Saturday, December 20, 2008

A National Recycling Standard


I recycle, at least, I try to. Lifelong dedication to the environment, and I still wonder whether that envelope I’m holding is accepted in our paper recycling program. Are the plastic windowed ones allowed? If so, does the window have to be under a certain size? What about shiny paper? Usually it is excluded, however, junk mail is specifically mentioned as accepted. Of course, that doesn’t cover the plastics. Bypassing the issue of the numbers, a separate discussion altogether, take the example of plastic shopping bags. These items must be deposited elsewhere for recycling (the thin bags get trapped in the machinery and clog it), even though they are tagged with otherwise-included numbers. Did I mention that if otherwise excluded items wind up in the recycling pile, the entire batch is considered contaminated and subsequently thrown away? No pressure. Move to another city and the accepted items are likely completely different. With such a convoluted system, what hope does the average person trying to do their part have?

Recent news reports from USA Today, claim that the incoming Obama administration will be appointing former EPA administrator Carol Browner as energy “czar” to “coordinate energy issues across the federal government” . An entirely new position in the United States, surely her responsibilities will solidify as she grows into her role. Coordination is a wonderful idea; by keeping a unified focus in all federal activities, real progress can be made in energy policy. Energy, however, is not nearly as closed a field as implied. To make substantive impact on the global environment, they will need to focus on all aspects of energy use, and guarantee that we are using our energy efficiently and intelligently.

This is where the stories converge.

Recycling, at its very core, is intended to reduce the need to expend resources in making something new when an already-produced equivalent exists. If one were to ask a person why they might use recycled paper, a logical answer may include the following: “So we don’t have to cut down more trees”. The same goes for bottled water or a can of soda - why go through the effort of producing more virgin plastic when a recycled bottle already sequestered the necessary energy? In essence, recycling is the act of being more intelligent with our energy (and resource) use.

Suddenly, recycling sounds like a topic upon which the administration will wish to focus, but how to do so? Waste services are privately owned enterprises operating independently or on contract with municipalities, not the federal government. It is doubtful they would be open to nationalization, nor is that necessarily a good idea, but what about some standards? Is there anything else the federal government has a hand in regulating by allowing its operation by the private sector? Bingo, organic foods. Currently, the USDA provides standards for independent certifying bodies to inspect operations for compliance. If approved, they are permitted to use the USDA Organic seal on their product, providing standardization and ease-of-use for consumers.

I propose a similar system for recycling. Instead of the current labyrinth of policies, simply have a universally-recognizable logo printed on all products meeting the federal government’s recycling standard. The EPA (presumably the lead agency on the issue) will then go about assisting and approving existing waste disposal/recycling companies. Upon certification, they will be capable of processing a given criteria of materials, for example, plastics coded 1-6, clear and green glass, aluminum, and specific forms of paper, for all of their existing customers. The difference now is that on the disposal end, we do away with the traditional recycling logo and affiliated marks, and replace them with a custom EPA Recycle logo, in the same vein as the USDA Organic logo. For citizens living/working within a service area of an EPA-approved waste disposal company, they can rest assured that if they place an EPA Recycle labelled product in their recycle bin, it will be properly recycled. Market forces will push waste operators to achieve the EPA distinction to accommodate the demands of their clientele, as well as product manufacturers adopting its use on appropriate products.

Such a system eliminates the consideration of plastic code numbers (many people don’t even know they exist), cardboard versus paperboard recycling, or any number of other issues that can and do arise daily. Reference the success of the USDA Organic seal. Average citizens regularly seek out organic options, a change partially brought about simply by the addition of a standardized logo.

We have a golden opportunity ahead of us as we welcome a new administration strongly committed to the environment. A national recycling standard will help bridge the gap between the U.S. and, according to Swiss Recycling News, Switzerland, the global leader, standing at 76% . As of 2007, the EPA reports the United States had a recycling rate of approximately 33%, a value needlessly diminished by confusion, contamination, and general ignorance of the current situation . Americans want to recycle, but when presented with a hodgepodge of policies nationwide, it can make even the most green of people simply throw it away.

