Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Green and profitable: The Three R's of Green Business

As the economic situation continues to remain grim for businesses across the country and around the world, some companies are abandoning so-called green practices in an effort to save money.

What most of those businesses don;t realize is that truly green practices are are cost effective. A few require a long term perspective, but many offer short term savings as well.

This post is the first in a series of green business tips designed to transform your green business goals into more green in your pocket. Watch for a new idea or perspective on profitable green business every Monday.

The mantras of green is "Reuse, Reduce, Recycle"

It's a familiar phrase. We've all heard it. But are we getting it?

Many individuals and businesses only focus on the last part of that equation. And while recycling is a critical part of the green lifestyle, it's number three on the list

So what about one and two? Guess what? These are GREEN business practices that will save you money from day one!!

Think about it...


Switch from paper based project folders or memos to digital. You save paper, the cost of folders, toner, trash collection costs, and probably boost productivity time if you have documents that previously had to be re-keyed for edits or needed to be filed.


Think of second uses for things. Or choose things that can be reused. The backs of used printer paper become notepads. Purchase second hand office furniture -- much of it is like-new. Replace disposable coffee cups with one real mug for everyone. Donate safe, non-toxic scrap materials to a local school's art program -- you may get a tax deduction! Shred incoming boxes to use as packing material for outgoing shipments.

Look around your business. See what can be reduced, without hurting morale or productivity. See what can be reused without affecting quality or safety. Solict input from employees to increase their buy-in and commitment.

Remember, recycling is number three. Save YOUR green first, with Numbers 1 and 2!

Friday, September 11, 2009

New weekly feature - the best of green

Each week, we'll feature the best green news story from the previous week. Join us to stay on top of what hot in the world of "going green" each Friday.

This week's story comes from Canadian journalist and blogger Tyler Hamilton. According to Hamilton,

A British Columbia-based company called Free Energy International has signed a deal with an undisclosed oil and gas exploration and production company in Alberta, in an area known as Swan Hills. Free Energy will build two 1-megawatt geothermal plants that take hot water — a co-product of oil and natural gas during the pumping process — and extract the heat from it to generate electricity. The $7 million project will tap wells that are around 9,000 feet deep, and temperatures of the fluids can easily reach 170 degrees F in high volumes. After the heat is extracted from the water using heat exchangers, it is used to run an Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) power plant. The water is later pumped back into the ground. Free Energy will build, own and operate this binary cycle plant and the oil company has agreed to buy all the electricity produced for the same rate it was paying to a previous supplier.

Read the rest of the story on his green energy blog, Clean Break.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sorting out the green paper madness

You've decided to do the right thing and go green with all your paper goods. Forms, applications, even holiday cards. So you start shopping for the greenest choices, but before long, your head is aching and your mind is swimming.


Post Consumer...........


Pre consumer.........




Reduced Carbon Footprint....


What does it all mean???????

Here are a few websites to help clear up the madness and direct you towards the right materials for all your business paper.

For greeting cards, business holiday cards and such

For computer paper and copy paper and other general office paper

For photographers or anyone who uses photo paper

For businesses that buy paper in large quantities

Friday, August 28, 2009

Looking at the long run...learning about lifecycle costs

Sure, that new server or car or television set has a big seal proclaiming its energy savings. But that's for now. What are the long term energy and waste costs of owning it? And how do those compare with competing solutions that might have bigger seals or lower apparent efficiencies to start?

Years ago...maybe even decades, companies started looking at the lifecycle cost of technology and electronics. But the process fell out of favor.

The costs for running the numbers were too high. And the results were all too often unreliable. But as businesses become more concerned about the long-term costs of technology purchased today, the concept of lifecycle costs is making a comeback.

According to an article by Joel Makower,

In the past few months, LCA [Life Cycle Analysis] has moved to the forefront of corporate environmental efforts, propelled by enabling technology, the prospects of climate change legislation, and the growing demands for radical transparency by consumers, business customers, government regulators, and retailers, notably Walmart. And it's not just about modeling individual products and processes. LCA is moving from the shadows and into the limelight, a strategic tool for environmental leadership companies.

That's good news for cost and environmentally conscious companies...and for the rest of us who stand to benefit from cleaner, more cost-efficient technology. Read the rest of the story at The Renaissance of Lifecycle Thinking | GreenBiz.com

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Truth About Green Business

The Truth About Green Business | The GreenBiz Bookstore | GreenBiz.com

Too many business owners and managers think they need to make a choice between being green and profitable. The author of this book dispels that falsehood and teaches you how greener business practices actually mean more green in your pocket!

We met an example of this earlier in this blog when we met carpet giant and successful business man Ray Anderson...learn why his story could be yours!

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

The high cost of idling....

Soccer Moms and ballet Dads turn off your engines

Author: Lance Shugerman

It’s only a minute or two, right? Just waiting for your child to come out of school or get off the bus. Just a couple of minutes before ballet class or football practice ends.

But have you ever added up all those “few minutes?”

Idling your engine for five minutes a day waiting to pick up your child at school, multiplied by 180 days in the school year equals 15 hours a year.. Would you leave your car idling outside your house for 15 hours?

....Read the rest at ArticlesBase.com - Soccer Moms and ballet Dads turn off your engines

From Articlesbase.com.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Co-op advertising is a green choice

Despite the huge growth in online advertising, paper ads are here to stay. Magazines, direct mail, flyers, newspaper ads and inserts all remain popular choices for getting messages to potential buyers. Even green companies need to advertise.

But as a green business, we face a unique dilemma. How can we reach the print media reader without compromising our green standards?

Think about it: Sending out 100,000 direct mail pieces touting an environmentally-friendly company raises a host of issues, from paper choices to the carbon impact of the delivery vehicles to waste generation. And yet, we cannot afford to miss the chance to reach customers, if we want to remain in business.

While we can make greener choices in the paper and inks we select, the old-fashioned practice of co-op advertising can offer an even greater benefit for the earth, and potentially, for our businesses.

The concept is simple. Two or more companies offering complementary services or products advertise together on one flyer or in one magazine or insert ad.

The immediate benefit is less paper, less ink and less trash generated to have two or more on one page instead of each separately. But there is another plus....

Co-op advertising allows businesses to offer a more complete line of services or products to each customer. For instance, a green lawn care service can co-op with an organic plant nursery, so potential customers can buy the plants they need and find the service to care for their landscaping, all in one ad. A green energy products company could co-op with a contractor who uses environmentally friendly building methods. By meeting both needs, you increase the chance that a customer will act on the ad.

This works for B2B clients, too. In the case of the sponsors of this blog, MyStatePosters, they could do a co-op ad with a green cleaning supply company giving restaurant owners a way to buy green cleaning products and green labor law materials, all from one ad. Both are necessary but not exciting products a restaurant needs -- how convenient to find both in one ad.

Co-op advertising isn't new. I have paper church fans and ad cards from the late 1800's and early 1900's that used the same technique to draw customers into related stores, or even into the same part of town (shop here, eat next door.) Who knew they were so green way back then?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Plantable greeting cards, invitations and announcements?

How many invitations and greeting cards have you received in your life? Hundreds? Thousands? Where are they now?

What if all of those cards and announcements had been made from recycled materials? And 100% recyclable?

