A Year of Green Business

January 19, 2011

Four tree sitters were removed and arrested from a forested area in Arcadia, California in early January.  They were trying to prevent the removal of scores of trees as part of a dam improvement project.  They were escorted out of the forested area and immediately taken into custody.  They were booked on suspicion of delaying a peace officer and trespassing.  

These are four very dedicated environmental activists.  Whether you agree with their actions or not, you can do as much or more this year to constructively to Greenify in your own business.    

This year, you can choose to reuse your computer paper, printing on both sides of each page and then recycling the results after it serves the purpose.   You can offer a price break to customers who use electronic billing.  If you haven't already set up electronic payments, you should do that, too.  You can keep a sweater at your office and encourage your employees to do the same.   

You can walk in the public restroom and check to make sure the faucets are turned off and that no precious water is being wasted. 

You can put plants in the front windows.  They'll insulate against cold in the winter and heat in the summer and create more oxygen.  Plus they create a soothing, more relaxed atmosphere at work.   

These ideas are just for starters.  But these are things you can do starting today and we'll have more ideas for you as the year goes on.  And remember, you don't have to go out on a limb to Greenify your business.


100 days and counting...EARTH DAY 2011

January 12, 2011

Mark your calendars now! April 22, 2011 is quickly approaching. In just 100 days, millions of people from around the world will celebrate the 41st Annual Earth Day. The focus of Earth Day is to raise awareness of and support our environment and eco-friendly habits. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin was the principal founder of this event which dates back to 1970. It began as a nationwide grassroots demonstration on the environment intended to inspire gratitude for and consciousness of the Earth’s environment.

Earth Day festivities and events will be held here in the United States in major cities such as: Washington, DC, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Dallas and Miami. Additionally, there will be Earth Day celebrations held locally in schools, community centers, and colleges around the world. In central Ohio, Green Columbus, a local nonprofit responsible for coordinating and mobilizing the largest volunteer turnout for Earth Day service projects in the country, has chosen Lighten Up as this year’s Earth Day theme.

The time is now to start thinking about your Earth Day plans and efforts to Greenify. This blog marks the first in a series dedicated to this global environmental celebration. Check back soon for the next installment of Green Business Alliance’s Earth Day blog.


Water Bottles: Greenifying Your Life a Sip at a Time

July 16, 2010

You know how much I dislike bottled water, right?  I think plastic water bottles are second only to plastic grocery sacks in polluting our world and packing the landfills.  They waste space, resources and are generally a bad idea.  Bottled water isn't as good for you as water straight from the tap, particularly for children, because bottled water doesn't provide fluoride needed to protect teeth and keep your mouth healthy.  

That said, I do support the idea that drinking water is much healthier for our weight-challenged, overly stimulated society that needs to stop sucking down sugar carbonated drinks and even fruit juices (except in moderation) that lack the natural nutrients and fiber of eating the fruit out of hand.  So what's a person to do?

For months, I've been using the same plastic bottle that I recycled after being given the refreshment at a public event.  The plastic is a little thicker than most bottles, which makes it better for reuse, but means the manufacture of it required even more natural resources. 

I was at a gathering in Washington, DC two weeks ago (“Women Deliver,” which is an international women's and maternal health conference) as a member of the press and was given a “goodie bag” that contained a spiffy reusable metal water bottle.  It was green, so you know I loved it instantly!  I was fascinated because it is about a 20 ounce bottle, complete with a water-tight seal at the opening and a loop in case I want to carry it around my neck or at my belt line.  

I was thinking, “Wow, this is convenient!  And look, the convention put its logo on the outside so that everyone will know where I got it.”  And what a great marketing idea!

So think about it: last year, we talked about putting your name and logo on reusable shopping bags.  They were inexpensive, easily printable and the “oh-so-trendy” way to advertise your greenifying efforts to both current and potential customers. 