Joseph Winn is the President/CEO of GreenProfit Solutions, Inc. which assists businesses in becoming environmentally responsible. You may view their website at www.greenprofitsolutions.com or e-mail Joseph at [email protected] .

Monday, December 1, 2008

Greening Your Holidays


With the Holiday season fast approaching, our thoughts here at GreenProfit Solutions, as everyone else, are turning to plans for celebration with good friends and family. We started wondering how we could combine the Holiday festivities with Going Green. After doing some research, we came up with a few ideas:
The results of our research estimated that in America alone, over 2 billion holiday cards will be printed and mailed, over 38,000 miles of ribbon will be used, and more than 50,000 square miles of wrapping paper will decorate all of those presents Santa will deliver to all of the good boys and girls. (Hmmm...I wonder if reindeer powered sleighs are eco-friendly?) And what about the traditional Christmas tree? Millions of those will be left on curbs, and hundreds of thousands of artificial trees will find their way to landfills. So how can we all enjoy our Holidays and be still green conscious?

Here are a few tips:

No Plastic Bags - we didn't mention those in the above estimates but Americans send over 350 million tons of plastic bags to landfills each year! (The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that between 500 billion and a trillion plastic grocery bags are consumed worldwide each year). Plastic bags are petroleum based, the inks used may contain lead, and are not recyclable through residential or most commercial recycling programs. Many end up as litter, negatively affecting our wildlife on land and in our waters. Why not keep a supply of reusable fabric bags in your car, and use them when you shop for gifts? Then after the holidays, they make heavy duty carriers for your food shopping, at the home improvement store, and everyday use.

No Artificial Trees - these are also made from petroleum products and are not recyclable. If you can, buy a live tree and plant it in your yard after the holiday. You may also be able to donate the tree to your community or city. What about a cut tree? Unfortunately, most conventional tree farms use large amounts of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. A better option, if it is available in your area, is to buy an organically grown cut tree. Green Promise has compiled a list of organic growers. Regardless of which cut tree you buy, many municipalities now collect these and turn them into mulch.

Go e-Cards - Traditional paper cards not only take a toll on our trees, but also add huge amounts of carbon to our atmosphere to process the pulp into paper. Most of the inks used are solvent based and contain toxins which can find their way into water supplies. There are so many great interactive e-cards you can buy online, or better yet, create your own with family photos, music and even videos. Try creating one free at Save A Tree Cards or 123Greetings. Save trees, save paper and with no postage required, save money!

Go Real for Tableware - Use real plates and silverware, especially if you have an Energy Star efficient dishwasher. If you must use disposable items, make sure they are recyclable. Check the number in the triangular recycle logo. If it is a 3 or less, chances are it can be recycled IF you make sure it is not "contaminated" with food. Avoid buying Styrofoam, as this normally cannot be recycled and is also a petroleum based product.

Wrap it Up - Have any magazines, decorative paper bags or old posters around the house? Here's your chance to reduce your clutter and put it to use as wrapping paper. If you must have traditional wrapping paper, you can purchase recycled paper and cotton ribbons (some are also made with non-toxic soy based inks) online at Fishlips Paper and Paper Source.

Let It Shine - With the popularity of LED's, you can now purchase strings of lights and even decorative ornaments made with these ultra low power Light Emitting Diodes. These use much less power than traditional bulbs, (about 60-80% less), thereby not only reducing your Holiday "carbon footprint", but also reducing your energy costs. You may also want to consider purchasing a timer to save even more!

Joseph Winn is the President/CEO of GreenProfit Solutions, Inc. which assists businesses in becoming environmentally responsible. You may view their website at www.greenprofitsolutions.com or e-mail Joseph at [email protected] .

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Green Your Thanksgiving


As the Holiday Season approaches, we all tend to resort to our own family traditions, which may not include any thought of sustainability. One possibility? Start some new Green traditions. Here are a few ideas for a Green Thanksgiving from Lynn Colwell, and her daughter, Corey Colwell-Lipson, authors of the book: "Celebrate Green":

Decorations:
— It's easy to make Thanksgiving decorations green because so many of them are edible. Colwell likes to decorate with gourds and berries. "It looks beautiful, it's colorful, it's enjoyed first and then consumed," she said. These items could also be composted.