How about one step better...what if each and every card were embedded with wildflower seeds? Imagine...a card you do not throw away -- a card you plant!

That's what I found at a site called Forever Fiances. Handmade, beautiful, completely plantable greeting cards, wedding invitations and announcements.

The uses are endless:

For businesses, they would be a wonderful way to coordinate your green practices or products with a truly green thank you or holiday card

For personal use, birthdays, thank you's, and of course, as their name implies, weddings. What a lovely way to honor a special occasion!

Just something I stumbled on and wanted to share!

Monday, June 22, 2009

How Green Is Your Swimming Pool? - Science News | Science

How Green Is Your Swimming Pool? - Science News | Science & Technology | Technology News - FOXNews.com

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According to an article on FoxNews,

Water filters guzzle power, nasty chemicals keep the water sterile, and the water itself is a tremendous waste during dry spells. In fact, this suburban status symbol could be an ecological travesty.

Here in Florida, we love our swimming pools. But does being green mean doing without a backyard pool?

Not necessarily, according to experts. While water use and chemicals pose significant ecological risks, homeowners who love their pools can still reduce costs and environmental impact by replacing inefficient filter systems with newer models, and by running their filters for only part of each day. Those two steps alone made a huge difference!

According to the author,
A study by the Center for Energy Conservation at Florida Atlantic University showed that some pool owners saved a whopping 75 percent of their pool's energy consumption by replacing pumps and reducing the amount of time their filters were run.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Green governement should lead the way

There's a lot of talk about going green, green incentives, green initiatives, etc. But so much of it seems to be lip service. I propose that our government - federal, state and local -- should be leading the way and setting the example of exactly how we can cut the cord of oil dependence.

My manifesto?

1) All government agencies should be paperless. Forms, applications, documents, registrations? All electronic. 100% by year end. No hard copies stored.

2) The switchover to green energy should start immediately in all government buildings. What a great use for stimulus money! Allow companies that sell solar power and wind power equipment to bid on green retrofitting of all government buildings by year's end. No lengthy process. Just choose a company and go.

3) All school lunches should immediately be switched to vegetarian ingredients. Crops use far less resources than animals, and school lunches account for a large and controllable segment of meat purchases and consumption. Healthier for the kids, too, which will reduce medical care needs. Follow this with all vegetarian in government agency and legistlative dining rooms. Oh, and don't forget the White House and all Governors' Mansions.

4) Telecommuting immediately available for all jobs that do not require face-to-face interaction or the use of machinery or equipment not available at home. That would free up a lot of space in government buildings, which could be converted in green research labs, homeless or transitional housing, or sold off to pay down debts and reduce ongoing facility costs.

5) Convert or replace all government vehicles with hybrids, hydrogen cell, solar or other clean (or cleaner) fuel sources. Again, great use for Stimulus $$$. Think of all the jobs created for this switch over! Making cars, building fueling stations, etc.

Five steps. Just five. Oh, but what a revolution those five would be!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Recycling carpet?

One of the people I talked with at MiaGreen was Tony Lundy from Resource 4 Floors, a Fort Lauderdale flooring company committed to sustainability.

First some background on carpet waste:

According to recent statistics, over 4 BILLION pounds of carpet end up in U.S. landfills each year. In Europe, 30 million square metres of carpet tiles are sent to landfills or are incinerated each year.

Companies like Resource 4 Floors are working to reduce those numbers by offering recycling programs for used carpet and carpet squares. And it's working! According to their website, they've successfully kept over 346,755 pounds of carpet out of South Florida landfills.

Until I spoke with Tony, I had no idea carpet was recyclable. Nor did I know that flooring represented such a huge part of the waste stream.

And the problem is actually growing, because companies using carpet squares for ease of installation are just throwing away and replacing soiled squares rather than cleaning them.

According to Tony and other specialists I consulted, the green challenge would be for companies who enjoy the easy installation of carpet squares to:

1)Use quality, earth-friendly cleaning products to clean spills and stains

2)Rotate stained squares into "hidden" areas like under cabinets and desks, and move the fresh square into the more visible site.

3)Replace squares only when needed due to damage

4)If replacement is unavoidable, work with a recycler to properly handle disposal of your carpet and other flooring so it won't end up in the landfill.

Tomorrow, another green tidbit gathered from MiaGreen!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

California moves to put textbooks online instead of on paper

In a story published on Slashdot, Hugh Pickens reports that California will be moving to online textbooks for their state's high schools.

The move was reportedly made to help reduce expenses for struggling school budgets. Governor Schwarzenegger called the reliance on heavy printed books "nonsensical," and pointed to the fact that students are already using electronic media such as Twitter and Facebook for communication.

The story has a decidedly green angle as well. Replacing thousands of printed textbooks with easy-to-update electronic versions will reduce paper and ink use, while reducing waste streams from discarded out-of-date or damaged text books. That model could make a huge difference in paper use if the practice spreads through other grade levels and other states.

I love the green aspect of this, and applaud the Governor for initiating such a bold move at a time when school budgets are teetering on the edge.

But there is an element of an SNL skit in here somewhere, too. We see a saddened Captain Jean-Luc Picard in his office, lovingly cradling his calculus textbook -- the last of its kind before the electronic book took over. (Those of you who get the allusion, congrats! You are as geeky as I am!)

Or perhaps we see a teacher Twitter today's history lesson...the fall of Rome in under 140 characters...

While the comic possibilities are endless, I have to go back to the potential this has for a green impact. K-12 schools and colleges buy, use and discard millions of tons of paper each year. While there is something undeniably wonderful about turning the pages of a real book, it would seem that for school text books, the green answer is on the screen.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Eco-Friendly Gadgets for the Office

How green is your office? Do you recycle all of your paper? Do you avoid printing when you can? Well, if you're doing all of that, then you might like these green gadgets for your workplace, so that you can be even more eco-friendly!

Rather than use plastic pens, you could use pencils instead. However, rather than use a conventional pencil, Smencils are made from recycled newspaper, and they come in different flavours too! Some of the scents are pretty tasty, so as tempted as you might be to eat these smencils, I recommend you don't! The scents include Bubble Gum, Orange, Toasted Marshmallow, Chocolate, Strawberry, Pineapple, Raspberry and Apple. The only downside to these pencils is that they come in plastic tubes, which is not so green.

For when you do print out your documents, then the eco-stapler using a special cutting and folding technique to hold up to clip 3 pages together without using a metal staple. Admittedly, 3 pages is not a particularly large number of pages. However, I'm sure it'll just be a matter of time before more sophisticated stapler gadgets can fix together even more pages.

If you use a computer in the office, then you might be interested to know that you can get some really low power PCs now. The Aleutia E2 is a small PC around the size of 3 stacked CD cases, and incredibly it runs on just 8 Watts of power! Considering that modern PCs use around 250 to 400 Watts of power, that's a massive difference. It's not designed for processor-intensive work, but it's definitely suited to word processing, email and web browsing. You can even run it from a solar panel if you wish!

Even if you have an older-style computer, there are lots of things you can do to make it more energy efficient, such as using a low power hard drives. These low power variants can save up to 50% of the energy compared to conventional hard drives. There are other peripherals that are coming on to the market too, including energy saving PSUs (power supply units).

It just goes to show, eco-gadgets aren't all just tote bags and compost bins!

