Thursday, November 27, 2008

Green advertising - Part 2

In the last post, we talked about mailing frequency, paper type and inks. Now it's time to look at the mediums you're using for advertising.

Are your customers on-line?

A newsletter, weekly or monthly flyer or a catalog are all excellent ways to catch potential buyers' attention. But if a significant percentage of your shoppers or clients are web-savvy, you can provide the same advertising for less online. An e-mailed newsletter or flyer eliminates almost all paper use, cutting both waste and costs for your business -- a big plus in troubled times.

Of course, this might not work for all businesses or even for all customers within a business's client base. Some customers may not be net-savvy. Others may prefer a paper catalog or mailing. But offering the choice could reduce your costs and your un-green marketing.

Piggybacking your advertising

When little thought was given to green issues, putting a dozen separate inserts into a newspaper or magazine was common. Each of these papers was for a different company, and even though most ended up in the trash (or on the ground in front of the newspaper box), the ROI was good enough to make the cash outlay worthwhile.

Factoring in the green issues changes that. What are the costs to the earth for all those separate papers?

There is no doubt that paper inserts and mailers can be effective. But a concept called co-op advertising allows businesses to work with related but non-competing companies to make one paper into two ads.

Some example of good co-op advertising include a travel agency and a luggage store, a pet supply store and a dog training company, or perhaps a car repair shop and a gas station.

More tomorrow! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Green advertising - Part 1

Have you ever thought about how green your marketing plan is -- or is not?

If you're committed to running a green company, one of the issues you have to consider is the environmental impact of your advertising. Some of the factors to consider are;

Frequency of mailings and the impact of those on your sales.

If a monthly mailing doesn't generate significant increases in sales, consider cutting back to every other month. That would mean half the paper use, half the transportation-based energy use, half the production energy use, and probably half the waste generated (a few consumers might recycle, which would reduce that waste.)

Look at the paper you're using

Are your catalogs, flyers, postcards and other paper marketing tools printed on recycled paper? Switching to recycled paper, especially if you have frequent mailers, inserts or offer large catalogs, could significantly reduce virgin paper use and slow down tree cutting. Even a few trees saved is better than none.

And what about the ink?

Many commercial inks contain heavy metals and other potentially toxic substances. When printed material ends up in landfills, those dangerous substances can leach out and contaminate soil or even group water supplies. Switching to a soy or vegetable ink eliminates that environmental hazard.

I'll give you more issues to consider in tomorrow's post. And then on Friday, I'll suggest some greener advertising choices that just might work for you -- and the earth.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Green Thanksgiving ideas to take home

Okay, so you don't celebrate Thanksgiving at work...I hope! But it's the big event on the radar this week, so I'm going to give you a few Thanksgiving tips for a greener holiday.

1) (And this is a business tip) Give employees the day after Thanksgiving off, if at all possible. Office businesses are typically very quiet the day after the holiday, so save some energy costs by keeping the lights off and letting employees stay off the highway.

2) Encourage employees to bring Thanksgiving leftovers to work as lunches next week by offering recipes or a post-holiday potluck celebration. How is this green? Meals eaten at work mean less time spent at drive-throughs, less packaging in the trash and less food waste.

3) At your dinner, try to minimize disposable flatware, glasses and plastic coated plates. If you use plastic, put a Sharpie next to the dishes and encourage everyone to write their name on cups to reduce waste.

4) Use washable and reusable containers for leftovers instead of zipper bags and other throw-aways.

5) When you're talking about what you're grateful for, be sure to include the earth, clean water and clean air.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Greening your cleaning products at work

It's amazing that most of us survive the workday.

Between the toxic off-gassing from carpets and plastic desks and the toxic cleaners, we are all getting more than our share of dangerous chemicals every day we're in the office.

Fortunately, there are alternative to the toxic soup in which we spend the majority of each weekday.

Green cleaning products have gone mainstream. There are now green choices for every kind of business, from tackling a greasy restaurant kitchen to cleaning office floors and carpets.

Leaving behind the furnishing and carpets (that will be another post), resources like the National Green Pages list dozens of sources for safer alternative to standard janitorial cleaning supplies.

Low cost, "homemade" choices also work well in the office. Using household products like white vinegar, baking soda, fruit oils and other safe alternatives allows your company to maintain a clean property, save the environment, protect employee health -- and best of all, save money at the same time!

