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.

Recycling Gallon Jugs

May 25, 2010

Has there every been anything as easily recycled as a gallon jug?  Seriously, think of all the different ways you know to recycle a plastic gallon jug.

When I was a kid, we didn't get milk in gallons.  My parents were health conscious and they bought powdered milk in square cardboard boxes.  The plastic gallon containers were, therefore, somewhat rare and sought after at their farm in the western United States.

If a plastic gallon jug did somehow manage to arrive at my parents' house, it circled the farm two or three times before leaving the property for the landfill in the back of my Dad's old truck.  Here's a few of the things that we used them for then and now.

Outdoors:
Refilled with more water to carry in a vehicle
Cut-off tops put over newly planted seedlings to offer “mini-greenhouse”
Cut-off bottoms used to carry water to those new seedlings
Bottoms used to line hanging planters to keep water in

Indoors:
Jugs recycled to hold fruit punch for kids going on picnics
Jugs used to hold portion of laundry detergent for convenience
Jugs used to hold rice, beans or other dry foods that need protection from pantry pests
Cut off the top and use it to hold kitchen implements, sewing accessories, craft supplies, crayons, etc.
Cut a hole in the bottom and make into a bird house
Cut hole in the side and tuck in skein of yarn, pull the end of the skein through the pour spout

I'm sure you have more ideas on this at your house, so please fill us all in on the comment section below.  If we all combine our efforts to Greenify, we'll get many more uses from our household plastics before they go off to be recycled into new goods.


Greenifying Gadgetry: iPad?

May 20, 2010

I am not a fan of buying the latest gadgets.  I'm writing this on a laptop given to me by a former boyfriend and it was four years old when I got it.  I've had it for two years and earlier this year, I replaced the hard drive.  I think I can safely say that I'm a “use it up, wear it out, make do or do without” kind of girl. I try to recycle and repurpose everything that I can.

So when I saw that a television station in Albany, Georgia was buying Apple iPad computers for some of its news team, I was a little skeptical.  But I want to examine what's going on there.

The average television station can run through a case of printer paper in almost no time.  Their reporters do background research, run off copies of stories on the Internet, get the latest newswires printed out on the run and write their scripts before printing them out to discuss with the editors. 

Their producers write their entire shows on computer and then have to flip a switch and print it out in multiple (usually about seven?) color-coded copies to disperse to directors, anchors, audio technicians and occasionally, their legal department.  These are not people who have ever concerned themselves with saving a tree by sharing a page or two.

So when I saw that Barrington Broadcasting's WFXL in Albany bought iPads for their anchors and producers, I was intrigued.  The company says the motive is economy, both financially and environmentally.

"By using the iPad, we're saving hundreds of thousands of sheets of paper annually," says News Director Terry Graham, who also anchors the news at 6:30 and 10 p.m. at the Fox affiliate. "Our projected savings per month are $800, or about $9,600 per year."

WFXL bought six entry level iPads for $499 each.  Instead of printing out the scripts, they email the final script to each of the anchors who use their scripts, now digitized in front of them, primarily as a reference tool, anyway.  The savings are covering the costs.  And the thinking  is well “outside the box.” 

Most companies wouldn't have said that an iPad was an economic advantage that could be worked into their budget, but Barrington's Albany news team has found a way to lead in the environment, financially and also electronically.  They're making an effort to Greenify all the way to the bank.


What Can We Learn from the Gulf Spill?

May 19, 2010

For the past three weeks, oil has been gushing out of a broken oil well at the bottom of the sea floor in the Gulf of Mexico.  Thousands upon thousands of barrels of oil have poured out of that un-capped well after an explosion that killed as many as a dozen and ultimately sank the Transocean Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig owned by BP Oil Company. 

BP has promised to clean up the disaster, paying all costs and associated “legitimate” claims related to the loss, including over and above the $75 million liability limit imposed by U.S. law.  Members of Congress are already demanding confirmation of those promises, saying the American public has a right to know that the oil company will take care of this.

The oil company has now tried and failed at a couple of efforts to contain and manage the disaster.  They tried to lower a dome over the spill to stop the oil from spreading.  That failed when something like ice crystals formed as the boom was lowered towards the seabed.

They have tried to use booms to contain the spill and keep it from approaching the coastlines.  But tar balls are now showing up on beach areas off the coast of Alabama and other southeast United States locations.  Marine life is also being affected and we all know what that means: death and disease among vulnerable wildlife populations that have been coddled and cared for and lovingly protected from environmental abuse for decades are now at risk.

This past weekend, the oil company also attempted to attach another pipe to the free-flowing well at the bottom of the gulf.  They attempted on Saturday, but there was a shift in the platform beneath the water (at the exterior exit of the well) and they failed. 