This year, people are using the shopping bags you've offered.   Cities all over the country are emphasizing reusable shopping bags, cutting down their pollution (is there anything worse than seeing those plastic bags on the side of the road or in a body of water?) and feeling better about what they're doing for the environment. If you made and provided these bags, you're a part of that good feeling.

Now step in and get ahead of the pack by considering putting out some reusable water bottles.  You can find a manufacturer or use one of these:

http://www.kleankanteen.com/

http://mysigg.com/

You can also get reusable plastic water bottles that are environmentally friendly and have no unhealthy side effects:

http://www.nalgenechoice.com/index.html

Ordering these bottles is a slightly more expensive option for putting your logo out there, but doing it now will put you a step ahead of the pack with your efforts to Greenify.  And it's a great way to continue to feel good about the way you're advertising your green business status. 


Green Hero: Kevin Costner

June 28, 2010

Kevin Costner: actor, director, Academy-award winner and now greenifying leader.  Tell the truth, you did a double-take and your head turned completely around to check if you had heard right, but it's true: Hollywood's Kevin Costner may be one of the good guys in the unfolding crisis in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.  Here's what happened:

15 years ago, Costner was watching old pictures of the Exxon Valdez disaster and the cleanup of that mess in Alaska.  As he said, it was “rubber boots, pitchforks, straw and oil coming up on the beaches like pudding.”  He came up with an idea for a centrifuge device that separates the oil from the water and other elements.

$20 million of Costner's own money invested later, the machine, called a “V20,” was ready for testing. 

It was tested out by BP earlier this year, but turned out the oil with the consistency of peanut butter, so some adjustments have been made.  BP is interested and now retesting the re-adjusted machines for use in the Gulf and this news couldn't come at a better time, as we find out that the oil company may have downplayed the amount of oil gushing out of the broken well and into the environment. 

The well has now been leaking for more than two months and internal documents just discovered show that from the start, BP was privately estimating the leak's flow at 100,000 barrels per day, while publicly suggesting the leak was much smaller.  The news has not been well received.

“BP has either been lying or grossly incompetent from Day One,” said Rep. Ed Markey, (D-MA).

Also angering Americans, the news that BP's CEO Tony Hayward spent part of the weekend in an exclusive yacht race on an English coast this weekend.  The CEO has made several public relations errors recently including referring to victims in the crisis as “small people.”

The country is waiting for news that the tide has turned in this story.  We're all hoping that somehow, we'll awake from this ongoing environmental nightmare, but so far that hasn't happened.  But it does seem great that one possible light at the end of the tunnel is Kevin Costner's green machine.  What a wonderful thought that the man who “dances with wolves” may be the one who can Greenify our ocean, too.  He's recycled himself in our minds from actor to ultimate green business owner. 


Fish Farms in Coal Mines?

June 15, 2010

It's an interesting thought, isn't it?  Putting fish farms into spent coal mines?  I hooked you right in with that one! 

It's what they are thinking in West Virginia, where coal mines are famous for providing the livelihood of miners and their families.

Farmed fish are now accounting for about half of the world's annual consumption (mostly due to farmed salmon) of 110 million metric tons of fish.  The experts say, demand will soon exceed supply.  We're going to need more fish farms.

With an estimated 1,000 closed mines in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, some are beginning to look at those empty pits as future “fishing holes.”  Except the fish will be farmed and caught for consumers in grocery stores.

The Freshwater Institute in Shepherdstown, WV, estimates that turning mines into fish farms could generate hundreds of jobs and millions of pounds of fish annually.   And here's the best part: the particulars of mine water are especially conducive to raising fish.  Mine water temperatures hold steady at a brisk 56 degrees, which is impossible for human swimming but perfect for what else? Artic char, salmon and trout. 

It's an idea whose time has come.  When it was put forward in 1994, West Virginia dreamed of having hundreds of mines, but 16 years later, has only two.  America's fish consumption was not so great then, but now, demand is up. 