This article is a guest post written by Dan Harrison who writes about all kinds of green gadgets for EnviroGadget.com. You can read about energy saving gadgets, gizmos that save water, basically any kind of device that's good for the planet.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sustainability makes business sense and carpet maker Ray Anderson proves it!

There has been a belief, no, more than that, a set-in-stone assumption among many business people that a company can either maximize profits OR go green. It was a clear either-or statement. Or so it was thought.

Carpet company owner Ray Anderson has turned that equation on its head. His company's change from one of the worst offenders in environmental pollution and net carbon impact, to one of the stars of the new green business model. The numbers tell his story:

  • Net greenhouse gases, down 82%
  • Water usage, down 70% on average across all product types
  • Fossil fuel usage, down 60% per unit of product

  • Products now use 25% recycled materials
  • Production uses 27% renewable energy

And in the midst of all these changes, what has happened to sales and profits?

  • Sales have increased by 66%
  • Profits are up 200%
  • Avoidable costs saved of $400 million have paid for all the changes in production and materials

Not satisfied with these numbers, nor with the success of the new eco-friendly line, FLOR, Anderson has set a goal of zero carbon footprint for his company by the year 2020.

Sustainability has come of age in the business world!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Billionaire Pickens has a plan to save the earth...and our economy

T. Boone Pickens, the Dallas Billionaire has a plan for ending America's dependence on foreign oil...and in fact. most oil altogether.

And no, it's not a pie-in-the-sky someday-maybe dream. It's a do-able here and now plan. And to prove it, Pickens has already invested over $60 million dollars of his own money in his plan.

The plan involves an immediate and widespread switch to natural gas as our primary fuel source. It starts with a bill -- H.R. 1835 [the "New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act of 2009," introduced by Rep. Dan Boren], which allows fleet owners to get new natural gas powered trucks paid for. AT&T has already agreed to replace 8,000 vehicles to run on natural gas -- that's one fifth of its fleet.

Picken's plan continues with the world's largest wind farm -- his wind farm in Texas. And then involves individual landowners who could generate wind energy on their own property and sell it into the grid.

Fed up with the endless debates and hand-wringing, Pickens is promoting a "Let's just do it" attitude. The alternative, inaction, he claims will destroy us within a decade. Read about his plan in detail at GreenBiz.com and decide for yourself.

Comments anyone?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

When it's time for gadgets to go

So how did you do on the electronics recycling test? Hopefully better than my 50%!

Electronic waste is growing at a rate of three times that of regular trash. And much of it is potentially toxic to our ground water and soil.

There are alternatives to tossing electronics, and some people are catching on. According to a post on Earth 911,

The U.S. EPA recently announced a 30 percent increase in electronics recycling through its Plug-In to eCycling program, with more than 66.5 million pounds of used electronics recycled in 2008.

That's great news for the earth, but we can do even better. Here are some electronics-specific ideas for recycling or reusing instead of trashing...

Televisions - TV's are one of the biggest items we throw away, and with the switch to digital TV, more and more of them are ending up curbside and in landfills. Is there a better option? Yes!

Most Office Depots will accept old televisions for recycling. Also, check with your local waste authority, as many cities and counties now offer large electronics recycling programs; a few even reward recyclers with coupons towards new TVs.

Cell phones - The average cell phone users buys a new phone every 14 months. That's a lot of phones going into the trash, many with toxic batteries still attached. But there is a better choice!

Women's shelters and senior centers in many cities will accept donations of used phones and program them to dial 911. These emergency phones have been credited with saving the lives of elderly people living alone, and women and children living in risky situations. Check with a local shelter, or contact Donate My Phone for a local drop off location.

Computers and computer monitors
- Staples office supply stores offer two programs to help you recycle your computers and peripherals. If your items are newer and can still be useful, they will offer you a coupon for credit towards a new item in their store. Older computers. monitors and the like will be accepted for recycling.

Advanced Technology Recycling offers computer and other technology users an opportunity to sell and buy computers and other used electronics online, which means less ends up in the trash.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What's your electronics recycling I.Q.

You think you know all about recycling. You've mastered separating the plastic bottles according to those triangles and numbers, you haven't thrown away a metal can or glass bottle since Bush senior was in office. You are a recycling Maven, right? Okay -- what do you do with an old T.V.? How about a car stereo? Dead iPod? What do you do with the things that have no bin? And how much of that stuff are we, as Americans, tossing away each year?

Green Plant just published an eye-opening quiz about recycling electronics. I took it...and was shocked when I only got 50% right!

Take the test and see how you do. Let me know your score. And tomorrow I'll post some information about dealing with old electronics.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

10 quick ways to be green at home or in the car

I know, I know, I promised this post a few days ago...but then there was the breaking story about Ford converting their SUV plant into a green car plant, and then I had a cool guest blogger show up and...

But here it is! Finally! 10 quick (15 minutes or under!) and cheap ways to go green at home or in your car. Ready? Set....

1) Get a clothes line and hang up the big stuff. No, you do not need to hang every sock or your undies on the line for all the neighbors to see. And no one wants crispy towels! But hanging out those big or hard to dry things like sheets, blankets, hoodies and jeans will make a big difference in your energy use, especially if you use an electric dryer. Time to hang one load a day; 10 minutes

2) Plan your day's drive. Buy or print a map of your city and laminate it. Buy a dry erase marker. Before you head out to do your weekend or daily errands, mark your destinations on the map and connect the dots to find the route with the least overlap and waste. Do your errands in that order. If you have an appointment as one of your stops, mark that first and then plan the rest of the stops around that. Grocery shopping in hot weather? Take a cooler and ice packs to keep perishable cool or plan that for your last stop. Time to plan the day's drive: 5 minutes

3) Skip the drive-through and take a drink. If you typically stop at a fast food window for a beverage, take a cold drink with you instead. You will save the gas you'd spend sitting in line, as well as reduce the waste from paper or plastic disposable cups, straws and wrappers. Time to put a drink in a reusable bottle: 5 minutes

4) Clean up the green way. Instead of using paper towels to wipe up spills or dust the furniture, cut up worn out towels or cotton clothing to make rags. By the time it gets too worn out or stained to use, one small rag can save you from buying more than 7 rolls of paper towels! Just toss them in with a same-color wash load, and you won't be using more energy to clean them either! Time to cut up old stuff into rags: 5 minutes

5) Try water. When it comes to cleaning stoves, sinks and counter tops, skip the expensive and toxic cleaners and try water! Manufacturers have convinced us that clean only comes in a spray bottle, but the fact is some water and a non-abrasive cleaning pad will usually do the trick. It just might take a minute or two more. If you need a little more omph, sprinkle some baking powder on the surface. Scrub and wipe dry with a rag (see number 4, above.) You'll save money, reduce chemicals in the environment and have less plastic bottles to throw away. Time to scrub a bit: 1-2 minutes per surface

6) Start slow, stop slow. There's a concept called hypermiling that can increase your gas mileage no matter where you drive. Some people have taken the idea to extremes and advocate dangerous driving habits to save gas. But just two simple changes -- starting out slowly from the traffic light, and slowing down as you approach a red light (or an old green -- one that is about to change) by taking your foot off the gas, can increase your gas mileage by 1-2%. Maybe more, depending on where you drive and your old driving habits. You won't sit at stop lights as long, so the time will balance out. Time to drive and save: 0 minutes.