There was word on Sunday that BP's efforts have succeeded: this will not cap the well, nor completely stop the leaking.  But it will siphon off a sizable percentage of the oil to a waiting vessel at the surface of the water, allowing the oil company to deal with that oil instead of spreading it on the water.  It's a small bit of good news, but it is all we have.

In the coming weeks, the oil company will probably be drilling a second well and while simultaneously attempting to cap the first one.  The cleanup has to get underway full swing.  The destruction of native habitats of sea life is going to continue and we're all going to want to go down to the Gulf, gather a few of these beautiful wild things and take them home.  We won't be able to, but we'll wish to take them home, clean their wings (and other parts) and nurture them back to health.

What we're learning in this scenario is that “worst case” can happen.  It can be horrifying and that writing a law that says “oh, yes, come drill in the healthy waters off our coast and if something bad happens, we'll only charge you XX dollars out of XXX,XXX,XXX dollars.”  That's what it's going to cost to clean up this mess.  That's the cost and threat of doing business with a high carbon footprint industry.  Because eventually, when they get this all cleaned up, we're still going to smell the oil in the air.  And it won't be pretty again, potentially for decades to come.


More Green Business Ideas

May 13, 2010

With the economy now in recovery, we hope your business is “greenifying” in more ways than one.  Spring is a good time to grow and this year in particular, it's nice to see the business environment a little more lively as well.

So if you are just out of college and looking for work this summer, you still may be having a tough time.  I thought we'd offer a few more green business ideas for the beginner or someone who'd like a new start.

First off, a solar oven bakery.  Can you build commercial size solar ovens or even hybrids that can run on solar heat on sunny days and switched to electric on cloudy days?  We're thinking that putting the idea out there could make it a big seller for someone.

Urban forests.  What about if you spent your summer helping to increase oxygen levels, reduce CO2 and reintroduce wild life to urban areas?   You might find city dwellers going a little more wild for their urban lifestyles, too.

Golf course design and irrigation.   I know that golfers love their greens, but is there a rule about only playing where the water is wasted?  Golf courses are among the worst water-wasters in California, Nevada and Arizona.  Golf courses need some reworking to make them eco-friendly.  And if you start now, you may be done in time to play a few holes yourself.

Eco-friendly tires.  Is there a solution for tire pollution problems?  Is there anyone who doesn't grit their teeth and try to go around a shredded tire on the interstate?  Even worse, have you ever seen such black, nasty smoke as happens when a pile of used tires takes flame?  There must be a better solution and whether it's finding a more ecologically sound material to make tires out of, or finding ways to recycle them, we need to get on this one now.

And last but not least today, solar roofing for parking lots.  With the hot weather on the way, you have to think twice about where you're parking. Perhaps the roof above could be used to power what's down below, providing energy to operate businesses and homes?  

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking because there's always room for more when it comes to taking steps to Greenify.


Recyling Electronics: Pro or Con?

May 11, 2010

Do you recycle your electronics?  I only ask because it's one of those “in things to do” that perhaps ought to be out. 

I'm not talking about when you repurpose your old cell phone and give it to your 12 year old daughter.  I think it's great to carefully remove all names and numbers and gift the phone to a new user.  (Whether  your 12 year old should have her own cell phone is another discussion and I would like to carefully step aside from leading that one.)  That type of recycling is great!

And I'm not thinking of printer cartridges, either. I happen to love those little green envelopes that allow me to send the cartridges back to the manufacturer where they are dutifully reworked for reuse.  I  think that's my favorite kind of delivery!

But what about those old computer monitors, CPU's and other hardware that were used for a few years and then updated out the backdoor.  Do you recycle those?  Are you recycling those?  If you are, the outcome might not be quite as good as you think it is.

First off, where are those goods going?  A recent “60 Minutes” segment exposed the ugly truth that some supposed “green recyclers” aren't so green.  They are merely accepting the materials for recycling, packing them up and shipping them off to another country where the hazardous materials inside our former computer monitors, CPUs and other peripheral materials are contaminating those countries' landfills and putting their people at risk. 

Lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium and polyvinyl chlorides.  Those are some of the toxic materials that we're shipping overseas.  We're taking our toxic carbon footprint and making it bigger by sending it abroad to someone else's “backyard.”

And when we don't ship them abroad, we offer the work of dissembling them to people that often aren't in a position to say no.  Prison recycling workers have been found to be exposed to that very same list of chemicals by dissembling computers in prison work areas.

The next time you get a new computer and start to think about what to do with the old one, ask your recycler a few questions about what's going to happen to those old parts. 

But do start with yourself: have you used this item fully?  Have you completely used it up or are you perhaps just wanting the latest model?  Right now, most of us can't afford the extra cash for the luxury of “the latest gadget,” but our planet can never afford the extra carbon without a fight. 