— For place settings and wreaths, gather natural materials you can easily find in your own yard - branches, pinecones, beautiful autumn leaves. Not only will it create less waste, but you'll also have fewer items to store, since everything is disposable. It's fun for kids, and better yet, it's free. For daily green decorating tips with a natural feel, check out decorator Danny Seo's blog.

—Find new uses for things you already have. "We were setting a Thanksgiving dinner for a talk we gave, and we didn't put too much planning into what we would do. We did a hunt around the house," said Colwell-Lipson. "We had a fun time opening cupboards and putting things together, and came up with 90 percent of what we needed there. We found a glass bowl, and had idea that if we filled bowl with leaves, pinecones, berries, and put a glass plate on top, it became a seasonal centerpiece. We found some table cloth that wasn't so fancy - it was my grandmothers. It's not something you would have picked up at the store, but with everything else it worked."

Place Settings:
—"Many people don't have enough glassware and they buy disposable items," said Colwell-Lipson. "It's not good for the planet. So, to bring meaning into the place setting, you could ask each guest to bring their own, and tell the story behind it. It could be their grandmother's, or it could be from a thrift store. People laugh and learn and reduce their footprint."

— You could also try a thrift store for place settings, tablecloths and flatware. Mix and match to add character to your table.

Giving Thanks:
— Colwell's idea for a new tradition: Ask each guest to bring an item that represents something they're thankful for. "Put the items in a glass bowl or spread it down your table, and ask everyone why they brought each thing," she said. "You create a tradition, start a conversation, and ask a question that many people never ask on Thanksgiving."

— If you need to cut back a little this Thanksgiving, whether you're doing so in a green way or not, "look at it as an opportunity and not as a punishment," said Colwell. "When you were a child, you were creative. Talk to your family about how to make it fun and spend less money on food. Get neighbors together for a potluck. There are wonderful ways to do it."

— Look to the past. Ask grandparents how they celebrated with less, and how they brought together the family. "We've been convinced that we need more than we do, and we need to spend money to be happy," said Colwell. "We don't believe that's true."

Joseph Winn is the President/CEO of GreenProfit Solutions, Inc. which assists businesses in becoming environmentally responsible. You may view their website at www.greenprofitsolutions.com or e-mail Joseph at [email protected] .

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Differentiating by Going Green


As any experienced marketer knows, differentiating your business from your competitors is a primary key to attracting new prospects and customers and retaining them once they decide to become your customers. But will the same “hook” that attracted them to become your customer be enough to maintain their loyalty? Let’s examine a few strategies:

Low Price: As people are always price conscience, especially in this slow economy, this can be an excellent method to attract new customers. However, unless your company plans on being a “discount house” operation, you will need to evolve a different strategy to retain those customers, otherwise they will simply seek out the next big discount elsewhere.

Great Products: Every business advertises great products. Why is your product better than your competitor? Provide your prospects with a reason to walk in your door. Then make sure your products are updated and tweaked regularly to ensure a competitive edge.

Great Service: This strategy typically does not attract new customers, unless you detail how your service will exceed your competitors. On the surface, there is nothing to differentiate your company from your competitors. Of course, great service is a major key to customer retention.

There are many other innovative marketing strategies being employed in the marketplace which are based upon surveys. These studies can give you an understanding of your target market’s concerns as well as focus on the latest trends. One such trend which every major survey (Harris, Nielsen, Mintel, Intellitrends) has been following is Going Green. With unstable fuel prices, new energy tax credits, and the promise of an upcoming New Green Economy, there has never been a better time to incorporate Green into your company’s business practices and products.

Will Going Green help attract new customers or members? According to Intellitrends, nearly 35% of those surveyed considered a company’s environmental policies before purchasing. Monster Trak reported that, for college graduates, this number was above 80% and 92% of these “Gen Y’s” were seeking to work for a company with a solid environmental and corporate social responsibility policy.

Even with all of the news and surveys on Going Green, business journals have estimated that less than 2% of all small and medium sized companies in the U.S. have begun any green initiatives at all. Pity. According to the Makovsky Green Gap survey, people are looking for businesses to take the lead in improving the environment. That could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to differentiate and really make a difference.