With all those incentives, what company wouldn't want to go green?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Green lunchrooms and kitchens at work make a difference

At many companies, the only acknowledgment that employees need to eat and drink is a bare break room...some tables, maybe a few vending machines featuring the popular junk food of the day and maybe a microwave. The result?

Most people go out to eat fast food, order in, or snack on the vending machine fare.

Aside from obvious health issues associated with this, there's a green factor as well. Or rather several green factors.

1) Going to the fast food drive through means employees are using their cars...and contributing to the carbon footprint. Sitting idling in the line is even worse than the to and from.

2) Fast food is typically heavily packaged, so a sandwich, fries and a drink generates a large amount of non-recycled trash including boxes, cartons, bags, straws, wrappers, cups, paper napkins and plastic condiment packages.

3) Ordering in requires a delivery person to drive, again adding to the carbon load.

4) Delivery food may be even more packaged than fast food, including reflective covers or plastic covers, foil trays and plastic flatware.

5) Vending machine food reflects a high level of processing, so factories are using energy to prepare and package the food, the food must be delivered via car or truck, and the food is typically packaged in non-recyclable plastics.

So how can a company make lunchtime greener...and save money on employee health issues, too? Here are some suggestions from readers and others:

1) Create a green lunchroom. Add an energy efficient refrigerator so employees can bring lunches from home. Leftovers and other "brown-bagged" meals are typically lower in fat, sugar, salt and processing than fast food or delivery alternatives.

2) Provide a sink and washing supplies so employees will use glass or reusable plastic containers for their food. Having a way to wash up after eating encourages employees to bring reusable containers.

3) Have enough energy-efficient microwaves to make heating food feasible during peak lunch hours.

4) Give employees enough time to eat a proper lunch. If you only have half an hour, a fast food burger might feel like the only option. A full hour not only encourages healthier eating, it will allow employees to function more productively in the afternoon, as they will have had a significant restorative break.

5) If possible, offer hot or cold healthy lunches at work. Contract with a caterer or restaurant who has adopted green practices, and have them bring in minimally packaged foods.

6) Work with your vending machine supplier to replace highly packaged and highly processed foods with fresh fruit and food in recycled containers. Make sure there are visible recycling bins in all break and lunch rooms, and actively encourage employee recycling.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

New changes in the FMLA mean new paperwork -- and lots of potential waste

Changes approved earlier in the year to the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act)are expected to go into effect any day now*. The extensive clarifications will make many mandatory labor law posters obsolete. Human resource and labor law handbooks, manuals and forms will also need to be replaced with versions that reflect the changes.

That means potentially millions of sheets of paper and countless laminated (and therefore un-recyclable)labor law posters will be thrown away. Little if any of this material can or will be recycled, and little was on recycled paper to start with.

And this is not an isolated incidence. Every year, dozens of Federal and State regulations change, and with those changes, go waste. Lots of waste. In paper, in landfill space and in money. But the changes are mandatory! So what's a business owner to do? Here are a few suggestions for keeping your business in compliance without wrecking the earth:

1) Choose recycled (and recyclable)products. From labor law posters to file folders, there are recycled versions available. You just have to look.

2) Choose downloadable or printable versions of mandatory forms, then print them on recycled paper using soy or vegetable inks.

3) Only buy or print the forms and papers you really need. Stockpiling 500 I-9 or FMLA forms may save money on each sheet, but when the changes come and you need to replace them with a newer version long before you've run out, any savings evaporate.

4) Recycle obsolete books, manuals and forms rather than throwing them in the trash.

5) Choose non-laminated posters and other materials whenever possible. Laminated paper is generally not recyclable.

*(Information about changes in the FMLA will be posted on sites like G.Neil, ComplyRight and HRdirect as soon as they're finalized.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Europe ahead of US in green business practices

European businesses have been leading the way when it comes to green business innovation. That's drawing traditionally U.S. companies into the more profitable European green market.

In October, the Miami Herald reported on Office Depot's expanded European market share. The company, which has suffered losses domestically despite several years of green product development and promotion is experiencing large and profitable gains with European businesses and consumers who are more willing to seek out and pay for environmentally friendly products and services.

In Frankfurt, Germany subway station escalators are equipped with sensors so they run only when someone approaches or is on-board.

By the mid-90's, all new construction through-out Europe had to adhere to mandated levels of energy savings. And many European architects make sustainability a central theme in their work.