7) Get a bathroom timer. Everyone knows what a kitchen timer is, but a bathroom timer? If showers run long in your house, get a cheap wind up style timer and set it for 10 minutes. Make it a house rule that showers (from the time the water is turned on to the time it is turned off) cannot exceed the buzzer time. You'll save water, energy for water heaters and reduce waste water, too. Time to set a timer: 1 minute

8) Cut back on newspapers. If you receive a daily paper, switch to a weekend only paper delivery schedule and get your news online the rest of the week. You'll save paper, reduce landfill and cut costs all at once. Time to change your newspaper subscription: 5 minutes

9) Use the leftover containers for leftovers and other fun things. If you get food to go or take home leftovers from your favorite restaurant, reuse those containers at least once after the food is gone. Plastic or foam boxes work well as paint trays for kids or when you're doing touch-ups, as a lightweight portable doggie water dish on an outing, or as a place to put the screws and other small bits when you're putting together or taking apart furniture, electronics or car parts. Time to rinse and put containers away for later: 2 minutes

10) Go solar outside. Instead of powering exterior lights along your driveway or path, let the sun do it for you. Solar landscaping lights are very reasonably priced, and only require that you stick them into the ground wherever you want light. What could be easier? Time to install 10 solar lights: 10 minutes

Friday, May 22, 2009

Green Revolution or Ecological Evolution

Today we have our first guest blogger, Lance Shugerman.

Some say we are experiencing a Green Revolution. Is it, or is it a part of an Ecological Evolution which has been going on for over a century?

It could be argued that it started with Teddy Roosevelt and the creation of the National Park system. The evolutionary leap during the 60’s crowned by the creation of Earth Day in 1970.

Then there was clean air and water acts of the Nixon administration, (although of course he did use Agent Orange.)

Don’t forget the removal of lead from gasoline in the late 70’s and the roll out of local recycling programs over the years. The movement continued over the years through many pendulum swings are possible (the most drastic being the last eight years.)

Even during these dark times people like Al Gore his inconvenient truth advanced the evolutionary process.

So I think the “Green Revolution” is nothing more than a bright chapter in the Ecological Evolution which will continue and hopefully make the world a more sustainable and livable home for all living creature, air, land and water.

Lance Shugerman first became aware of the environmental movement while at the University of Florida in the early 80’s. He has been member of the Sierra Club for decades and is an active member of Mosaic Outdoor Club (as is this blog's owner!) where he regurgitates knowledge to its members. An avid fan of scientific/ ecological learning especially when spoon fed by the Discovery Channel, Lance is the owner of Green Energy Prod where he helps home owners and businesses save money on energy and help the planet.

Visit Lance's website or blog for more information about green energy generation for homes and businesses.

If you are interested in submitting a guest blog and bio of your green life, drop me a line at Green Business FLA

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ford transforms SUV plant into green electric car plant

In a move that may signal the beginning of a new era in domestic auto production, Ford Motor Company has announced that they are transforming an SUV plant into a green production facility for building electric cars.

According to a post in Greenopolis,

The Ford Motor Company is investing $550 million to transform its Michigan Assembly Plant into a lean, green and flexible manufacturing complex that will build Ford’s next-generation Focus global small car along with a new battery-electric version of the Focus for the North American market.

The plant, formerly the production site for Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigators SUVs, is one of three North American light truck plants Ford is retooling to build fuel-efficient global small cars in the coming years. The new Focus will begin rolling off the line next year and the battery-electric version of the Focus – Ford’s first all-electric passenger car – debuts in 2011.

As part of the retooling, Ford will consolidate its operations from Wayne Assembly Plant. When production launches in 2010, approximately 3,200 employees will be building the new Focus at Michigan Assembly Plant. At the plant, Ford and United Auto Workers are developing modern new operating practices to ensure high quality and even greater efficiency.

Read the rest of the story at LiteGreen's Greenopolis blog.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

10 quick ways to be greener at work

Okay. no major lifestyle changes...these are 10 quick and easy ways to go greener at your company or home office. Each takes less than 15 minutes!

Tomorrow, 10 more for the house and car.

1) Instead of ordering printed business forms, get your business forms, employee forms and HR information online from sites like G.Neil.com, which offers lots of printable stuff like printable state-specific job applications. Time to make change: 5 minutes

2) Set your office computers to go into sleep or hibernate after hours, and use Wake on LAN to allow after-hours updates and remote access without wasting energy. Time to make change: 10 minutes

3) Next time you shop for breakroom supplies, replace the foam plates and cups in the lunch rooms with recycled/recycable paper and provide a recycle bin. Better yet, encourage people to bring their own mug and provide bio-safe dish soap. Time to make change: 5 minutes

4) Replace paper memos with electronic ones. Ban paper ones, ban printing the electronic ones. (Make the penalty for violation funny...like having to wear the paper memos pinned to one's shirt for the day!) Time to make change: 1 minute and some good laughs as people adjust to the new rules

5) Take out 10 light bulbs in your office and replace them with high-efficiency green light bulbs. Time to make change: 10 minutes, assuming no lawyers or other lightbulb joke participants are involved)

6) Install hand sanitizer stations in restrooms and breakrooms to reduce water and paper towel use. Time to make change: 10 minutes per station

7) Instead of placing a paper insert ad, spend 10 minutes a day promoting your company or product on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or other social sites and networks. Time to make change: 10 minutes per day

8) Replace the toxic cleaners in your offices with green, safe versions. Or better yet, mix your own natural cleaners from things like baking soda and vinegar. Time to make change: 15 minutes or less per product

9) Send out a green tip of the day to employees (via the Internet, NOT on paper!) Encourage employees to submit their own green ideas and lifestyle changes to include in your list of tips. Time to make the change: 5 minutes or less a day

10) Change your subscription on two professional journals, bills or order confirmations from paper to online only. Do this once a week until everything that can be paperless is paperless. Time to make the change: 10 minutes a week

There you go! 10 quick changes, each 15 minutes or less! Ready, set, green!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wind turbine timing saves bats

The popular wisdom tells us that bats can "see" anything in the dark, thanks to their remarkable sonar. Well, apparently, that doesn't apply to wind turbines.

The mix between clean energy generating wind mills (or wind turbines) and these tiny winged mammals has been deadly. A study performed by the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative (yes, that is for real...trust me, I could not make that up) found that as wind power has increased in popularity, so have bat fatalities. Turning the wind turbines off at night if the wind is low (bats' favorite time to be out and about) resulted in a nearly 79% drop in the number of bat deaths.

(Okay, forgive me here, folks. I like bats. I really do. I had a big barn in Pennsylvania that was partially leased to a neighbor, and when I found out he was planning to put moth balls in the lofts to get rid of the bats, I threatened to remove all of his stuff and revoke the lease! I used to watch the bats come out at dusk...so I really do like them. But somehow, with this story, I keep getting images of old Batman episodes and Batman and Robin coming out of the Batcave and hitting into a giant windmill placed there by the Joker or Penguin or some other arch enemy...doesn't help that the sources I'm using also talk about bird deaths, and that brings to mind Robin...Anyhow, forgive me if I stray, because I know this is an important topic but I needed to warn you in case my subconscious gets the better of me and inserts a pun or two...)