Joseph Winn is the President/CEO of GreenProfit Solutions, Inc. which assists businesses in becoming environmentally responsible. You may view their website at www.greenprofitsolutions.com or e-mail Joseph at [email protected] .

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How is Your Company's Indoor Air Quality?


Sounds like a simple question, with a simple answer. But based on several recent studies which showed various levels of contaminants in many company facilities, it may be time to take a serious look at what the air quality is at your place of business. Going Green does include minimizing or eliminating any inherent health hazard.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): "In the last several years, a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities. Other research indicates that people spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. Thus, for many people, the risks to health may be greater due to exposure to air pollution indoors than outdoors."

Over the past 20 years, many states, such as Florida, Pennsylvania, NY, California and others have passed legislation creating their own Indoor Clean Air Acts. These acts referred primarily to tobacco smoking and the proven harmful effects of second hand smoke. Decades prior, federal legislation banned the use of asbestos in building products and lead in paints. Based upon their health endangerment, these factors were of course, the most obvious. But there still remains other less obvious factors that can affect air quality.

Many of us are aware of mold, which has serious health implications, and can normally be controlled by adjusting temperature and humidity. However, even the smallest unnoticed water leak can eventually cause mold to multiply. Also, emissions from your building's HVAC source must be consistently monitored. While the EPA encourages proper ventilation, this method simply shifts the emissions to our atmosphere. A healthy green strategy would be to eliminate or drastically reduce all emissions.

Indoor air quality is also greatly affected by Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). VOCs are gases emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands. Examples include: paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions. Little testing has been done on the health effects of these gases, and virtually no testing on the effects of combinations of these gases, which is evident in most business facilities. The best advice is to seek out and use products with No or Low VOCs.

A green facility or business can not only create a healthier workplace, but also reduce employee sick days and turnover adding to more financial benefits for your company.

Joseph Winn is the President/CEO of GreenProfit Solutions, Inc. which assists businesses in becoming environmentally responsible. You may view their website at www.greenprofitsolutions.com or e-mail Joseph at [email protected] .

Photo credit: Dboo - Flicker

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Funding the New Green Economy


We have heard lots of talk and seen lots of news on the so-called “New Green Economy”. It has become a central theme in the U.S. Presidential debate, where some candidates estimate it will bring 5 million new, high paying jobs over the next ten years. With fuel prices hurting consumers at the pumps and, with winter coming, many northern people looking at paying out close to $1,000 USD per month to heat their homes, combined with the feeling that outside influences are controlling these costs, the concept of energy independence will certainly fuel this budding industry.

But where will the needed billions in investments to start us on the road to new, clean energy come from? Here in the U.S. it has already started, and from an unlikely source. The banking crisis. Unbeknownest to most people, not all of the monies will go towards bailing out the banks and fat cats who created this mess. The same $700 billion bailout of the banks, which is officially named the Emergency Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 (EESA 2008), has officially started the green ball rolling. EESA includes billions of dollars in energy tax credits for consumers and businesses, as well as companies engaged in the development of these technologies. These include credits for solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric and other alternative energy producing devices. Looking towards the future, the Act also provides tax credits for purchasers of plug-in electric vehicles. Upgrading to more energy efficient appliances is not forgotten and also receives tax credits. In fact, there are 32 sections of the 442 page Act, which refer specifically to energy tax credits. There is even a section on tax credits for bicycle commuters!

Many of these credits are extensions and enhancements of federal programs which were due to expire in December 2008. And these could not come at a better time. Even with the downturn in the overall economy, surveys from bizJournals Green, still show the green industry as “the one bright spot”. However, as with any good news, there is bad. With the recent credit crunch, according to American Public Media, start up companies are finding it more difficult to get the funding they require. Those with solid funding acquired prior to the Wall Street fiasco will have a green light to take advantage of consumer and business purchases through the tax incentives.

It will still take some time before companies realize the opportunities and develop marketing strategies of their products to take advantage of EESA. And it will also take some time to reduce the overall public fear in the economy in general and move consumers back into consuming.