So why is the U.S. lagging behind?

Some analysts theorize that the high level of E.U. involvement in environmental issues has pushed green consciousness to a higher level. Others believe the profit-driven corporate power structure behind lobbying efforts in the U.S. has quashed green development as unprofitable and therefore undesirable. Others cite the material abundance which has typically characterized American life in contrast to the relative lack that existed in some parts of Europe only a few decades ago as an explanation for a more sustainable lifestyle.

Whatever the reason, U.S. businesses need to work harder to convince consumers to buy green and live green, especially when cheaper non-green choices abound.

What has your experience been as a business owner, employee or manager? Are American less enamoured with green products than our European cousins? How can we break that trend? I would love to hear your ideas and experiences!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Are hybrids right for your business?

In late October, UPS took a bold move into a greener world with the introduction of hydraulic hybrid vehicles (HHVs) to its fleet of delivery vehicles. This makes it the first package delivery company to adapt hybrid technology.

Earlier in the month, Toshiba American Medical Systems announced they would be replacing their sales and service vehicles with Toyota Camry hybrids. They hope this move will reduce CO2 emissions by as much as 25%.

The hybrids will take us closer to our goal of reducing emissions in logistics from company cars and freight by one percent each year,” said Paul Biggins, director of Regulatory Affairs and head of the TAMS’ Environmental Affairs Committee.

In 2007, Bausch & Lomb announced that their 400-vehicle fleet would be replaced by hybrids. McDonald's in the UK is running their vehicles on recycled cooking oil. And plans are underway to replace high-gas use NYC taxis with environmentally friendly hybrids, a move that is already in place in Washington D.C.

So how do you know if hybrids are a good choice for your business?

Here are some questions you need to ask:

  • How much of your company's business is conducted on the road? If company car mileage is low, the payback time on a hybrid might not make business sense. If mileage is high, especially in cities and on other secondary roads, a hybrid might reduce fuel costs significantly.

  • Can you afford to replace a large enough percentage of your fleet to make a difference? If you're running 300 vehicles, replacing a half dosen with hybrids probably won't save enough fuel to make it worth while.

  • Might switch have PR value or social value beyond the cost savings? Having your company viewed as green and earth-friendly might yield a significant boost to public image. And that could be worth more than the cost of a new hybrid vehicle.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Getting the word out about your green business

Whether your company's move to the greener side has been inspired by a deep commitment to the earth or a keen awareness of the costs of business-as-usual, you'll want to get the message out to customers and business associates. Even the most altruistic managers and business owners will want to leverage the changes into positive publicity for the company.

Let's face it: green sells.

So how and where does a business share the information about their changes? And how much change is enough to make a campaign or press release seem meaningful? Let's start with the latter -- what's enough of a change to warrant publicity.

1) The change represents a significant alternation in the way your company and/or industry did business in the past. For example, allowing two or three people to telecommute is not news. Allowing 30% of your workforce to do so IS news. Especially if your industry or region is not heavily invested in the concept at this point.

2) The change involves a technology, process or business model that arose from your company.

3) The change results in a significant or potentially significant savings in energy or a significant reduction in waste or pollution. A process change that saves one tree a year is a nice gesture, but will appear self-serving and insignificant in a press release. A technology that saves 20 trees a month is newsworthy.

Once you've determined that your news is indeed,well, news, the question of where to shout the news remains. Here are a few suggestions:

1) Targeted press releases. A number of press release services allow you to select your audience, and environmental targeting is typically one of the choices. Make sure big names in the environmental news world like the Sierra Club and the World Wildlife Fund are among the release recipients, along with newspapers in environmentally savvy regions of the country. In the U.S., that would include the Intermountain West states like Colorado, Utah and Montana, Pacific Northwestern papers and most areas of California.

2) Print and online resource publications like the National Green Pages, Treehugger or

3) Green magazines and e-zines. Magazines like Mother Earth News or Good are excellent places to discuss your new business choices. Contact their editorial staff with your story idea or submit a query for an article you'd write yourself. New green publications are being added almost daily, so check your newsstand or do an Internet search for new venues to discuss your green company.

4) Word of mouth. One of most effective ways to promote your green business is through word of mouth. Talk with people online in blogs and other social networking sites. Get your employees excited and talking. If customers are enthusiastic about the new changes, ask them to spread the word. Conversation, person to person, is the best way to build a loyal base of staff and customers.