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, 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 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 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 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 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, 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 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.