Joseph Winn is the President/CEO of GreenProfit Solutions, Inc. which assists businesses in becoming environmentally responsible. You may view their website at www.greenprofitsolutions.com or e-mail Joseph at [email protected] .

Photo credit: Steve Wampler on Flickr

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Is Your Company a "Grey" Business?


During the past year, news outlets have been littered (forgive the pun) with stories highlighting Fortune 1000 companies investing in new green initiatives. Throughout 2008, numerous surveys released by Harris Interactive, Intellitrends, Bentley, and Mintel indicate an increasing consumer awareness in going green. Similarly, a growing consumer segment now assesses a company’s environmental policies before making the decision to purchase a good or service. This trend has not gone unnoticed by professional marketers. “Grey” companies, those publicly displaying a cursory interest in environmental sustainability, are surely receiving briefs involving these surveys. In response, many are scrambling to repaint their products and corporate images to match the expectations of a Green business. World-renowned names including CitiBank, Bank of America, Wal-Mart, and Clorox each have allotted billions of dollars into various ecocentric technologies and strategies. Industry experts see this transition of capital funds not as a simple fad, rather, a long-term trend in the way business will be conducted beginning now and stretching far into the future.

Companies engaged in a restructuring of their sustainability policies are reaping the benefits by virtue of an increasing sales volume, a decreasing employee turnover rate, and, of course, diminishing energy costs.

So what exactly is a Grey business? In the past, the terminology “grey to green” referenced initiatives for river cleanup efforts stemming the negative effects of storm water runoff. As with many words and phrases over time, the modern meaning is shifting; it now relates best with environmental sustainability. In the growing “green” diction, a Grey company may either represent one which is not sustainably producing environmentally friendly products (and may be engaging in greenwashing), or simply a conventional business that has yet to adopt more sustainable operating practices. A continuously updated Green language dictionary may be found on this Community Portal.

Too often, media attention gravitates towards either large Grey companies announcing enormous green investments, or on new environmentally focused startups. Left out of the spotlight (and the green movement) are existing small and medium sized companies, representing 90% of the nation’s enterprises. Currently, most are simply weathering the economic slowdown, and few, if any, possess the assets to duplicate the initiatives of certain Fortune 1000 examples. However, if expert claims and public surveys are correct in predicting the continued growth of environmental sustainability from a growing trend to a human necessity, companies not adopting sustainable practices may suffer.

Fortunately, modifying a company’s environmental policies and practices does not necessarily require any large investments. Likewise, once a company has adopted a series of guidelines, their marketing efforts can be modified accordingly to take advantage of these changes. Businesses seeking advice and assistance may smooth the process by taking advantage of packaged programs including the Approved Green Business offered by GreenProfit Solutions, Inc. According to Keith Winn, COO/VP Marketing, small and medium size companies in nearly any industry can simply and affordably move from Grey to Green by utilizing their affordable stepwise program. Included within an Approved Green Business Program is assistance for marketing services as well as green benefits for employees, customers, and members, if applicable, to best promote and educate on a variety of green concepts.

With both national and international attention now firmly set on efforts to mitigate and reduce climate change, increase sustainability in all regions, and create energy independence, going from Grey to Green is a strategy every business should consider.

Photo credit: motoed on Flickr

Joseph Winn is the President/CEO of GreenProfit Solutions, Inc. which assists businesses in becoming environmentally responsible. You may view their website at www.greenprofitsolutions.com or e-mail Joseph at [email protected] .

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The New Green Language


Embracing new, environmentally sustainable ideas is often confusing. New terms like “Greenhouse Gases”, “Carbon Footprint”, "Greenwashing”, and even the “Three R’s” (nope, not what you learned in school) are tossed about by a new generation of green techies but for most of us, they may as well be speaking in Latin. Before a company can truly become green, the principals must understand the dynamics, procedures, and the corresponding terminologies.

