Green Business Alliance's Guest Blog on Farmers' Almanac

June 30, 2008

Easy Ways to "Greenify" Your Home 

Green Business Alliance’s Executive Director, Hilary Kusel, offers some helpful suggestions on how to Greenify your home for this special guest blog.
While reading Peter Geiger’s blog post on “Living Life Better,” I noted with interest that the 2009 Edition of the Farmers’ Almanac will contain tips on how to be green as well as how to conserve energy and water. Farmers’ Almanac has always had a focus on the environment, even before it was the ‘in’ thing. There is no doubt that living the green life has never been as hip as it is today. Along the lines of living green, here are a few helpful tips on how to Greenify your home. Some of the suggestions may seem subtle and even simple to implement, however they will make a positive impact on the environment and your place of residence.

Unplug appliances that are not frequently used. Many electronic devices and appliances, such as cell phones, computers, microwaves, dryers, televisions and more, consume energy even when turned off? While you sleep, when you go away, while in your house, and even when you are not, these appliances are using small amounts of electricity and costing you money. This phenomenon is known as phantom electricity. It can actually cost you a significant amount of money each year.

How can a device or appliance that is turned off use electricity? While “not on,” each device or appliance uses small amounts of energy in order to be ready to instantly work when it is switched back to the “on” mode.

To avoid phantom electricity usage, think about items that are plugged in to an outlet that you do not use frequently. Unplug them after each use. For devices or appliances that are used more regularly, consider plugging them into a power strip which when switched to the ‘off’ mode is actually not consuming electricity. The simple act of unplugging frequently can save you some money while reducing electricity waste and helping our environment. Start a new habit…unplug!

Plant trees and shrubs near your home. This can be fun for the entire family and great for the earth. Not only will the trees and plants provide shade and wind protection, but they can also save you money on your heating and air conditioning bills.

When you are deciding which types of trees to add to your landscaping, consider using native plants which have been growing in your area for hundreds of years. As a result, the native plants are adapted to the soil and climate in your area. They will likely flourish with less care (i.e. less water and fertilizer).

Filter your water rather than purchasing bottled water. The recommended water intake per person per day is about 60 ounces (between six and seven glasses). Water is a healthy and necessary daily drink to keep our bodies hydrated. However, the type of water we drink and the item from which we sip our water makes a huge difference.

The great part about making the decision to Greenify is that it is good for the environment, good for you and can be fun and educational for the entire family.

For more information on how to Greenify your home or business, please visit Green Business Alliance at

Going Green on the Grill

June 26, 2008

Summer is officially here. For many families that means firing up the grill for weekend BBQs. Have you ever thought about how to Greenify your grilling? Charcoal or gas? Which is greener? These questions remain up for debate.

Many people seem to prefer the taste of food grilled over smoking wood or charcoal rather than gas. Wood chips are a greener choice than charcoal. Charcoal releases more greenhouse gases than the wood. If you must have your charcoal consider eliminating the lighter fluid used to help ignite the fire. An alternative to the lighter fluid is balled up newspaper or a chimney starter.

Gas grilling is one of the most energy-efficient grilling options. Natural gas is greener than propane because it is the cleanest-burning fossil fuel which translates into burning releasing fewer of those dangerous pollutants. Electric grills are also a good green option.

For those that only grill on sunny days, you may want to consider a solar sizzler. This is clearly the greenest grilling option. Let’s face it, most of us would prefer to only grill on sunny days. I mean who really wants to stand out in the rain flipping burgers?

Whether you choose wood chips, lighter fluid-less charcoal, natural gas, electric or solar grilling methods, enjoy the endless days of summer bbqs and Green Grilling!


Greenify Your Job

June 20, 2008

Not surprisingly, new jobs are being created every day to meet the growing green demands.  The American Solar Energy Society is forecasting that 40 million “green collar jobs” will exist in 20 years. If you are one of the thousands of people thinking about a career change, maybe one of these ideas will appeal to you.

Urban planner – as more and more cities look for ways to Greenify, the eco-friendly urban planner will be needed more than ever. Urban planners work toward maximizing quality of life for residents by developing short and long term plans for the growth, development and revitalization of communities.

Eco-tourism is helping the travel industry rise again. The International EcoTourism Society offers a Certificate in Sustainable Tourism Management. Jobs in the eco-tourism field include being an eco-lodge manager, sustainable tourism manager, wildlife naturalist, development consultant, or tour operator environmental manager.

Alternative energy- jobs in this field are growing like crazy as the need for clean energy soars. Solar installer, wind generator installer, alternative energy products retailer/wholesaler, alternative energy engineers, managers, analysts, and financing- the possibilities are endless.

Corporate Sustainability Manager- several colleges have jumped on the bandwagon and are offering “Green MBA’s.” If you were thinking of upgrading to an MBA anyway, check out programs at Stanford University, Presidio School of Management, Dominican University of California, Bainbridge Graduate Institute and George Washington University. In addition, this fall UC Irvine Extension will be offering one of the first online Certificate Programs in Sustainability Studies.

