Winterize and Greenify – Part 1

September 21, 2009

If the cooler temperatures haven’t hit where you live, they cannot be far off.  It’s time to winterize at home and work. I thought we could use a few reminders.  Here are the first five (of ten) winterizing tips:

1) Furnace Inspection

· Call a HVAC professional to inspect your furnace and clean ducts.  Let a professional do this for maximum energy efficiency.
· Stock up on furnace filters and change them monthly.
· Consider switching out your thermostat for a programmable thermostat.  This is easily done and can save impressive amounts of energy and money. 
· If your home is heated by a hot-water radiator, bleed the valves by opening them slightly and when water appears, close them.  If the heater was installed before 2004, you may want to install an insulating jacket on the heater for greater savings.
· Remove all flammable material from the area surrounding your furnace.

2) Prepare the Fireplace

· Cap or screen the top of the chimney to keep out rodents and birds.
· If the chimney hasn't been cleaned for a while, call a chimney sweep to remove soot and creosote.
· Inspect the fireplace damper for proper opening and closing.
· Buy firewood or chop wood. Store it in a dry place away from the exterior of your home.

3) Check the Exterior, Doors and Windows

· Inspect exterior for cracks and exposed entry points around pipes; seal them.
· Caulk windows and use weatherstripping around doors.
· Replace any cracked or broken windows, prime and paint exposed wood. 
· If your home has a basement, consider adding protective shields over window wells. 
· Switch out summer screens with glass replacements from storage. If you have storm windows, install them.

4) Inspect Roof, Gutters & Downspouts

· If your winters include temperatures below 32 degrees, adding extra insulation to the attic will prevent warm air from creeping to your roof and causing ice dams.
· Check flashing to ensure water cannot enter the home.
· Replace worn roof shingles or tiles.
· Clean out the gutters and use a hose to spray water down the downspouts to clear away debris.
· Install leaf guards on the gutters and extensions on the downspouts to direct water away from the house.

5) Service Weather-Specific Equipment

· Service or tune-up snow blowers.
· Sharpen ice choppers and buy bags of ice-melt / sand. 
· Replace worn rakes and snow shovels.
· Clean, dry and store summer gardening equipment.
· Drain gas from lawnmowers.

We’ll be back with more tips for winterizing soon.  Until then, enjoy the remnants of nature’s green efforts outside for as long as possible.  (to be continued)


Greenly Grab Consumers Attention

July 9, 2009

Have you given thought to how to best approach potential customers with your greenification?  Someone out there has.  A new study by the Shelton Group checked consumer opinions of marketing claims to find that survey respondents identified most with the “100 percent natural” claim. 

The researchers tested various claims including “organic,” “all natural ingredients,” “certified organic ingredients,” “bio-based ingredients,” and “contains natural ingredients,” to find that “100 percent natural” was the claim that attracts consumers and makes them feel most comfortable.

The Shelton study was conducted this year, in April and May, with surveyors questioning 1006 respondents.  Also reported in the same survey are the facts about what consumers are looking for:

  • Home cleaning products — 75 percent
  • Food and beverages — 65 percent
  • Personal care products (shampoo, lotion, etc.) - 55 percent

These are mostly personal products that consumers come in contact with on a regular, or even sometimes, daily basis.  But past studies have also shown that modern consumers are drawn to prefer “100 percent natural” products in almost every line of wholesale and retail trade, and that they are willing to pay more for such products.

And why not?  A greener house may initially cost a bit more, but if it falls in line with better home construction practices and provides greater energy efficiency, it may save money over the course of the home’s ownership.  The same goes for other products, from business and office machines, to home appliances and even foods, which are often believed to be more nutritious and healthier to consume. 

The Shelton group says 60% of consumers are seeking out green product and an even larger percentage say they are not cutting green spending, even in this difficult economy.  Green marketing is here to stay, so why not put the best foot forward?  Go 100 percent natural and see if consumers “greenify” your returns.

(If you’d like to read more about the Shelton Group’s  survey, Eco Pulse 2009, the results are posted online here: http://www.sheltongroupinc.com/research/eco_pulse.php)


Fireworks Greenify the Sky

July 2, 2009

Have you given any thought to how to Greenify your July 4th Celebration?  There are several things to consider.  First off, the best July 4th celebration (because who wouldn't want to celebrate living in the USA with more people than ever before focused on reducing carbon emissions and greening their business and home lives!) is going to be a group celebration.  Fireworks are dangerous explosive devices, best left to the professionals and firefighters who protect our homes and businesses already.  They're also expensive and if you're keeping an eye on your wallet, the public displays are even better.
 
But fireworks are also messy.  Many of their components explode with bits and pieces of burning incendiary devices that smolder all the way to the ground.  The air pollution that they produce is visible.  We ought to be wiser and stop putting up these environmentally unfriendly displays of messy, dangerous, polluting explosives, but we just can't seem to help ourselves.  They are part of our annual national display in the United States and many other areas around the world.  So since we can't beat 'em, let's join them.  Let's go to the public displays put on by the city or municipalities.
 
It would also be best to take your own food.  You can prepare and bring your own picnic dinner to enjoy on a blanket or in the car at the display and avoid all those nasty paper wrappers, styrofoam anything, plastic water bottles, and other environmentally negative aspects of buying prepared meals from fast food restaurants set up for single occasions.  And you'll eat healthier and tastier if you buy fresh, organic vegetables or even grow your own. 
 