Bats are critical to the environment, as a primary control on the insect population. No bats, lots more bugs. And clean energy is critical to our environment, too. Wind turbines are an excellent and affordable choice for energy. We need to get beyond oil. So the deadly clash between the two is a major concern for both environmentalists and clean energy producers.

Scientists are studying the reason for the problem, as they aren't sure whether the bats can't see the spinning blades, which can reach speeds of up to 180 miles per hour, or if they are attracted to the shiny metal in the blade itself. There is also some concern that the movement of air around the blades may be interfering with the bats' sonar or even affecting their lungs because of the significant changes in air pressure around a turbine (think divers and the bends.)

Experiments are being conducted to create sonar barriers or physical barriers around the blades to protect the bats. For now, turning the turbines off on low wind night seems to be the best choice, and one that most clean energy producers are willing to try.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Green your computers with Wake on LAN

You want to save energy at your company and at home, but there are updates you need, remote access that's essential or data that needs to be accepted even during times when no one is around.

So do you leave the computer running, sucking up energy and waiting? Or do you miss out on the updates and access?

There is a third choice, and odds are it's already built into you computer. The process is called Wake on LAN. In plain English, it means that even if your computer is in energy-saving hibernate or sleep mode, it can wake up and accept data or allow access even when no one is around to press a button.

There's a complete step-by-step of the process on Lifehacker, but basically it's as simple as making a few tweaks in your computer's BIOS settings, then changes the settings in the Device Manager to allow your computer to utilize the new BIOS.

Best of all, after your computer has stretched its virtual arms and accepted your remote access or incoming data, you can tell it to go back to sleep (or into hibernate) again until the next update.

A free PsShutdown tool from Microsoft SysInternals can be used to script automatic standby after each use.

The whole process will take less than 10 minutes to install, but the energy savings, especially for a large company running PC's at every desk can be enormous. Who said becomig a greener business was hard?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Scotland plans on 50% renewable fuel by 2020

In an ambitious plan to recover lost jobs and reduce oil energy dependence, Scotland is actively pursing plans to harness an abundant natural resource...the wind...as a primary energy source.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Scottish representatives were at a wind power conference in Chicago last week, seeking suppliers and interest for large off-shore wind power rigs. The hope is the move will boost employment and help Scotland gain access to low-impact power sources.

According to Wikipedia,

Wind power in Scotland is an area of considerable activity, with 1550 MW of installed capacity as at October 2008.[1] Wind power is the fastest growing of the renewable energy technologies in Scotland and the world's largest wind turbine generator (5 MW) is currently undergoing testing in the North Sea, 15 miles off the east coast. There are numerous large wind farms as well as a number, both planned and operating, which are in community ownership. The siting of turbines is sometimes an issue, but surveys have shown high levels of community acceptance for wind power in Scotland. There is further potential for expansion, especially offshore, given the high average wind speeds.

And a 2005 map of Scotland's energy plans shows over 250 proposed wind power sites nationwide.

I can't help but wonder why the U.S. hasn't followed suit for our own power needs. I know some companies out there, like Green Energy Prod, are offering wind turbine systems, but I am not seeing them in action. Any ideas on how we can encourage that same type of innovation here?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Simple tips for a greener life

Check out these simple tips for a greener life from The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur....

Friday, May 8, 2009

Green holiday cards big business for businesses

In a recent survey of business owners, 40% said that the environmental aspects of the holiday cards and other business greeting cards they send out matters "somewhat" or "very much." That's up from just over 29% two years ago.

The same survey showed that 52% of businesses are using some form of green business practices with regard to paper choices and disposal within the company, an increase of nearly 30% over the previous survey.

The survey did not evaluate whether the owners were willing to pay more for the cards, or whether they were using green business practices in other, non-paper areas of their companies.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Organic produce production, sales down

The other night in the grocery store, I heard no less that a half a dozen people on their cell phones talking to other people (at home?) asking whether to buy this that based on price. And the differences were usually well less than a dollar. Sometimes, I watched them put down both options and walk away.

Times are tough. The recession/depression has people watching every dollar. And one area especially hard hit is organic produce and organic food products.

Michael Smith, blogger at Green (Living) Review, was discussing the fact that sales of organic produce and other organic foods are dropping. Many farmers, he reports, are returning to "cheaper" standard production methods. Consumers, when faced with two cans of beans or bunches of grapes, are opting for the "regular" version over the double-the-price organic one.

It's not that we don't want organics. We all know they're healthier. But we just can't pay the premiums growers and retailers are demanding for that often ambiguous organic label.

Those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile will remember that I spent a few posts talking about this very issue. Green companies pricing themselves right out of the marketplace. I was talking about t-shirts, notebooks and baby blankets, but the concept is the same.

If the current economic trend continues, will organic food continue to grace our supermarket shelves in large quantities? Will producers and marketers see the writing on the wall (or on the balance sheet) and work to bring prices in line? Or are the days of organics everywhere numbered?

(Image from Tree Hugger)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Eco-labeling - Can consumers sort out the hype from the facts?

According to Joshua Saunders at GreenBiz.com, there are now over 300 different so-called eco-labels in use in North America alone. Sounds good, right? All that information for consumers and business buyers who want to make the most environmentally friendly choice in their shopping decisions. Except:

  • Most consumers, including B2B shoppers, don't understand more than a few of the most basic labels

  • Even when they do understand them, having a high score on one green factor doesn't necessarily mean the product is better for the environment than a similar item without that factor. (For instance, a product may contain a high percentage of recycled material, but the process needed to transport and reuse that product may leave a larger carbon footprint than a locally made virgin materials product.)

  • When faced with two or more different types of eco-labels on similar products, consumers have no idea which green element is more significant

  • Many misleading or ill-defined labels are in use

  • Enforcement of many labels is non-existent. In fact, many companies are self-certifying their products as "green" or "environmentally friendly" with no data to back that up. This so-called "greenwashing" is on the rise.

  • Useful information about the real environmental costs of a product or service over its useful lifetime are expensive and difficult to measure. Small to medium sized companies simply cannot afford the invest of time or money needed to generate that data.

  • Even basic titles like "organic" which was supposed to be defined once and for all by federal legislation continues to be fuzzy. State, local and industry standards for organic products remain in use, and are in fact, increasing.

So what is a consumer or a business to do?

Educate yourself.

  • Start with ecolabeling.org for a some good guidelines on what all the labels really mean.

  • Look for trusted labels like the California Organic Certification or the National Forest Service's Forest Stewardship Counsel logo.

  • Learn about the benefits and environmental costs of various green factors, so you can make rational choices when faced with multiple labels.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The other kind of plastic

Water bottles, grocery bags and many other common consumer containers are made from recyclable plastics called thermoplastics or thermoplastic resins.

When you head out to add things to your neighborhood or company plastics recycling bin, these are the kinds of polymers you're taking out to be melted down and molded into new products. And that's great. But what about the rest of the plastics? The ones without the little recycling arrows or numbers?

Most of these harder plastics, known as thermoset resins, can’t be easily recycled. Unlike thermoplastic resins, cured thermosets will not melt and flow. They will soften when heated, but they cannot be reshaped. These polymers, used in things like circuit boards, airplane parts, Bakelite electrical insulation and epoxy glue, decompose when heated. Most products made from these plastics end up as waste.