Organic farming – more and more people are eating locally and organically. If you are interested in organic farming, start small and build your way up. Maybe you have a small plot of land you can raise garlic or other small crop on to sell to local restaurants or at a farmer’s market. As mentioned in this blog previously, the word “organic” is regulated, so don’t use it unless you are certified.

Environmental non-profit – check out organizations such as Greenpeace, The Sierra Club or the World Wildlife Fun. has a data base of almost 12,000 jobs in the non-profit sector and thousands of those jobs center on the environment.

Environmental Educator – green jobs could range from being an educator at an environmental or outdoor center to teaching science to being a Park Ranger.

Green construction is becoming more and more popular, courses and certifications are available. You could also consider getting into something such as green rehabbing. Green architects are needed as are engineers, landscapers, consultants, project coordinators and more.

Good resources for the eco-savvy career changer include Environmental and the American Solar Energy Society’s report on “Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency: Economic Drivers for the 21st Century.”

Greenify Your Commute

June 18, 2008

The average price of fuel this week in the U.S. is $4.08 a gallon, well over a dollar higher than it was a year ago at this time. As high as that is for us, in Europe the average gasoline price is close to $9.00 a gallon.

If you Greenify your commute, you can save a little on gas and help save the planet at the same time.

Ten hour days, four days a week are now normal for city workers in Birmingham, AL. If you can convince your boss to let you do the same, you will save 20% of your fuel costs for the week, encounter less traffic since you will not be driving during peak hours (less traffic idling too!), and your place of employment will save on electricity costs – less AC will be used. If you want to maintain a five day work week, can you telecommute a day or two a week?

Walk or use public transportation. Since public transportation is not as convenient in most cities in the US as it is in Europe, this may not be a good option for you; but maybe that means it is time to start lobbying for more public transportation in your area.

Looking for a new car? Some employers (Google, Timberland, Patagonia, Bank of America to name a few) are offering financial incentives of up to $5,000 to employees who purchase either fuel efficient cars or alternative fuel cars. The top most fuel efficient cars include Smartfor Two, the Mini Cooper, Toyota Yaris, Honda Civic Hybrid, Toyota Prius, Honda Accord, Honda Fit, VW Passat Wagon, Ford Escape Hybrid, and the Ford Focus.

You can green your commute by keeping your car as well tuned by as possible – make sure your tires are properly inflated, regular oil changes, etc. A well maintained car will use 10% less gas than a car that is not taken care of.

And finally, car pool to work. One woman in my office bikes 4 ½ miles every day to a co-worker’s house and they ride in together with a third co-worker. Split three ways, gas prices are much more manageable and it is nice to have a little company on their 60 mile roundtrip.

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Go Green with Local Harvest

June 13, 2008

Going back to an earlier post March post, have you heard about the local challenge? It is a challenge to each of us to eat at least one meal a week in which all ingredients come from no more than 100 miles away. If you are so inclined, you could challenge yourself to become a true localvore (or locavore) who eats almost exclusively within a 100 mile radius.

One fifth of all petroleum used in the US is used by the food industry. And of that amount, four fifths are used to move food from one place to another. Since the average ingredient travels 1500 miles before it reaches your plate, 6 to 12 % of every dollar spent on food is for transportation costs. If you shop at a farmer’s market, the farmer will keep about 90 cents of every dollar you spend with him. If you shop for your ingredients at a grocery store, 91 cents of every dollar will go to the middlemen and the farmer will receive 9 cents.

A great website to find food local to you is Local Harvest.

Community Supported Agriculture or CSA is one way to work towards being a localvore. The CSA farmer will provide you with a specified amount of produce every week over their growing season. The one I belong to delivers about a ½ bushel of assorted vegetables, fruits, berries, honey and herbs a week for approximately $18 a week. The CSA share is paid in advance, allowing the farmer a regular income.

If you have an office summer picnic, consider asking everyone to bring items made from local produce. It could be a fun way to introduce everyone to the local challenge while making an effort to greenify your meal.

Wedding Bells...Time to Greenify

June 10, 2008

Couples are opting out of white weddings and going for the green! One of the hottest trends in the $40 billion wedding industry is the Greenified wedding. If you are planning a wedding, consider some of these ways to Greenify your event.

Invitations: There are many possibilities to green up your invitations. Using recycled paper is the obvious choice, but you could also consider using paper made from hemp or other tree free products. Soy ink is pretty standard these days. What about finding paper embedded with flower seeds for your guests to plant? (Maybe suggest they wait till after the wedding to plant. I could see someone forgetting the details with the invitation buried.) If you are a crafty type, you could make your own invitation paper using recycled paper, grasses, even dryer lint.

Wedding Dress: I can see this being the hardest aspect of a wedding for a bride to Greenify. There are a number of designers who are creating eco-friendly wedding dresses made from natural fibers such as organic cotton, hemp, silk, even bamboo. To go a step further, a bride might consider altering a family member's wedding dress or finding a secondhand dress. Recapture Vintage Bridal Designs  in Oakland, CA. specializes in restyling vintage gowns.

