step-by-step process.  Companies that use natural air to cool their facilities often see huge benefits on both the environmental end and the bottom line.  IT experts, analysts and environmentalists say there are plenty of opportunities for tech organizations to create more Earth-friendly operations, cut their energy needs and slash their carbon footprint, all while saving money.

A recent survey of IT executives showed a little reluctance on the part of some leaders. Nearly half (42%) said their IT departments have no plans to launch projects in the next 12 months to reduce energy consumption or carbon emissions, and nearly three quarters reported no plans to create committees to oversee energy-saving initiatives.  Those are delays which may force them to play catch up down the road.

"The green issue is not going to go away. There's too much at stake," says Rakesh Kumar, a Gartner Inc. analyst.

That's not to say IT leaders don't have their reasons for staying away from green computing. Kumar says some of them think it's a fad. And others, even among the educated and informed, believe global warming is a hoax and that there's no need to act on the issue, or they see green as merely increasing expenses.  It's time for those ideas to be updated along with energy usage patterns.

Increasingly, however, IT leaders and other executives are putting aside such concerns and pushing for green IT initiatives.

In the September 2008 "U.S. Green IT Survey" by IDC, the market research firm, 44% of the respondents said that IT plays a very important role in their organizations' efforts to reduce their environmental impact.  That number is up from the previous year's survey, in which only 14% of CEOs said they felt such concerns.

This year, however, another factor is in play.  The 2008 survey shows the high cost of energy is among the most pressing reason for changing how data centers and computers are cooled.

"We don't see many or indeed any companies that are hesitant to explore green IT projects," IDC analyst Vernon Turner wrote in an e-mail on this topic. "In fact, the scary thing is where to start, and it may be that reason why there is somewhat a feeling of lost souls. There has been a lot of marketing by the IT vendor community around green, and I think that CEOs and CIOs are 'green-washed' by it."

Cooling computers and other data and tech apparatus using natural air is earth-friendly as well as pocketbook friendly; two areas where expertise combines to be extra important in this New Year.


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.


The Greenification of the White House

January 2, 2009

What can we expect from the new Obama administration going into the White House?  What will the Obama Presidency mean for businesses trying to become more green?  If it’s any consolation to us, this should be a banner set of years for businesses hoping to Greenify as the Democratic President is expected to put forward numerous proposals that will forward environmental causes such as mitigating global warming, promotion of “green” industries and alternative energy, while cracking down on toxic chemicals in our environment. 

So far, President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Lisa Jackson as his nominee to head the EPA.  The nominee is said to be tough on enforcement of laws and regulation.  Jackson ran New Jersey's state environmental agency before becoming the chief of staff for the governor in the Garden State.  Before that, she was at the EPA for 16 years in Washington, D.C., and New York. Under Obama, she would be part of a three-person team that would oversee environmental policy.

The other two serving with her are Carol Browner, who directed the EPA under the Clinton administration and would oversee climate-change policy out of Obama's White House; and Nancy Sutley, a deputy Los Angeles mayor who would run the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Obama has chosen Steven Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to be his energy secretary, and Rep. Hilda L. Solis, a California Democrat, to become labor secretary, charged with enforcing workplace safety laws, among other duties.

Many Washington insiders are noticing that numerous of these positions are being filled by Californians, giving the state a hefty chunk of influence.  Starting in the 1970s, when it became the first state to establish its own auto emissions standards under the federal Clean Air Act, California has been considered a trendsetter.

After the state banned a class of chemicals, phthalates, from children's products last year, 12 states introduced similar bans.

The California ban on phthalates inspired Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to successfully push for a federal prohibition, which takes effect in February. It is a rarity -- the first time Congress has banned a chemical in decades -- and it faced stiff and well-financed opposition from Exxon Mobil, which makes one of the banned chemicals.

Roger Martella, a former EPA general counsel who is an attorney for many corporations affected by environmental regulation, says the strength of democrats in Congress, along with the new administration coming in could see  an era of significant new government action.

"Whether at the end of the day every policy that California has gets implemented on a national level is a matter for debate," Martella said. "At the same time, we'd be foolish to ignore those stars that are lining up."

Which may mean more inspiration, motivation and legislation to help businesses Greenify as the new administration puts its policies in place.


Recycling Christmas (Trees!)

January 1, 2009

Christmas 2008 is now past; the Happy New Year of 2009 Greenifying your business lies ahead.  That may mean that Job One at the top of this (usually quiet) week's list is disposing of the holiday tree.  And your options can be very green, indeed!  Recycling, or treecycling, is easy and convenient, whether you are taking down your business or home tree; work in an industrial park or strip mall; live in a house with curbside yard waste collection service or a multi-tenant building.

Last year, recyclers kept over 800 tons of Christmas trees out of landfills, and this year, with many convenient options, even more could be collected. 

Christmas trees are recycled by being ground up in huge tub grinders.  The resulting material becomes mulch and compost. Because recycled trees are generally put to use in making landscaping and garden products, flocked trees can not be recycled. Some of the ingredients used to flock the tree can harm the quality of compost. Also, before recycling your tree, remove tinsel, lights, ornaments, rod supports, and the stand.