Greenify Your Dinner Plate

May 6, 2010

I love to eat sustainably.  I don't always achieve it, but I love to do it when I can.  I thought I might share a few of my thoughts about sustainable, green, locavore eating. 

First off, it's hard to do.  I'm not really interested in eating only cabbage, winter squash, increasingly mealy apples and root vegetables during winter, so I don't succeed in this area.  I love a big pile of fresh spring greens for dinner, topped off by something just interesting enough to keep my taste buds going.

But this year, I'm going to do the CSA thing.  We've talked about this before: Community Supported Agriculture.  It's where you buy a share of the produce from a farm, paying perhaps a little more than you might at a grocery store, but helping support local farmers, cut food transportation costs and of course, getting access to a ton of great local produce.  That said, I can't quite buy into the full season crop.  Here's why: I live by myself and I can't eat $800 worth of fresh produce that fast. 

I have figured out how I can do my part.  I found a local farm that produces organic produce and fruits for CSA share-buyers, but also allows people (such as myself) to come out and work on the farm, then take home part of the crop.  I actually like this idea a lot more than just “go pick up the vegetables from the CSA” (although that's pretty great!) because it allows me to enjoy the feeling of participating in actually growing the vegetables.  I could also just buy them when I want, but wouldn't that be boring?

For the last several summers, I have also grown a few herbs in some pots.  I like a big, round, terracotta pot.  I prefer it be “self-watering” just in case I have to run out of town at the last minute.  I like to grow pots of basil, chives (more like a mini-forest!), rosemary and mint. 

And this year, I'm also looking into a new crop in my urban mini-farm adventures.  I'm considering growing some mushrooms.  There are kits sold online for several different varieties.  I wanted to try growing some Shitakes and some Chantarelles.   Some of the spores take over a year to get thoroughly into the wood.  But the more I thought about it, the more fun it seemed.  Rather like a return to my third grade science class.

“Fungi, anyone?”

I'm even considering whether I could grow them for a few local restaurants, as a side business. Sort of the “greenification” of spores. 

Ahhh!  It's all too delicious.  Maybe you'll try growing your own edibles this summer, too.


The Gulf of Mexico Mess

May 4, 2010

I'm a little bit down right now about this whole Gulf of Mexico oil well thing.  I know you probably are, too.

I've always wondered what being on one of those off-shore drilling rigs was really like, and I saw too clearly in the picture on April 20th as one of the British Petroleum rigs in the water 45 miles off the Louisiana coast had a still-unexplained explosion, caught fire, burned and sank, taking eleven lives as it went.

The rig itself was massive.  I watched the firefighting efforts on the Internet and saw sizable firefighting ships that pumped ocean water onto the fire.  Those ships were stationed all around the rig, streaming water onto the flames, trying to get the fire under control. 

The pictures made clear the size of that offshore rig was best described as massive.  Sadly, the only thing that big in the area is the oil spill that is still coming out of the well.  The oil is still gushing (not sure that's technically the right term, but what else to use?) at a rate of about 800,000 liters per day, into the no-longer pristine waters.  Expect a hike in the price of wild shrimp this coming season.

The well below the surface is 5000 feet down.  BP claims it is doing everything and anything it can to shut off the well, but I heard it compared to doing some sort of surgical procedure using robotic arms with chopsticks at the end, underwater, in the dark and at a depth that most of mankind will never get close to.  It sounds pretty difficult.

The U.S. Coast Guard says rough seas are hampering efforts to clean up the slick, which reached Louisiana's shore on Saturday.  The President of BP-America was on ABC News' “This Week” on Sunday saying that his company along with other oil producers are doing everything they can to try to get it shut down. 

On that same program, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior said that he thinks it could be 90 days before a “relief well” is drilled, enabling them to cap the one that is leaking.  BP-America's Lamar McKay said their company had some technology in development that might be able to stop the flow in 6 to 8 days.  But let me point out that BP-America, in procuring the lease, had promised that a “worst case scenario” leak in this area would never get this big nor reach Louisiana's coast. 

Perhaps I wonder at a time like this, is this the worst case scenario yet?  Or did this happen just in time to stop us from drilling more, polluting more, wasting more and using more of our natural resources?  Considering this accident in that light is the only sense I can make of all this waste: the hope that somehow we might learn just a little more of the lesson we seem to need restated over and over again.


Earth Day 2010

April 28, 2010

Earth Day is past.  It's now over and done for another year.  We all drank in the sunshine, good feelings and honors to the planet.  And while our normal message for any day of the year is “Less is More,” on Earth Day this year, it seemed more was more.

More cities and towns celebrating Earth Day all over the world.  More people turning out for the celebrations marking 40 years of greenification and cleaning up the planet and trying to turn our consumption patterns around. 