Rings: The movie "Blood Diamond" brought light on to a subject seldom talked about in the wedding industry. Consider resetting a family diamond or looking for a local artisan rather than purchasing a ring from one of the large chains.

Flowers: The ultimate green bouquet might be the one you or a loved one grows especially for the wedding. Otherwise, you might start with your local farmer's market and see if there is a flower seller who could create bouquets, centerpieces and altar pieces using local organically grown flowers. Organic Bouquets will also provide you with organic flowers.

Catering: Food may be the single biggest expense at your wedding. You can look for a caterer who specializes in organic food such as Back to Earth Catering in Berkeley, CA. Or you can simply ask your caterer to provide local, fresh, organic food. You do not have to give up beef, chicken or lamb entrees, just look for local providers who raise their livestock in humane, organic fashion. One thing to keep in mind is that the FDA regulates the word organic and being able to use the word costs money. Some local farmers are not able to justify that added expense and they may use words such as "naturally grown" instead of "organic".

Wine and beer: When looking for wine or beer to serve at the reception, there are a number of vineyards and breweries creating organic beverages. Consider first looking for a local vintage. For instance, if you happen to be getting married in Cooperstown, NY, Charlotte's Vineyard is close by as are the Cooperstown Brewing Company and the Ommegang Brewery. Providing local beverages will give your guest a chance to taste something new, not to mention help the local economy.

Greenify Your Business Travel – Part 2

June 6, 2008

Greenifying your business travel involves more than just examining your travel and hotel choices. The simple acts of bringing along a travel mug for that airport cup of coffee, using a reusable water bottle, turning off your hotel room lights and air conditioning when you leave and bringing your own toiletries in reusable bottles all help to greenify.

If you are attending or planning meeting where you need to write things down for the room to see- consider using a white board with eco-friendly markers or overhead projector rather than a pad of easel paper or flip charts.

Unplug laptops, Treo’s, cell phones, etc after charging so that you aren’t inadvertently pulling a phantom energy load.

If you are hosting a luncheon or dinner, consider having it catered using local ingredients and real china and silverware. America’s Second Harvest will come and pick up the any leftovers if you are in a major metropolitan area. Provide tap water in pitchers rather than bottled water. If you need a marketing give-away, consider a stainless steel water bottle with your logo and company name.

If planning a conference, utilizing online registration will save paper. If conference marketing materials are needed, offer them as a PDF on the web, allowing participants the choice to print or not.

And in the end, consider whether or not you really do need to make that 6,000 mile roundtrip from Los Angeles to New York. Could you achieve your objectives with a conference call or video conferencing? Cisco’s new TelePresence is apparently as lifelike as being in the same room. The greenest way to Greenify your business travel might be to just stay at the office.

Greenify Your Business Travel – Part 1

June 3, 2008

Eco-tourism or eco-travel is becoming all the rage for vacations. But what about the business traveler who is concerned about the environment but at the same time needs electricity to charge a Blackberry or use a laptop for hours on end?

More and more car rental agencies are purchasing hybrids and other environmentally friendly cars. If your business takes you to Maui, rent a Bio-Beetle which runs on 100% vegetable oil from sustainable sources. EV Rental  has a 100% hybrid fleet with locations in California, Arizona, and soon, Las Vegas. Fox  works with EV Rental to offer hybrids at all Fox locations. Enterprise offers the Toyota Prius for rent. If car services are more your style, Eco-Limo is available in Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles. New York City has OZO-Car which bills itself as an eco-luxury private car service.

To Greenify your air travel can be a little more complicated. Business travelers log over 240 billion air miles a year, generating over 160 million tons of carbon dioxide. Air travel as a whole is responsible for 3.5% of carbon dioxide produced by humans and is the fastest growing source of CO2. Some companies are buying carbon offsets from or similar companies to neutralize the business miles traveled. Carbon offsets are a good start, but the reality is they are not going to help quite as much as they are touted to. We need to plant over 3 million trees this year to absorb the CO2 generated in 2008, but it will take 70 years for those 3 million trees to absorb the all of that C02. When looking for a carbon offset company, check that they incorporate several ways of obtaining offsets.

Many hotels have been offering guests the opportunity to conserve water by not changing the sheets or towels every day. There are a number of hotels which go a step further. Orbitz has launched an eco section which will you find green friendly hotels. Hotels which have earned the Energy Star seal (they use 40% less energy than conventional buildings and emit 35% less CO2) are noted. The Lenox Hotel in Boston utilizes energy efficient lights, natural cleaners and air fresheners, zero VOC (volatile organic compound) paint, local products, waterless urinals and much more. Fairmont Hotels have a company-wide Green Partnership Program. Other chains which are striving for environmental excellence include Oberoi, Hilton, Intercontinental, Mandarin Oriental, Hyatt International, Swissôtel, Starwood Hotels and Radisson.

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