Greenify Your Construction Project: Future World

February 18, 2009

If you’ve never been to Hong Kong, let me paint a scene for you.  The city itself is like any major metropolis but set on a harbor.  The water there is an amazing shade of brilliant blue green, like the bright blue green of a peacock feather.  And buildings under construction are sheathed in scaffolding that is pale green. 

The reason?  Hong Kong builders use natural bamboo to build their scaffolding as high as they want.

It’s a fascinating phenomenon: earth-friendly bamboo being used to build lattices that construction workers stand on, as high as most metal construction crew frameworks built in this country.  Bamboo is really more than just breakfast, lunch, and dinner for pandas.

It’s also one of the most renewable of resources.  It’s being used in flooring, wall coverings and in kitchen-ware and cutting boards.  Bamboo is the largest of the woody grasses on our planet and the fastest growing.  A stick of bamboo is capable of growing 24 inches in a day, depending on soil, nutrients, and a steady supply of water. 

We may be seeing more of this wonderful plant as we grow together as a planet.  It’s a resource for the future and we hope you’ll consider it when the next opportunity to Greenify and grow your business comes up. 


Go Green: STAY HOME

February 17, 2009

Britain’s Prince Charles is about to embark on a 16-thousand mile “green tour” to South America next month that he hopes will draw attention to environmental sustainability and climate change issues.  But maybe the Prince could better Greenify by staying home.

The Prince is taking a 14-person entourage, including his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, valet and various attendants, and flying onboard a private jet with a VIP lounge, Master Suite, satellite phone, printer, fax and luxury leather seats.  The Prince’s aides say the tour would be “impossible without a private jet.”  He is, after all, a Prince, right?

Prince Charles has long been a champion of environmental issues.  He’s very well regarded as knowledgeable about plants and vegetation.  His spokesman says he was asked by the government to make this trip because of the “important issues” involved.   But is he apparently so focused on looking for the forest that he’s missing the trees?

British Labour MP Ian Davidson, a member of the United Kingdom Parliament's public accounts committee, called the cost absurd and said, “"At a time when the greed of bankers is causing much adverse comment, I would have thought that Prince Charles would have had more sense than to be so financially and ecologically wasteful."

His trip scheduled for March will leave a 322 metric ton carbon footprint.  The cost, according to London newspaper, “Mail on Sunday” is expected to be about $820,000.  A spokesman says he will “offset his carbon emissions.”  Does that mean he’ll drive a Prius while he’s on the ground?

Really, Your Majesty, do us a kindness and send a letter.  Better yet, Greenify and send an email.


Backyard Greenification is On the Line!

February 2, 2009

As you’re working on Greenifying your home and business, do you think about it as you toss another load of clothes from the washer into the dryer?  You might have to go to the hardware store and special order them, but clothespins and the clothesline used to be the most basic and utilitarian components of a backyard.

When Americans finally got a chicken in every pot and a washer and dryer in every home, clotheslines began to represent poverty. A laundry line in the backyard was the norm in the 1970’s, but in the last 20 years became “just something that the lower classes did.”  Communities outlawed them for the negative connotation that they offered to passersby. 

In doing so, it’s almost impossible to calculate how much energy has been used to dry clothes.  And most of those clothes could have been just easily and far more energy efficiently dried on a clothesline.  Did you know that dryers are by far the most wasteful appliance in the house, gobbling up 6% of your electric bill?

Now, a group calling itself “Project Laundry List” is successfully lobbying state governments to allow you to dry your duds any way you wish. So far, Florida, Utah, and Colorado have all supported "right-to-dry" laws. Change is in the wind, along with a lot more sheets, socks and underwear.

And just so you are aware, here are some clothes-conscious facts. Hanging your clothes on a line to dry is better for them. Colors linger longer, giving your clothes a longer life. The fabric holds up longer--dryer lint, after all, is nothing but a thin layer that has been sheared from your clothes. The high heat of a dryer can also play havoc with the size of your clothes, so that something with a perfect fit comes out misshapen or, worse, six sizes smaller.

So this year’s big push to Greenify might see you looking in grandma’s closet.  Keep searching, because grandma never throws out anything, including her clothespins.


Greenify by Cashing Out a Clunker?

January 29, 2009

A measure introduced this past week by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) would establish a national voucher program to encourage drivers to trade in older, less fuel efficient cars, trucks or SUVs for a more fuel efficient vehicle.

It’s billed as the “Cash for Clunkers” program.  It would give drivers a credit of between $2,500 and $4,500 to turn in fuel-inefficient vehicles to be scrapped, and purchase a more fuel efficient vehicle. The traded-in vehicles would have to be drivable, have a fuel economy of no more than 18 miles per gallon, and have been registered for at least the past 120 days. Vouchers could also be redeemed for transit fares for participating local public transportation agencies. The program would operate for four years, from 2009 – 2012, and is expected to encourage the early retirement of up to one million vehicles per year.