And to be sure, this may be not a case of “making lemonade from lemons,” but making dinner from leftovers found in a coal mine. 

Greenification at its best.


UPDATE FROM THE GULF: 12,000-19,000 Barrels of Oil Gushing Daily

June 3, 2010

It's now being called the “Worst Environmental Disaster in U.S. History.   The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana is still pushing oil out of the broken pipe, leaking and wreaking destruction on the once-clean gulf waters. 

British Petroleum, BP, is the company that owned the lease and the platform that exploded, starting the spill that has been going on for six weeks now.  The hard and painful news for most of us involves pictures of a massive oil plume, stretching across the water; ugly pictures of oil-soaked seabirds and dead fish; and the knowledge that wildlife in that area will suffer for years to come. 

At first, BP tried to contain the oil with booms, placing the massive sponges and blocks in the way of the plume in a painfully useless attempt to block the spread of the oil to beaches and breeding grounds of animals in the area. 

Then there was the dome.  BP lowered a huge dome over the well in an attempt to cap the well and stop the flow.  That didn't work either. 

The effort that followed was the “top kill” in which engineers tried for three days to top off the gusher with heavy drilling mud and junk to stop the leak.  After initial hopeful reports, we now know that is not working either. 

BP announced today that they have another plan.  Their latest attempt will be to send down unmanned robots to saw off the leaky broken pipe and cap it with a funnel that will then direct the oil to the surface and waiting boats. 

The company tried to reclaim the leaking oil with a funnel in the past, but ice crystals formed in the pipe and blocked the flow.   Why will this attempt be different?  The company intends to warm sea water and pump it into the pipe as well, preventing the formation of the ice crystals.  The soonest that this could work is four to five days.  Does that disappoint you? 

Then this could make you despair: the company says that the gusher may not be capped until August.  That news on Sunday amid the destruction, disappointment and misery that the spill has already wrought.

What can you do?  Only what you have been doing.  Try to think of your efforts as an “off-set credits” for the spill.  Put your best efforts into greenifying at home and at work in order to off-set the huge disaster that seems to be unfolding day by day to our great disappointment.   We can only do what we can do, but perhaps as a group, we can do the tiniest bit more as we watch this bitterly unhappy scenario continue in our world.


Greenifying Gadgets: Thermal Imagery

May 28, 2010

I have to quit saying that I'm not a fan of gadgets.  Here it is, two weeks in a row where I'm blogging about an electronic device.  I'm a little surprised at myself, but the one that I spotted today shows every promise of helping you and everyone you know (because you'd share, right?) save on their energy bills. 

It's called a “Thermal Imaging Home Inspection” device.  Can you imagine?  Something that can magically look inside your home and tell you if and where you are wasting energy. 

This is an item so new that you may not have heard about it, but what it does is measure the temperature hot and cold spots of a house or other building.  It is not cheap; a good unit can run for $6000.  But if you find the right real estate agent, you'll pay $150-300 for the inspection.  And think about what it could save you: hundreds in power bills for the home you're in and thousands in negotiations with a home you're interested in buying.  Or take it to the office and have a look around there.  The savings potential there is almost limitless.

It works like a very intricate digital camera.  Just aim the device a house and see where the heat is leaking out or where cold temperatures or water are getting into the house.  This device is so sensitive that it can spot dangerous wiring, non-functioning heat vents and mold are located. 

What to do with this information?  Some of these problems can be fixed with simple improvements like extra insulation, new outlets and rewiring areas that can dramatically reduce energy bills. 

“The home owners are actually seeing savings of about 20 to 22 percent off energy costs, when they button up and sela up their house,” according to Real Estate Expert Sherri Vandervort.

Other possibilities?  Could this be the new business that you've been looking for?  Invest in a unit and become a “thermal energy use inspector” on weekends.   At $250 per inspection, you're just 24 inspections from paying off the investment and after that, it's all “Greenifying as a business” ahead for you. 


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.


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