And what would you like to sit on?  My father had a personalized stadium seat cushion made just for him in his favorite college team's colors with his monogram on it.  I would know; I made it for him for Christmas one year.  You certainly don't have to go that far, but I still remember wrapping up in favorite blankets brought from home to watch fireworks in the next town over, when I was very young.  The blankets made me feel safer when the really loud fireworks went off and they made it easier for my parents to bundle me into the car for the trip back to the house.  I think that's why I enjoy watching fireworks so much more in a blanket and pillow from home these days.
 
When the fireworks are over, consider the cleanup.  Look around you.  Part of being an American is pitching in to help others.  Help yourself and your community by cleaning up the things you brought and encouraging others to do the same.  You'll make this year's July 4th celebration more personal, a little more old-fashioned, and a lot more green. 
 
By the way, there is hope that someday, the fireworks we love so much will themselves be much greener.

Fireworks, flares and other so-called "pyrotechnics" traditionally have included potassium perchlorate as the oxidizer, a material that provides the oxygen that fireworks need to burn. Perchlorate, however, is an environmental pollutant with potential adverse effects on people and wildlife. Pyrotechnics contain other ingredients, such color-producing heavy metals, with a similar potential.

Studies have shown that perchlorate from community fireworks displays conducted over lakes, for instance, can lead to perchlorate contamination of the water. But now researchers are developing new pyrotechnic formulas that replace perchlorate with nitrogen-rich materials or nitrocellulose that burn cleaner and produce less smoke, according to an article in ACS's weekly newsmagazine, Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN).  So far, these green fireworks are in limited use because of their cost, but we hope that will change in time for July 4, 2010 to be a truly Greenified celebration. 


HAPPY EARTH DAY!!!

April 22, 2009

All the best for the Greenest of Earth Days in 2009 from your friends at Green Business Alliance!


Happy Saint Patrick's Day (Green Day)!!

March 17, 2009

We at Green Business Alliance wish you the happiest and greenest of Saint Patty's day. Enjoy your Green Day and all of the fun festivities that come with this special holiday!!


Red or Pink? Our Heart Beats for Green!

February 9, 2009

Have you thought about what you’re getting your sweetheart for Valentines’ Day, coming up at the end of this week?  Since it seems like every year, they come out with a new survey showing that the overwhelming majority of us wait until the actual Valentines’ Day to get a love token for our beloved, we assume that there is still time for you to consider a green Valentines’ Day gift. 

Chocolates and other candies are a very popular gift.  This year, there are environmentally friendly, sustainable chocolates, if that’s what you’re offering to impress your sweetheart. 

Here’s what you want to consider:

  • Choose “fair trade-certified.”  This means that the farmers who grew the cacao beans earned a fair wage, their workers were treated well, and some profits go back into the community. Check out http://www.transfairusa.org/ for details.
  • Look for boxes that are made with recycled paper.  To be honest, sometimes these boxes are handmade and very beautiful and unique.  Try to avoid plastic inserts or coating as well.  They aren’t “sweet” on the environment.
  • Choose chocolates made from local ingredients. Not perhaps the chocolate itself.  The cacao beans are generally grown in Central and South America.  But the ingredients in the fillings, like dairy products, fruits, and nuts can all be locally sourced.  That saves on fuel and supports local farmers.

And you can always look around for a local chocolatier.  There are many small boutique chocolate makers (think “Mom” in a flowery apron) springing up all over the country.  Buying local is always greener than buying big name or imported items.  And maybe your sweetheart, like some of us, is more impressed by a heart that beats for green than a heart that beats for overseas and often overpriced imported chocolates.


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.


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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.


Greenify a Holiday Reading List

December 10, 2008

It’s that time of year when a well-chosen corporate gift can say a lot to a client or friend.  It can set the tone for a relationship, or set an example for a lifetime.   Here’s a list of  some of the best, most well-regarded books that focus on Greenification. 

Walden
Henry David Thoreau

The original ode to the environment.  This is more than a literary staple of English classes across the United States.  It is Thoreau's most famous work and chronicles his two-year retreat to the woods, celebrates the simple life.

Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit
Al Gore

Gore’s book, written well before An Inconvenient Truth set the public consciousness spinning on global warming, the former Vice President was beginning to stake out his position on the environment.  In Earth in the Balance, he argues, "We must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization."

The Omnivore's Dilemma
Michael Pollan

This is the gift for the cook on your list.  Pollan follows the journey of four meals from farm to table: the corn-addicted path of McDonald's take-out, a home-cooked dinner of Whole Foods organics, a sustainably grown supper "off the grid" and a modern hunter-gatherer's meal.  A veritable feast of the senses for environmentally sensitive.

Silent Spring
Rachel Carson

Viewed widely as the book that gave birth to the modern environmental movement, Carson exposes the hazards of pesticides and other pollution, sounding both a warning and a call to action.

Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water
Marc Reisner

This book offers a look at the history of water management, as well as mismanagement in the Western United States.  Reisner's compelling chronicle work brought well-deserved attention to the pressing need for wise water use policy.

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Jared Diamond

This nonfiction piece offers modern-day lessons from locations as far and diverse as Rwanda and Japan while Diamond's haunting narrative explores doomed civilizations to make the case that ecological catastrophe can be averted if we make the right choices.

The Lorax
Dr. Seuss

For the child in all of us, Dr. Seuss spins an unforgettable story of a world once lush with truffula trees.  Told in his beloved rhyming style, the Lorax is written to charm youthful minds and hearts while at the same time introducing complex environmental ideas.

Send a tin of cookies and give them something to munch on; send a book and give them something to Greenify on for years to come.

 


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. 


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