But all that may be changing, according to a New York Times article:

Chemists at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands have devised a thermoset plastic that, rather than decomposing, heals itself when heated. Writing in the journal Macromolecules, the researchers, Youchun Zhang, Antonius A. Broekhuis and Francesco Picchioni, say the material has the potential to be recycled and reused many times. ...The researchers demonstrated that the material can be shredded, melted and remolded at least seven times with no loss of mechanical properties. Their discovery, they say, adds to scientific understanding of the nature of self-healing materials, and with more research may eventually lead to the full development of recyclable thermoset plastics.

This discovery could add a whole new green dimension to businesses who produce or use thermoset plastics in their products or have significant amounts as components in their machinery or equipment.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The government gets into green business advice

A government website can help you on the road to building or expanding your green business. The business.gov site has a green side many eco-friendly business owners may not know about.

Look for practical, to the point advice including:

* Energy efficiency guidelines, suggestions and resources
* Environmental management and liability Management
* Grants, loans and incentives to fund your green business
* Government contracting opportunities
* Green commuting options including telecommuting and shared remote sites
* Green marketing rules, including what companies can and cannot legally say about their green products
* Green product development ideas
* Pollution prevention and recycling
* Case studies from real green companies -- learn from those who have been there

While some of the information is common sense, there are a lot of valuable tips and links on the site, some of which could save your company from making some costly mistakes.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A race car that runs on chocolate

No, this is not the teaser for a new Willy Wonka movie. Developers in the UK have designed and produced a Formula One race car constructed from bio-materials like carrots, potatoes, flax fiber and soybean oil. And it runs on a mixture of waste chocolate and vegetable oil!

Developed at the University of Warwick's Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre, the WorldFirst vehicle incorporates a cornucopia of green technologies, including a steering wheel derived from carrots, a foam racing seat that uses flax fiber and soybean oil, a bib made from flax fiber, lubricants based on plant oils, and an "emission-destroying catalyst."

The project team says their biomaterials approach was spurred by a need to reduce costs and impact for performance auto racing. According to their website,

Following the recent turmoil in Formula 1 arising from the high costs of running competitive motor racing teams, and doubts in sponsors minds over the commercial value of their involvement, the viability of motor racing is being critically questioned. With this in mind the Warwick Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre (WIMRC), part of Warwick University, are seeking to prove to the motor industry that it is possible to build a competitive racing car using environmentally sustainable components. 

No details were available on the performance of the car, but developers promise full Formula One speeds from their bio-friendly design.

Friday, April 3, 2009

More and more green business ideas

And as promised, more little green steps that add up to big green changes for your business....

A breath of fresh air

Switch from toxic cleaners to fruit oil or other natural cleaners
When it comes time to install or replace carpet, choose natural materials that won't off-gas into the workplace
If possible, open windows and allow breezes through instead of running a/c's on nice days
Use soy or vegetable inks for copying instead of dyes or inks with toxins and heavy metals
Print or choose printed greeting cards and business supplies that also use soy or veggie inks, preferably on recycled and recyclable paper
Encourage employees to wear comfortable, causal clothing that can be easily washed, is made of natural fibers and does not require toxic dry-cleaning

Reduce the use

Repair, refurbish or buy used to reduce the over manufacturing of furniture, printers, vehicles and other repair-able items
Have employees turn file folders inside out and write a new file name instead of throwing them away after one project is finished
Use the smallest lawn mower possible to care for remaining grassy areas (or better yet, replace the grass with trees and xeriscaping

When it comes to green, the little stuff becomes the big stuff and the big stuff becomes the tools for changing the whole wide world, one sheet of recycled paper at a time.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Quote for the day

How long can men thrive between walls of brick, walking on asphalt pavements, breathing the fumes of coal and oil, growing, working, dying, with hardly a thought of wind, and sky, and fields of grain, seeing only machine-made beauty, the mineral-like quality of life?

-- Charles Lindbergh

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Green from top to bottom

Going green is big business.

The good news is you don't have to do it all at once. The readers of this blog are at vastly different points in their move to green. Some are almost all the way there, some are just beginning and some are still deciding whether it's the right direction for their company.

That's all good, because every green step is good. If you're still in the process of going green at work, or are thinking about taking those first few steps, here are some ideas for little things that add up to a lot. (If you think your business is all the way there, check the list anyhow. You may find a thing or two you missed along the way!)

Saving resources:

  • Green lighting/low energy-use bulbs
  • Timers and motion detectors to turn off unneeded lights
  • Energy-star high-efficiency appliances, computers and office equipment
  • Just-in-time manufacturing to reduce warehouse space needs
  • Manufacturing process reviews and improvements
  • Telecommuting or remote offices for employees
  • Hybrid or solar powered cars and trucks in your fleet
  • Using delivery route mapping to reduce on-the-road time
  • Solar or other alternative power sources
  • Installing drip irrigation instead of water-wasting sprinklers
  • Offering filtered water instead of bottled water at meetings and in lunchrooms

Recycling and reducing waste streams

  • Buying and using materials with high post-consumer content
  • Recycling paper from copiers and printers
  • Reusable plates, silverware and cups in lunchrooms and cafeterias
  • Recycling drop off bins throughout the facility
  • Going paperless for project routing, memos and meetings
  • Repurposing desks, chairs and other office furniture rather than buying new
  • Refilling ink cartridges
  • Donating extra (non-toxic) materials, supplies and paper goods to area schools and children's museums
  • (For retail stores and distributors) Donating out-of-season/unsold clothing, bedding, furniture, household goods and personal care items to shelters, transitional housing facilities and low income housing projects
  • Buying recyclable office supplies and other consumables

Feeding the earth

  • Replacing corporate lawns with trees, low-water xeriscaping, food producing plants and native growth plants.
  • Offering plants, seeds, garden tools and other green items as incentives, promotional giveaways and corporate logo items
  • Serving organic or natural foods and vegetarian choices in lunchrooms and at special functions

More to come......

Monday, March 30, 2009

Clear communication essential for green businesses

Good communication may be the key to making greener business practices are reality in your company.

Business analysts report that green initiatives require clear channels for information and clear set of goals. Missing information or garbled communications can easily result in one department undoing the green benefits of another.

A similar problem was reported last year in a UK report:

Green Efforts Hampered by Broken Supply Chains

Broken supply chains and poor communication between different departments and partners are hindering many firms’ effort to reduce carbon emission, according to Dave Food, Oracle’s UK supply chain director, BusinessGreen.com reports.

What are the keys to clear green information?

1) Set green goals at the company-wide level
2) Coordinate each team or department's green goals with the company plan
3) Set up benchmarks to ensure that changes are taking the departments, and the company, in the right direction
4) Have regular meetings to compare notes and address issues common to all departments like paper supplies, low energy light and power or telecommuting options to make sure everyone shares their best resources
5) Where possible, define and check progress against measurable goals like kilowatt hours used or employee commute hours.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Luxury hotel proves green can be comfortable

The latest issue of Green Magazine profiled a restored luxury hotel that has proven that green renovation can be

  • Economical
  • Elegant
  • Comfortable
  • Sustainable

According to the site,
The Heathman Hotel, Portland’s independent luxury arts hotel, will complete a 99-percent landfill-free remodel in late April. The renovation, involving the historic hotel’s 155 guest bathrooms, was planned in accordance with the property’s commitment to sustainability which includes ensuring energy efficiency, utilizing local resources, and re-using existing materials whenever possible. The renovation is projected to reduce gas usage by 20 percent and water consumption by 50 percent.