This is Congress’ attempt at encouraging drivers to trade in less fuel efficient vehicles in a tough economic client. 

“If enacted, this bill would be an important part of helping getting America’s struggling automobile industry back on its feet – and help consumers who are concerned about covering the cost of buying a more fuel efficient vehicle,” said Senator Feinstein.

The bill would also…

  • Save an estimated 40,000 to 80,000 barrels per day of motor fuel by the end of the fourth year.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 6.6 million metric tons to 7.6 million metric tons, or the equivalent of removing 1.1 million to 2.2 million vehicles from the road in one year, (based on an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 vouchers issued per year).
  • Reduce nitrogen oxides, which cause ground-level ozone (a leading cause of respiratory health problems, like asthma), by 3,043 short tons (2,761 metric tons) by 2013, (based on an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 vouchers issued per year).

The senators hope this will compliment a new fuel economy law, which if passed, will raise average fuel economy standards for America’s fleet of vehicles by at least 10 miles per gallon over 10 years or from 25 to at least 35 mpg by the year 2020.


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.


Keeping an Eye Out for Those Who Don’t Greenify

December 17, 2008

The U.S. government has started a new most wanted list---for those who not only don’t Greenify, but who are accused of assaulting the environment.

These are environmental fugitives who do everything from smuggling chemicals that eat away the Earth’s protective ozone layer, to dumping wastes into oceans and rivers and trafficking in polluting cars.

While most versions of the “Most Wanted List” include those who commit crimes, the Environmental Protection Agency is rolling out a roster of 23 environmental thugs, complete with mug shots and descriptions of the charges at the EPA’s website.

One EPA enforcement official said those represent the "brazen universe of people that are evading the law." Many face years in prison and some charges could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, if they are caught.

"They are charged with environmental crimes and they should be brought before the criminal justice system and have their day in court," said Pete Rosenberg, one of the EPA’s directors in charge of criminal enforcement division.

One name on the list is John Karayannides, who allegedly helped orchestrate the dumping of 487 tons of diesel fuel-tainted wheat into the South China Sea in 1998. Karayannides is believed to have fled to Athens, Greece.

Also at large are the father and son team of Carlos and Allesandro Giordano, who were originally picked up in 2003 as owners of a company that was illegally importing and selling Alfa Romeos that did not meet U.S. emission or safety standards. The two men are believed to be hiding out in Italy.

The launch of the most-wanted list comes as EPA's criminal enforcement has ebbed. In the last 12 months, the agency has opened only 319 criminal enforcement cases, down from 425 in 2004. 

EPA officials defend the agency's record, saying the agency has focused on bigger cases with larger environmental benefits.  And now, they are giving people concerned about Greenifying a chance to keep an eye out for those who have committed crimes against the planet.


Greenifying as Winter Does Its Worst

December 9, 2008

Keeping walkways safe for customers is a challenge that many businesses face during the winter months, with or without snow.  But can de-icing be Greenified?   Ice on sidewalks, driveways and parking lots creates physical hazardous conditions for people, and legal hazards for business owners.  So what's the best way to de-ice without doing in the environment?
 
Snow and ice removal is best done non-chemically with shovel and plow but, admittedly, the results on sidewalks at least, isn't always adequate to ensure safety. Chemical de-icer and/or a grit like sand is often part of a comprehensive strategy to make getting around to do business a safe prospect.
 
Chemical de-icers work by melting snow and ice and forming a liquid brine. This brine seeps downward to contact paved and over impervious surfaces, spreads outward breaking the bond between ice and cold surfaces, and makes it possible to physically loosen and remove whole sheets of compacted snow and ice. Used in advance of icing conditions this brine can also prevent ice from forming on surfaces.

Salt or chloride based products are staples of the de-icer industry. Rock salt (sodium chloride) is among the best known and widely used products. Salt may be a fairly benign chemical in most environments under limited use. However there is considerable evidence of water problems associated with excess runoff of salt based materials.  Other products on the shelf will have labels saying, "Contains Primary Potassium Chloride & Secondary Urea Sodium Chloride". These are primarily fertilizers repackaged as de-icers. 

Product packaging may claim to be "non salt based" or "environmentally friendly".  It’s best to evaluate that claim by checking the label.  In fact, what we're looking for is an acetate product. CMA is the most widely tested and used de-icer in the acetates category. It is a natural acid that is soluble in water and it has chemical properties similar to vinegar.  Only labels with calcium magnesium acetate, CMA or another acetate based product is really the organic choice.

Always follow label directions when using a de-icing product. However, any de-icer that is mixed with equal parts of sand can help reduce the use of the de-icer and provide grit for added traction. You may want to consider choosing deep tray-type doormats with stiff bristles to allow people entering the building to brush off their shoes and boots before entering the building.