Other things I noticed more of this year: more corporate representation as Earth Day mentions skyrocketed on the Internet.  It seemed like every advertisement I saw for a national product on the web this past month has mentioned “earth-friendly” and “sustainability.”  I saw food products being advertised in recyclable containers; household goods bragging about fewer chemicals and less harm to the environment; and lots of ideas for lowering energy consumption. 

The reason for this is clearly because corporate entities are starting to realize that given a choice of “earth-friendly” and “generic brand X which might be cheaper,” many customers are willing to pay more to show their concern for the planet.

Maybe it's just the arrival of springtime temperatures and attitudes, but it seemed like a whole crop of new colors of reusable shopping bags bloomed onto the scene just in time for Earth Day.  I only know because every time I saw one that I really liked, I'd ask the person using it where they got it.

“A store at the Mall.”

“Target.”

“A museum gift shop online.”  These are all good answers, but the “online” brings a special smile to my face.  Online shopping also a little greener than ever before. 

There were also more schools than ever participating in this year's Earth Day, which means we're bringing up a strong generation of people who are going to be more concerned than ever about the world that we all share. 

The big celebration honoring our planet is over for another year.  But if you think about it, every day is Earth Day here on the third rock from the sun.  We need to remember that in order to make the most of the world around us. 


Change A Font, Save A (Carbon) Footprint!

April 21, 2010

So what is the number one expense related to a business' use of its printer?  I'll give you a hint: it's not the paper. 

Most offices have at least one printer and if yours is like mine, it gets a lot of use.  Once you buy the thing and get it up to speed, your accountant depreciates it and your employees abuse it.  But what is the number one expense related to it?

I'll give you a hint: it's not the paper.  At $5 a ream or less, depending on your willingness to buy in bulk, paper (a wonderful thing to recycle, by the way!) is inexpensive.  No, it's not the paper.  It's the ink.

Many printer ink cartridges, while recyclable in handy mailer envelopes that come with the purchase of  a new cartridge, are sorta pricey.  They cost upwards of $35 each and when you consider that your staff, in spite of being told not to use printers for personal matters, are probably printing everything from church picnic fliers to their senior research paper, you need to think carefully.  Is it possible you can cut costs and Greenify?

Maybe.  Maybe it's as simple as changing your font. 

A Dutch company, Printer.com, tested and discovered that different fonts require different amounts of ink and over the course of time, the amount of ink used, cartridges consumed, cash used and carbon footprint burned through to keep an office printer going could vary quite substantially.

The best fonts to use to ensure maximum print output for your cartridges are:

1) Century Gothic
2) Times New Roman
3) Calibri
4) Veradan
5) Arial
6) MSS Sans Serif
7) Trebuchet MS
8) Tahoma
9) Franklin Gothic Medium

The findings showed that a someone using a home printer would use one less one cartridge per year, with the pocketed savings of about $20.  But you'll also save on your carbon footprint. 

Using fewer cartridges means you're printing less and printing more carefully.  You're taking a step towards being more conscious of the earth and its resources.  And who knows?  Maybe your business correspondence will look better, too.  Some of those recommended fonts are not only greener, they're very stylish!


Earth Day Alive and Ahead!

April 20, 2010

You may be counting down the days to Earth Day, but I assure you, here at the Green Business Alliance, we are counting down the minutes.  We're also checking off our list:

Local area parade, picnic or other activity to attend?  CHECK!  
(Here's a googling tip: type in Earth Day, 2010 and your zipcode.  See what comes up!) Are you attending the festival or marching in it?  Don't let this parade pass you by.  Get on board and stay at the front of the line for greenifying, recycling, renewing our Earth!

Lunch out at loca-vore restaurant with clients or employees or both?  CHECK!
The food will be fresher, better tasting and have a smaller carbon footprint.  You can probably find a locally sourced restaurant by logging onto your local newspaper's website and searching for “restaurant reviews” and then specifying “locavore” or “locally produced.”  Or call a few of your favorite lunchtime haunts and ask. 

Extra large recyclables receptacle on order?  Do you really need this one?  (I had hoped you already had all the recycling containers you needed, but if you haven't got them, this is a good reminder.  It's long past time to be greener at the curb.

Field trip to visit Mother Nature?  CHECK THIS OUT!  It is National Park Week, April 17 to 25.  What that means is entrance to all 392 United States National Parks is free.  Fees are waived.  Go enjoy the Earth at its most basic, wild and beautiful.  You can learn more at this website: http://www.nps.gov/npweek/.   If you clean up after yourself, that's great, but if you pick up after other hikers, you are a hero to all!

Earth Day 2010 is the 40th celebration of the planet.  We need to Greenify.  If you haven't already, it's time to get on board.   Please join in the celebration this year and every year to come.


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