Read the whole story on their site, and learn more about this model restoration, including an astonishing 99% recycled debris rate, 50% reduction in guest water usage and local materials usage.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A green car that goes zoom-zoom

Okay, raise your hand if you like to go REALLY fast in your car. Wave it in the air if the idea of racing around hairpin turns on an alpine road has you reaching for the keys. Now jump up and down if you would love to have all this AND have it in a rechargeable, green vehicle.

How many of you are waving that upraised hand while jumping up and down? This a car is ALL of that and more. Sleek. Sporty. Fast. REALLY fast! 0-60 in 3.9 seconds. Powerful. A top speed of 150 miles per hour. And yes, it's green. Do you have any idea how hard it is to type when you're jumping up and down and waving one hand wildly in the air???? But for this car, I am doing it!

The car is a Tesla...a far cry from the boxy, acceleration-challenged hybrids appearing on the roads. This is a real car.

A green car, yes. Absolutely, but a real performance vehicle. Something that draws you onto the open roads of Canada or Germany.

This is an electric vehicle. A car you can recharge in under four hours, then drive for over 200 high performance miles without feeding it again.

Yes, this car is expensive. Very expensive. With a base price of $109,000, it's not likely be appear in suburban driveways any time soon. And the options could easily push it over the $200,000 mark.

So why am I writing a glowing review of a super-expensive green product? Wasn't I just trashing the overpriced greenwashed market a few posts back? Absolutely. But this isn't greenwashing.

This is proof that a product can be green and still match or exceed the performance standards of "traditional" designs. That being green isn't just about duplicating a non-green product in a more earth-friendly version. It's about the green product being remarkably better.

The Tesla gives the green-focused person who has been known to go weak in the knees over a passing Lamborghini something new to dream about. And a whole highway full of hope that someday soon, green will really come to mean better.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Are green mandates a good idea?

Throughout the European Union, there are green mandates in effect for a variety of products and services from store packaging to home construction. Israeli new home construction must incorporate solar power sources, among other sustainable construction mandates.

So far only a few municipalities in the U.S. have enacted similar measures to ensure compliance with new, more environmentally friendly goals. And a few states have enacted piece-meal legislation to address certain industries. But we're nowhere near the level of our European or Israeli cousins.

In fact, earlier, voluntary shifts into greener building standards here have been largely abandoned as the economy has worsened.

So my question for today is...

Should the U.S. mandate green manufacturing, packaging, processing and building standards or will industries move in that direction voluntarily because of consumer demand?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Great big green ideas in the building industry waning?

Construction industry stakeholders are increasingly recognizing green building capabilities as “good”—and being a necessary part of a firm’s best practices, ending the view of green building as a niche sector, according to FMI’s 2008 U.S. Construction Overview

According to the Overview, green nonresidential construction put in place was $13.4 billion in 2006, and by 2008 $21.2 billion of all new nonresidential construction will employ the use of green building principles. The growth in green construction has created a shift in perception among owners and the architectural and engineering communities. Construction industry stakeholders have embraced the green movement and sustainable design for its energy savings, worker productivity increases and positive public perception, the report states.

In 2008, the three largest segments for nonresidential construction green building—office, education and health care—will account for more than 80 percent of total nonresidential green construction. Other segments such as lodging and commercial are also experiencing green construction growth, with a 20 percent gain expected from 2007 to 2008.
...from FacilitiesNet.com

That article was from January of 2008...in a search today on the tern "green construction industry" that was the most recent result. Most of the content was from 2007 or even 2006. Before the recession was in full swing. Before the housing market tanked.

So where are they now? Is construction still moving towards green? Or has green given way to the red ink that fills the account books of construction companies? And if the green has stopped flowing, will it pick up again as the economy recovers? Your thought?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Greener can be cheaper Part Four

Simplify, simplify, simplify....

Years ago, Henry David Thoreau said

Our life is frittered away by detail... Simplify, simplify, simplify! ... Simplicity of life and elevation of purpose.

That sage advice penned on the banks of Walden pond has never been more in need than today. In times of abundance, our lives -- and the products we use each day -- become more elaborate and more complicated. But abundance is not the watchword of the day, and people are looking at those complicated and expensive "toys" and asking why.

That represents a great opportunity for green manufacturers and marketers to offer a simpler -- and ultimately cheaper -- alternative. In this case, it's not about making the product cheaper than a less green version, but offering a product that takes the place of a more expensive and less green tool, service or item.

For example, the last few years have seen the ordinary clothes dryer morph into a gigantic $1,000 plus monster in a dozen decorator colors. Laundry areas formerly housed in closets or behind sliding doors in a kitchen no longer accommodate the huge dryers and their companion washers, so new houses need bedroom-sized laundry rooms. And these rooms need to be decorated, fitted with cabinetry and laundry folding tables and sorting bins, then heated and air conditioned. All to wash and dry dirty clothes.

So where is the green marketing opportunity here? In turning back to Thoreau's message...simplify. Marketing green means offering a cheaper, simpler alternative. Instead of a $1,000 dryer, how about well designed, attractive clotheslines and small energy efficient dryers, the kind that fits in a closet?

In this case, and so many more like it, the greener is cheaper model isn't about making a green clothes dryer that is cheaper than other same-sized clothes dryers...it's about offering a viable, simple alternative to the king-sized dryer.

Greener can be so much cheaper, especially when it's simpler.

With dryers. it's a clothesline. With things like business products, it's not finding a way to make something like a laminated minimum wage poster greener, it's about going back to just paper because really most printed posters and notices don't need to last that long.

Think about the expensive, complicated items in the marketplace. Now envision a less complicated, less expensive way to accomplish the same goal. Many of them may have come from an earlier, more cost conscious time. There is your cheaper, greener marketing opportunity.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Greener can be cheaper part three

Targeting needs, not marketing illusions

One of the great failings of the green movement in this country has been the failure to start the process by looking at where demand already exists but is not met, instead of trying to force a "green" version of products that may not have a significant market.

Creating and marketing a product not in demand results in:

Higher costs. The item needs to be advertised, promoted and otherwise pushed as "green." The potential buyer needs to be sold on your product, rather than happy to find what they already wanted.

More waste.
High prices and low demand means more product will end in clearance racks, on discounter shelves and ultimately in the trash.

A bad reputation. The more green products are viewed as indulgent and overpriced, the more people will turn away from the green movement. That's bad for legitimate green manufacturers and providers, and ultimately, bad for the planet.

The lesson for would-be green businesses?

Make sure there is a demand
Check out the competition to verify that the demand is not being met
Find lower cost green raw materials or elements
Skip the gimmicks
Market your products at a price point that will encourage demand to remain high

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Part two of greener can be cheaper

Co-op for raw materials

One of the biggest justifications for the higher cost of green products is the higher cost of organic or otherwise green materials.

One of the reasons for this discrepancy between the costs of standard and green materials is something called "economies of scale," a term that basically means that the more you use or make or grow or create, the cheaper it is per element.

The green world is no exception. But manufacturers seem to be forgetting this. Or ignoring it. Or perhaps just acting as though it doesn't apply to their product.