Let’s start with Recycle. Sounds easy. Most of us are familiar with recycling glass bottles, plastics, and newspapers. The confusion starts with plastic coding, that little number inside the recycling logo on the product. All recyclable plastics are now coded with a numerical value between 1 and 7, representing the type of material used to produce them. However, in most parts of the country, only plastics coded 1-3 are generally being recycled. The others end up in a landfill for the next eon or so. So, instead of simply recycling, we now use the 3R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Carefully consider the waste before purchasing an item; try to purchase an item that can be reused at least several times; and, of course, continue to recycle what you know can be recycled.

Greenhouse gases refers to all gases in our atmosphere, but generally refers to the elevated amount of carbon dioxide (CO2 ), a major contributor to global warming. A carbon footprint is a measure of human activity on the environment in terms of greenhouse gases produced, in units of pounds of carbon dioxide. Just about everything we do, from washing our clothes to driving a car to lighting an office building, increases our impact or carbon footprint. The major environmental goal in Going Green is to become as close to carbon neutral as possible.

Greenwashing is the intentional or unintentional misleading of consumers into believing their product or service is environmentally sustainable and comparable or more effective than it’s conventional counterparts. Companies must take extreme care to not overstate, and make sure to back its claims, or consumers may lose faith in green purchasing, setting back the entire movement.

These are just a few examples of the new green jargon. A more complete listing can be found at the online GreenProfit Community portal. Learning the new green language can not only make you green savvy, but can also help you to develop a healthier and greener business environment.

Joseph Winn is the President/CEO of GreenProfit Solutions, Inc. which assists businesses in becoming environmentally responsible. You may view their website at www.greenprofitsolutions.com or e-mail Joseph at [email protected] .

Environmental Responsibility vs ROI: Is There a Balance?


Green is truly the new black on the American business balance sheet. We read almost daily announcements citing Fortune 500 companies and small, but well funded, start-ups engaging in new green initiatives, all speaking of exciting technologies and strategies rapidly becoming a part of daily life. Fueled by the ever-increasing consumer demand for sustainable products, companies are seeking to couple environmental and social responsibility with an enhanced bottom line. Recent surveys by Intellitrends, LOHAS, Bentley College, and even Sun Microsystems share the consensus that going green is not a fad, but a new trend in business.  

While it may seem everyone is going green, the truth is only a fraction of small and medium size companies are actually participating. The question is, with all the survey evidence and news coverage, why wouldn’t a company just jump in and go green?

The answer is two-fold: Cost and Education. While we all read about industry giants including GE, CitiBank, and Clorox investing billions in major projects and initiatives, the same numbers are simply far out of the reach of even the most well established small to medium size businesses. Such extreme proposed investments are also made more difficult during a slow economy. Watching the industry giants build new LEED certified buildings, construct wind farm installations, or invest in Bio-Fuel research and technologies, while impressive, creates an uninspiring mood for smaller entrepreneurs, and helps to widen the gap between “the big boys and the little boys”. As a result, a huge market segment is becoming rapidly excluded from the going green efforts. This group, arguably the most important in the US, composing over 90% of active business entities and, according to the US Census Bureau’s 2005 data, employing over 58 million people, is mistakenly being led to believe that Green requires green.

What these companies do not realize is that they can initiate small-scale and far less expensive changes to their own business practices, while still realizing financial savings and increased profits through becoming community leaders in environmental sustainability. We have all read how a homeowner can make a simple change from incandescent to CFL bulbs that will save thousands of watt/hours per household, and provide a long term savings return on the initial investment. Such an example of a transitional change also has indirect benefits: the CO2 reductions due to lower power requirements as well as a waste stream reduction (CFLs last 5-10 times longer than incandescent bulbs). Now imagine this homeowner passing on that knowledge to their friends and family. Small investment = large returns.

In coming issues we will provide ideas that small to medium size companies may embrace to affordably journey towards becoming models of environmental leadership. Readers can expect to learn about various strategies covering methods of capitalizing on the emerging green marketplace. We will also examine the “dark side” of the new green industry, now called “greenwashing”, and some tips on how to recognize the specter of false promises and keep your company’s image truly green.


Photo credit: HaMeD!caL on Flickr

Joseph Winn is the President/CEO of GreenProfit Solutions, Inc. which assists businesses in becoming environmentally responsible. You may view their website at www.greenprofitsolutions.com or e-mail Joseph at [email protected] .