And do be considerate of recyclers.  The grinders that turn trees into mulch are powerful, heavy machines, but even they have their limits.  Their huge jaws pulverize branches and even some stumps, but they can be choked by items like metal Christmas tree stands. Metal Christmas tree stands or rebar remaining in tree trunks can jam grinders, stall engines, break off grinder teeth, or fly out of grinders which poses a threat to workers.  Make sure you provide the cleanest, most natural tree possible for pick-up by recyclers.

You'll also need to check with your local community for information about recycling trees.  Some cities provide pick-up for businesses, but not all.  And various trash haulers have different requirements for the proper way to recycle trees to ensure smooth loading and increase available space in collection trucks. For example, some cities ask residents not to put Christmas trees in yard waste containers. Instead, they want residents to cut in half any trees longer than 6 feet, and place the trees next to refuse and recycling bins.

Most local governments and their trash disposal services want to help residential and commercial clients to recycle their trees.  It does help maximize space in the landfill, and provide valuable mulching materials that help Greenify homes and businesses far into the year 2009 and beyond.


Ready to Kick it Up a Notch on Greenifying?

December 28, 2008

Are you already a concerned Greenifying business owner who wants the company to be more environmentally friendly?  You’ve already put in the energy saving fluorescent bulbs and reset the thermostat to save money.  Now let’s go a little further in your commitment to the planet.

Check your carbon footprint.  There is many more ways to reduce your household carbon emissions. Find out more about your emissions and where you can best reduce them by using an online “carbon calculator.”  A list of those is found on the website of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Look into ride sharing or mass transit.  Over a quarter of the vehicle-miles travelled by households are for commuting to and from work – usually with one person in the vehicle. If business owners lead the way and encourage employees to follow, carpooling and mass transit could offer a huge reduction in carbon emissions. 

Plan and combine trips, too.  And talk to your employees about this.  Many times, an employee thinks “Oh, it’s just the boss’ vehicle.”  Remind them that in a recessionary economy, the money they save may provide their paycheck in the future.  And if they do combine and plan their trips better, they’ll help Greenify, as well.

Switch to green-power, too.  Contact your electricity provider to find out about the green power options available to you.  Many areas offer these services, and sometimes, all you have to do is check.

A more long term commitment to lowering the carbon footprint is a commitment to being in business a lot longer.


Trees: Greenifying the Old Fashioned Way

December 24, 2008

Have you planted a tree recently?  I ask with good reason.  Trees are one of our most important natural resources.  They provide shade, fruit and seed and oxygen regeneration services for all of us.  They are great places for birds to live and for people to sit under on a hot day.  And they are just plain beautiful.

“I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.”  Those words were written over 100 years ago by Alfred Joyce Kilmer and they’ve never been forgotten.  Trees are truly lovely.

They are graceful in the summer as they sway in the breeze.  They are colorful as cooler temperature turns their leaves different shades of red and gold and everything in between. They are austere and dignified in winter as the snow falls on their stark empty branches.  And they are the first sign of spring, popping back to life with little bits of green with just the smallest bits of inspiration from a passing warm breeze.

In addition, trees can help lower your heating and cooling bills at home and the office.  By providing shade in the summer and a barrier against winds in the winter, they soften your carbon footprint. “If you plant a tree today on the west side of your home, in 5 years your energy bills should be 3% less,” says Dr. E. Greg McPherson, Center for Urban Forest Research. “In 15 years the savings will be nearly 12%."   They also add between $1000 and $10,000 in value to any property.

Trees are wonderful and needed everywhere.  Add a tree to the front of your business and it instantly signifies a more friendly atmosphere to customers.  It says “we are settled here” and in business to stay.  And it says that your business is concerned about the environment and making a contribution to a better planet. 

Trees are wonderful ways to Greenify the planet, your business, your home, the air and the view immediately before us.  They are contributing members of our earth and should be valued and taken care of as such.  Trees are one of the easiest and most wonderful ways to Greenify a business or home.


Make It Your Business to Greenify!

December 23, 2008

If we all resolve to work just a little harder in the coming year, we can see substantial movement towards a greener future.  Carrying that attitude from home to your place of business will compound the benefits.

But let’s look at the numbers on those annual resolutions:

  • 100 million: Number of people who make New Year's resolutions.
  • 80 million: Number of people who don't stick with their resolutions.

One in five people who make resolutions don’t keep them? Perhaps that’s because they have unrealistic ideas about what they are really going to be able to do.   So let’s look for small starts to a Greenified way to do business.

Start by checking your lights around the office.  Identify frequently used light fixtures that use incandescent bulbs; order fluorescent replacements bulbs.  You may think you need to do this over the course of time, but the longer you wait, the longer you pay higher utility bills.

Check the temperature on your water-heater.  Many businesses only offer cold water in their restrooms.  (In addition, they often provide lotion, because cold water and soap can have nasty effects on hands.)  At the very least, you’ll want to reduce the setting to 120°F (typically the “warm” setting; or halfway between the low and medium settings), if it is not already set to that temperature.

During the heating season, check the thermostat.  You may wish to set the thermostat lower, especially at night or when rooms are unoccupied. During the cooling season, set the temperatures higher. If you have a programmable thermostat you can automate the daily settings.

Switch off TVs, computers, lights, etc. that are not being used and unplug items on “standby” (that use electricity even when not being used) , including TVs, video and audio systems, computers, and chargers (for cell-phones and other electronic equipment).

These simple steps can save money and make your business a greener place to be in 2009.


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