There is another possibility: heating the sidewalk.  This involves adding concrete pads at busy entryways.  Embedded within these insulated pads are flexible pipes for carrying hot water. The water gives up its heat to the concrete and prevents snow and ice from accumulating. But the energy costs and installation outlays of heated sidewalk systems need to also be taken into account. 

Greenifying and de-icing may not seem at first to be the best fit together, but with proper care, you can protect the environment as well as customers, even when winter does its worst. 


Greenify Your Cleaning

May 30, 2008

It is a little ironic that those cleaning products which are supposed to help us spruce up the office or home can actually be responsible for poor indoor air quality and even asthma attacks. Cleaning products are not required in the US to list all their ingredients, so one could be cleaning with a veritable chemical soup containing butyl cellosolve, ammonia, chlorine, sodium hydroxide (lye), alkylphenol ethoxylates, and more. Any of these can cause lung irritation and some will contaminate water supplies, deplete the ozone and cause endocrine disruption. Harsh repercussions when all you wanted was a clean floor or sparkling windows.

Consider Greenifying by stocking your office with eco-friendly cleaning products. Seventh Generation may be one of the best known brands on the market, but others exist such as Shaklees, Mrs Meyers Clean Brand, Method Home, Ecover, and Edible Nature. Trader Joe’s, Target and Whole Foods all carry in-house brand natural cleaners. If your office uses a cleaning service, ask them to use your products. They may balk at first, but perhaps you will convert them to a greener way of life when they discover the breathing is easier in your office.

If you clean your office yourself, you can create your own very environmentally friendly cleaning products using white vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, borax and olive oil. A 1:1 mixture of water and vinegar (or even straight vinegar) in a spray bottle will kill bacteria, germs and mold. A cup of olive oil and a ½ cup of lemon juice makes a good furniture polish. Mix the two in a spray bottle, shake well and spray a little on a polishing cloth; polish evenly over the furniture, buffing to a light shine. Baking soda can be used in place of an abrasive cleaner. It will also remove odors. Sprinkle a little on the carpet before vacuuming in place of carpet freshener. To clean glass or mirrors, mix up 1 cup of isopropyl alcohol, 1 cup water and a tablespoon of vinegar. It evaporates quickly and will leave your glass streak free. Greenify to Clean!


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E-waste...how to reycle or reuse it

April 29, 2008

Inevitably, the technology equipment you invested in a few years ago, no longer meets the demands of your business. Or maybe you would just like a newer, shinier computer/printer/cell phone/what have you. But the old one is still functional, so what is the Green thing to do with your e-waste?

Fortunately, you have many alternatives! One of the easiest ways to recycle your cell phone is to donate it to a local domestic violence organization. Cell phones are generally able to dial 911 with no SIM card, and that may be all someone needs from a cell phone. If your company has many phones to dispose of, investigate options like ReCellular which will purchase your old cell phones, (with pre-paid postage for over 50 phones) or connect you to charitable programs such as Cell Phones for Soldiers.  I read earlier today that the amount of copper wire contained in cell phones disposed of each year could cover the Statue of Liberty, twice over. That’s a lot of copper!

If your computer or printer is still in generally good repair, one way to reuse is to call the local schools and see if they either need a used computer themselves or perhaps know of a student from a low-income household who could benefit from a computer. Computer donations to a non-profit institution may yield a tax deduction. Another option would be to Freecycle your computer. Dell, Apple, HP and other large companies offer recycling programs and your refuse hauler or local waste authority may offer a recycling program as well. If Waste Management services your neighborhood, they were the first electronics recycling company to achieve ISO 9001 and 14001 certification. Earth911 mentioned in Friday’s blog offers some other great tips for recycling e-waste.

No matter which recycling method you choose for your e-waste, keeping it out of the landfills helps you Greenify!


Office Recycling 101

April 25, 2008

One inquiry that is continually coming our way is “how do I start an office recycling program?” We know that the official celebration of Earth Day came and went earlier this week. We at Green Business Alliance are hopeful that our citizenry is beginning to realize that Earth Day is really EVERY day. Along these lines, an office recycling program can be implemented in a variety of fashions in order to allow all employees to participate in taking care of the environment on a day to day basis. We can all do at least a small part …at the very least throw a way a piece of paper in a special bin in order for that paper or cardboard to be recycled rather than pile-up in a land-fill.

Earth911 provides some great resources on how to get started with the 3 Rs...Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Anyone can contact their local Solid Waste Authority and ask about implementing an office recycling program. Keep in mind, office recycling is not limited to paper and cardboard. There are many items that can be recycled in an office ranging from aluminum cans to fluorescent tubes for lighting to many sources of e-waste (electronic waste like computers, VCRs, and cell phones). The point is to just do it. Just recycle something – paper, electronics, bottles and cans etc. It’s good for the environment, our land-fills and our future on this planet!


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