And that can be deadly to green businesses at all levels. Here's an example:

When a company decides to manufacture notebooks with recycled paper, they need to order the paper. Most green products have a limited run (more about why in a second.) So the company orders X reams of recycled paper, makes the notebooks. A price is set, based upon the materials and the perceived value of a green product at wholesale.

A wholesaler or a retail store gets the notebooks, and marks them up again to cover both the cost and the value-added of a green product.

They may also add in a factor to cover the cost of expected unsold product because of the higher sales price of green items. After all, they cost a lot more so people buy a lot less. That was the assumption from the start, when the run size was determined and the prices were set at each stage.

The problem is, that assumption is killing green products and green businesses!!

Let's start over.

The company who wants to make green notebooks finds other companies who are making green paper products. Together, these companies order a significantly larger amount of recycled paper. The paper manufacturer gives them a better price because it's such a large order(economies of scale).

The materials costs are now lower, so the price can be set lower. If the order for paper was large enough, it might be the same as or even lower than standard runs.

Now the notebooks go to the wholesaler or retailer. And because of the perceived value to customers and the lower wholesale price, they order many more. They may get an even better price. The cost to them is the same as a standard notebook, or at least close. Again, economies of scale.

A mark-up to cover anticipated unsold items isn't needed, because these notebooks cost the same as standard ones AND they have the appeal of being green. Easier to promote!

So now the price that the consumer sees is about the same as the regular notebook AND they have a good feeling, too. More notebooks sell, more are ordered and the cycle is in place.

Unless someone gets greedy and forgets that short-term gains equal long term losses, the notebooks sell, the costs remain low and the earth benefits. And we benefit.

For less.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Part one of greener can be cheaper

Step 1: Forget about the gimmicks.

A single baby blanket hand-tied with am organic hemp string before being adorned with a hand-lettered recycled paper diecut tag proclaiming its incredible greenness is cute...until you see the price. Is this product designed to improve sustainability for the average consumer or to allow the well-heeled shopper to congratulate themselves as they load this one perfect blanket into their SUV and head home to the 6000 square foot home for three people?

If the goal is to REALLY reduce waste and pollution and environmental abuse, a package of ordinary-looking baby blankets with an ordinary printed tag will reach far more people. Of course, the blankets can be green, whether that means organic or made without toxic dyes. And the labels and bags can be recycled materials. But because there is no need to shout, more people would buy them.

More demand would reduce the unit cost, as unit costs for manufacturing are higher for smaller runs. So even more people could buy green...probably many of them without even looking for green. And THAT is when green is real and not about show.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Making greener cheaper

Greener can and should be cheaper.

My previous posts on green marketing and overpriced goods lead to a lot of comments via e-mail. Some agreed, and gave examples of truly green marketing in Europe where the absence of overtly green images doesn't change the fact that the products ARE green. Another had attended a green trade show here in the US and complained about the explosion of green ink, and the even more disturbing fact that many of the items advertising green loving were not in fact green products at all!

Others complained bitterly, saying that of course green has to cost more -- a lot more -- because the raw materials and processes are so much more costly. Is that true? It may be in the short term, but that is largely because of the high retail prices, rather than an excuse for them. More about that later.

I want to explore ways in which green items can...and should be cheaper. And why manufacturers and suppliers using the green image as a gimmick are over-inflating the prices,using guilt or fear instead of value as a marketing message.

The next few posts will focus on the real costs of green production, building and sales. I would hope you would join in by commenting on the blog or by submitting guest articles. I want to hear from you. I want to open the floor to the why's and how's of green life and business. Will you join us?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Department of Homeland Security Green Disaster

In a ruling about a month ago, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that the I-9 Forms used to verify and document employee eligibility to work would be changing. Some of the acceptable documents had changed. The form content was rearranged. And because every employer in this country is required to use one of these forms for every single employee they hire, that meant that every existing Form I-9 and every existing set of instructions for the I-9 form would have to be thrown away and replaced with new forms and new sets of instructions.

There was a very short time between the final release of the new form and the requirement to use a new form, and no option to ease into the new forms. So lots and lots and lots of paper was thrown away. A small portion was probably recycled. And new forms were designed and printed. And new books and instruction sheets and templates and FAQ's were printed in anticipation of a February 2nd deadline.

And then, yesterday, February 1st, less than 24 hours before the deadline, the DHS reversed itself, saying that the new forms would not be acceptable, the new requirements would not be in effect, and that employers must continue to use the old forms and old instructions at least until April 3rd of this year.

The same forms that people just threw away. Replaced. That companies like G.Neil and HRdirect and ComplyRight just reprinted in the new and now potentially useless format!

So what we have is a green disaster on two fronts:

First is the green environmental disaster. Millions of sheets of paper have been disposed of and will now have to be printed. Millions more have been printed and now may never be used. And potentially millions more will have to printed again when the DHS makes up its collective mind in April. And besides all the paper, we have all the ink (potentially toxic) and the eletricity that was used to do the printing and the gas that was used to drive the disposal and the delivery trucks!

And we have a green money disaster. Companies, already struggling financially, had to dispose of unused forms and other paperwork surrounding this form, and buy for print new forms and new paperwork. And that costs money they can ill afford. Now they are being told that they must again replace the I-9 form, but this time with the one they had before. And will possibly need to buy all new stuff AGAIN in April! Just what businesses on the edge of bankruptcy need -- more expenses with zero return.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Developing green products that sell

On Friday, I went after the glaring failures I see in the green product world. And since I'm a firm believer in never pointing out a problem without also offering a solution, here are some ideas for creating or sustaining a green product line.

1) Do your research! The Internet is an endless resource for research. Start there. Find out what people are looking for. Join forums and read blogs. See where the push is for greener products. A preliminary search a few days ago revealed lots of new moms looking for organic or natural baby clothes that don't cost a fortune (babies grow too fast!) but offer some protection from the harsh chemicals now used in most infant wear. Is the need met? From the number of posts, clearly not. Remember, successful green marketing is not about telling people that they need something, it's about finding out what they need in a green format and providing it.

2) Mind your price points. Just because a product is green, doesn't mean it should cost more. And it certainly doesn't mean it should cost a lot more!! Work to source your materials and processing with an eye on the final retail price. We're living in a shaky economy. If you want your products to sell, they have to offer value as well as a greener benefit.

3) Skip the shouting! Just because your product is green, doesn't mean it has to look different! People like pretty greeting cards on white or colored card stock, so forget the brown cards imprinted with faded earth tones. Soy and vegetable inks are available in a wide range of real colors, and recycled paper doesn't need to be brown or grey!

Of course the buyer should know it's green -- but that could be as simple as a tag or imprint. It doesn't need to be in their face. Make it work for ordinary shoppers, too. Cartoon characters on organic cotton bibs and t-shirts instead of tired "save the earth" slogans will sell more product and thus do more for the earth by replacing non-green items with similar images.

4) Start with the purpose. If the purpose of making and selling green products is simply to show the world what a mensch you are, by all means, continue making them obvious, different looking and elitist. But if the purpose is to help the planet and make a difference, focus on how you can take ordinary, popular items we all buy and use and make them safer, greener, more organic, less wasteful. Offer that, in a familiar look, functionality and cost level, and you will be on your way to a green business success.